Discover how to look after your skin this winter, naturally…
The harsh weather of winter makes this season a particularly challenging time for our skin, especially if it is already sensitive and prone to dryness. The drop in temperature outside paired with the hot central heating inside can adversely affect the natural moisture barrier functions of the skin, resulting in dry, flaky skin. This extreme contrast of temperature can also make the skin more sensitive and more likely to flare-up.
How to protect skin during winter
We know that the harsh climate during winter can leave our skin feeling chapped, flaky and dry, as well as red and inflamed – so what can we do to protect and care for our skin during these colder months?
Jo Morris, UK brand manager for Saaf Pure Organic Skincare, answers: “As tempting as it is to soak in a hot bath after a day in the cold, it’s not the best idea for your skin. Not only does the hot water strip your skin of all its natural oils, but it can cause small blood capillaries to break, leading to the appearance of red thread veins. Lukewarm water is your friend. Slather on moisturiser as soon as you get out of the bath (gently dry yourself first!).
“Don’t over-exfoliate. Give your skin a break from the summer scrubs and look for gentle, hydrating cleansers. This is a great time for oily cleaners, even if you have slightly greasy skin, as counter-intuitive as it may seem oil is the best way to balance oily skin.
“Finally, don’t give up the factor-50 – the sun’s rays can damage the skin throughout the year. Even on a cold, overcast day, up to 80 percent of these rays can actually penetrate clouds. UVA rays can cause fine lines, wrinkles, and ageing, while UVB rays can burn the skin.”
Choosing skincare products
There are a number of ingredients often used in skincare products that may aggravate skin dryness and sensitivities, particularly during the winter season. Ian Taylor, Green People’s cosmetic scientist, highlights which ones should be avoided: “Ethyl alcohol, usually called ‘Alcohol denat’ in cosmetic ingredient lists, is a solvent that can dissolve and remove the natural oils in the outer layers of the skin, accelerating moisture loss. Other solvents such as Propylene glycol can have similar effects and should also be avoided.
“Harsh foaming agents such as Sodium lauryl sulfate, used in some shampoo and shower gel formulations, also disrupt the moisture barrier function and are known to be skin irritants. Another class of ingredient that commonly causes skin irritation and sensitisation are synthetic fragrances – avoid products that use the words ‘Parfum’ or ‘Fragrance’ without a description of what these contain to be on the safe side.”
It’s best to look for all-natural skincare products, which are certified and ideally organic. To counter the drying effects of winter weather, Taylor recommends looking for ones that will help support and enhance moisture retention in the skin: “Properly formulated creams and lotions will contain water to help re-hydrate the skin, together with ingredients called emollients which will help reduce moisture loss from the skin surface. These emollients can be pure plant oils such as sunflower and olive oil or the more exotic shea butter and jojoba oil, and also include fatty waxes used as emulsifiers such as Cetyl alcohol and Cetearyl alcohol.
“All of these help to form an occlusive layer on the skin surface which soothes and protects the living cells in the deeper skin layers, and also reduces water loss caused by evaporation. To maximise the penetration of the water in moisturisers, it is a good idea to exfoliate twice a week to remove excess dead cells from the surface of the skin. This keeps the skin more flexible and radiant and allows water to penetrate more easily to reach the deeper layers of the skin.
“Other ingredients to look for are those that have a calming and soothing effect on the skin as these can reduce the soreness and inflammation associated with exposure to cold weather. Aloe vera juice can be used as the water phase in creams and lotions and has a long history of use as a skin healer. Extracts from calendula (marigold flowers), green tea and rosemary have soothing and healing properties and are also rich in antioxidants that protect against free radical activity.”
Jessica Smith, UK brand manager for Natura Siberica, a cosmetic company specialising in natural and organic products made from wild-harvested plants and herbs from Siberia, said: “Look for rhodiola rosea, altai sea buckthorn, Siberian ginseng, limonnik nanai, schisandra chinensis and aralia mandschurica.”
Morris suggests looking for products containing rosehip: “Rosehip is amazing. It can help cell regeneration, boosting levels of collagen and elastin to create smoother, firmer skin. It also helps to reduce pigmentation problems and raised scar tissue by promoting healthy skin renewal. It’s also a powerful antioxidant; when applied to the skin daily it protects from free radical damage associated with the sun, weather and ageing.”
Dealing with problematic skin conditions
If you have a particular skin complaint such as acne, eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, as well as using natural skincare products you can support your skin further through diet and nutrition. It’s true what they say, you are what you eat!
Jenny Logan, technical training manager at Natures Aid, comments: “If you are struggling with skin complaints, it’s best to limit your sugar intake as inflammatory skin conditions (such as acne, eczema, rosacea and psoriasis) can be aggravated by a diet high in refined sugar, it’s also a good idea to increase your intake of essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 as these are helpful for many skin conditions, particular eczema and psoriasis.
“Ensure you drink enough water as this is very important for the skin. Even mild dehydration can lead to the skin looking dry, tired and grey, so aim for 1.5 litres a day. Finally, try to eat your ‘five a day’ – fruits and vegetables contain vital nutrients and antioxidants which support and nourish the skin.”
As well as addressing the diet, there are certain nutrients which are known to be helpful in dealing with the skin. These include zinc, copper and vitamin A. Logan explains: “Zinc contributes to the maintenance of normal hair, skin and nails and has been shown to be useful in treating acne, psoriasis and rosacea. Copper is involved in maintaining normal pigmentation in hair and skin and is essential for skin healing and collagen formation. Vitamin A has been shown to be helpful for the treatment of acne due to its ability to promote healthy skin cell production and balance skin hormones. Vitamin A also shows promise in supporting people struggling with eczema and psoriasis.”