Dry skin is a common complaint among Canadians during the winter months, even for those that typically don’t have a problem with dry skin. We look into the factors that contribute to dryness during the winter, and how to minimize and counteract these effects.
What happens to the skin that causes it to become dry?
Dry skin occurs when the surface layer of the skin is unable to retain adequate moisture. There is a combination of fats and protein that form a sandwich at the upper layers of the skin, which regulate the moisture levels of the skin. When this chemistry is disrupted or weakened, it affects the skin’s ability to retain moisture, resulting in dry skin.
Could it be that some people simply have drier skin?
Indeed, some people naturally have drier skin. Many genetic factors affect the base level of skin moisture. In particular, those with eczema or atopic dermatitis have a problem with maintaining that proper balance of fats and protein at the skin, causing sufferers to have chronic problems with dryness year-round.
Is dry skin a common problem in the winter or is it just perception?
Winter months are more of a problem when it comes to dry skin. Canadians in particular, are affected by the changing seasons, as many cities in Canada have prolonged dry and cold air for months at a time. In the prairies, it isn’t uncommon for those who have no problems with dry skin during the summer to suffer from symptoms of dryness during their harsh winters.
What are the factors in winter that cause dry skin?
Cold air is a significant factor in the winter months that drains moisture from the skin, as is dry air. This effect is particularly noticeable in the prairies, where the winter months can be extremely cold and dry. Indoor heating is another factor that artificially drains moisture from the air. As we stay indoors for longer during the winter, our skins become drier.
What’s the most important advice in keeping your skin moist?
Regular use of moisturizers is one of the most important and convenient habits to get into to protect your skin from dryness. Apply moisturizers daily, even if you don’t need them during the summer months. The best time to apply these is immediately after a shower or bathing. Instead of drying yourself with a towel, pat the water off your skin, so it retains moisture. Apply a moisturizer before the skin is completely dried to help seal in the moisture.
Are there any winter-specific strategies to keep your skin protected during the winter?
The critical points for retaining skin moisture are the same for winter as it is for summer. An important consideration is to keep your skin warm and covered from the elements when outdoors, and to take shorter showers and baths. If dry skin is a common problem for you during the winter, a humidifier in your bedroom can help counteract the drying effects of indoor heating. If you have a condition like eczema or atopic dermatitis, you will find that your condition flares more frequently. It’s important to treat flares quickly with medication, to prevent the condition from worsening, and to moisturize the skin regularly.