By GMB Doctor Sandy Krafchik
The skin is responsible for regulating body temperature, removing toxins and pathogens, and acting as a barrier to maintain adequate hydration. Dry skin is a result of the barrier function losing its integrity. During winter cold weather (especially cold winds) in combination with the increased use of central heating has a dramatic drying effect on the skin. Even people with ‘normal’ skin notice changes in their skin during the cooler months e.g. dry skin and cracked lips. Cold air narrows the skin’s pores and reduces blood circulation. This decreases the naturally occurring oil (sebum), which acts as a protective layer and traps moisture next to the skin. The resulting compromised barrier layer together with the lower air humidity during winter causes the skin to dehydrate. This can aggravate existing conditions that already make the skin prone to inflammation, drying, cracking and flaking (e.g. acne, eczema, rosacea and psoriasis) resulting in flare-ups. Therefore, we need to alter our skin care routine during winter to counteract these issues.
Preventative measures to maintain healthy, hydrated skin during winter:
Avoiding or reducing exposure to triggers known to exacerbate skin conditions is crucial to maintaining healthy skin. Winter is merely one of the known irritants of the skin. Other common irritants that may trigger or aggravate the skin include: certain foods, chemicals, perfumes, animal hair and dust. It is essential to take steps to avoid these ‘triggers’ and potential flare-ups of existing skin conditions by making simple lifestyle changes.
The following lifestyle changes will protect the integrity of the skin during winter:
- Adequate hydration is essential to counteract dehydration of the skin during winter. Drink plenty of water (ideally 2-3L/day). This will replenish the water that is lost through the skin because the skin barrier is not functioning optimally.
- Eat the rainbow! Studies show that a colourful plant-based diet can make your skin look healthier. Beta-carotene, the antioxidant responsible for giving red, orange and yellow fruit and vegetables their vibrant colours, is essential for skin health – think sweet potato, pumpkin and carrots. Anthocyanidins found in berries, plums and red onions are responsible for giving them their red and purple colour. Anthocyanidins support blood vessel health and the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the skin. Choose fresh, organic and locally grown fruit and vegetable where possible.
- Increase consumption of fermented foods. Research reveals a strong link between the quality of the skin and gut health. Fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir, can promote the growth of beneficial gut flora. Normalising gut flora has been shown to help improve chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne, as well as improving skin dryness and collagen production.
- Probiotics have an anti-inflammatory effect on the gut and can correct dysbiosis within the gut, thereby improving skin health. Poor gut health, may be manifested through conditions including dry skin, eczema, psoriasis and acne.
- Eat foods that are rich in healthy fats i.e. omega 3(oily fish, walnuts, flaxseeds and chia) and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for healthy cell membranes, assists the skin remove waste and lock in moisture. Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory - soothing irritated skin and providing a clearer complexion. Omega 6 fatty acids are provided by vegetable oils, except gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential omega 6 fatty acid. GLA is anti-inflammatory and is involved in skin metabolism by improving skin moisture, elasticity and firmness. The best forms of GLA are from borage oil and evening primrose oil.
- A fish oil supplement will boost Omega 3 levels and improve the skin’s natural barrier function.
- The active form of vitamin A, retinol, is known as the “skin vitamin”. It is derived from beta-carotene. Retinal increases collagen production, helps the skin retain water, protects the skin from sun damage and reduces wrinkles. Vitamin A oil can also be applied topically directly to the skin or administered through supplementation.
- Vitamin E (a fat-soluble antioxidant) helps scavenge free radicals, protecting the skin from damage, slowing ageing, especially when combined with vitamin C. This vitamin is a natural vasodilator; widening blood vessels to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the skin. Food sources of include avocado, wheat germ, sunflower seeds and almonds. If dietary sources are insufficient, supplementation may be necessary.
- Zinc is an essential cofactor that helps the body use essential fatty acids better and is required for the conversion of beta-carotene to active vitamin A. Additionally, zinc helps regulate oil glands, which are important for keeping the skin smooth and plump. It also helps to repair skin damage. Dietary sources include oysters, poultry, whole grains and nuts and seeds.
- Eat a wholefood diet. Processed and refined foods, wheat, trans-fats, processed table salt, and dairy products are acidic and inflammatory and damage the skin’s natural barrier. Eliminating sugars, grains and packaged food has been shown to rapidly improve the skin within a few weeks.
- Avoid hot baths and showers as they strip the skin of natural oils and exacerbate dryness. Instead opt for lukewarm baths and showers which will retain the naturally occurring oils on the skin.
- Use soap free body wash in the shower/bath. Soap damages the skin’s natural barrier and strips water from the skin. Avoid using shower gels and washes that contain fragrances, parabens and sodium lauryl sulphates, as they may irritate the skin.
- Moisturize immediately after your bath/shower: Damp skin seals moisture the best. Creams containing almond oil, olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, aloe vera and calendula contain SPF and soothe the skin. Beeswax, cocoa and shea butter improve hydration by providing a protective barrier to the skin.
- Use organic creams which are free from paraffin, scent and preservatives.
A great choice as a whole-body moisturiser is Weleda’s Skin Food - a multi-purpose product based on an award-winning formula developed in 1926. Weleda is the world’s leading manufacturer of certified natural and organic skin care. Established in 1921, Weleda has received prestigious awards for its commitment to Sustainability/ Fair Trade | Ethical Sourcing | Organic | Biodynamic.
- Use an oil-based exfoliator only 1 – 2 times/ week to remove dead skin cells.
- Make exercise a priority. Exercise improves systemic circulation, including the skin. The delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the surface of the skin boosts hydration and promotes glowing skin.
- Turn indoor heating to the lowest setting and wear extra clothing to compensate.
- Limit exposure to hot/dry environments e.g. air-conditioned rooms/ cars, open fires as these will dehydrate the skin further.
- Wear fabrics that are soft and non-irritant (e.g. cotton; silk).
- Use cleaning products (e.g. dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent) that are free from fragrances, petrochemicals and phosphates to avoid stripping water from the skin.
- Protect your skin from the elements when outdoors - wear warm clothing, gloves and a hat.
- Use sunscreen daily. This is important and is often neglected during winter.
- Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. The body (including the skin!) repairs and rejuvenates during sleep.
Weleda’s Skin Food is a deeply nourishing and hydrating cream that can be used on the entire body to restore and protect the skin. It is moisturising and conditioning for rough, dry skin. It can even be used on the lips, hands and feet and applied to the face under makeup.
Weleda’s Skin Food is:
- 100% certified natural and organic
- free from GMO’s, parabens, artificial preservatives, colours and fragrances.
- cruelty free (i.e. is not tested on animals)
Skin food contains a blend of chamomile, calendula, wild pansy and rosemary in a base of sunflower seed oil, sweet almond oil, lanolin and beeswax. Extracts of calendula (wound healing and anti-inflammatory), chamomile (soothing and repairing), wild pansy (soothing and healing) and rosemary (stimulates circulation, revitalising and anti-septic) soothe rough skin. Natural oils and waxes from beeswax, sunflower, lanolin and sweet almond provide a protective barrier for the skin. It is suitable for use on all skin types.
CV Skinlabs. 2018. How to Reduce the Effects of Harsh Winter Weather on Skin. [ONLINE] Available at: https://cvskinlabs.com/how-to-reduce-the-effects-of-harsh-winter-weather-on-skin/. [Accessed 09 July 2018].
Aesthetics. 2018. The Impact of Winter on the Skin - Aesthetics. [ONLINE] Available at: https://aestheticsjournal.com/feature/the-impact-of-winter-on-the-skin. [Accessed 09 July 2018]. Natural Organic Skin, Baby & Medicinal Products Since 1921. 2018. Natural Organic Skin, Baby & Medicinal Products Since 1921. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.weleda.com.au/homepage/w1/en-au/i2/. [Accessed 09 July 2018].
Skin Food, 30ml | Natural Organic Skin, Baby & Medicinal Products Since 1921. 2018. Skin Food, 30ml | Natural Organic Skin, Baby & Medicinal Products Since 1921. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.weleda.com.au/skin-food-30ml/en-au/. [Accessed 10 July 2018].
LivingNow Magazine. 2018. 16 ways to prevent dry skin and keep it glowing this winter. [ONLINE] Available at: https://livingnow.com.au/16-ways-keep-your-skin-naturally-glowing-this-winter/. [Accessed 10 July 2018].