Winter is here!
That means cold winds, low humidity and ramping up on indoor heating – all of which can wreak havoc on our skin.
Below, Zoe Woodhouse – also known as The Skin Scientist – takes us through some of the challenges that we face when it comes to managing our skin’s condition across changing seasons, as well as highlighting where this might impact our delicate skin microbiome.
Also included are some skincare ingredient examples, along with skincare tips, to help us combat the current winter-driven changes.
Read on to find out more!
Why skin changes with the seasons
The skin is constantly adapting to changes in environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity and UV rays.
Winter brings low humidity, freezing winds and indoor heating, wreaking havoc with our skin. Studies show that during winter, your skin’s outer layer (stratum corneum) loses lipids such as ceramides and fatty acids, reducing its flexibility [1,2]. This is consistent with other studies that found a decrease in skin hydration alongside an increase in stratum corneum stiffness and pH , which impacts the skin microbiome . For skin, this means a weaker barrier, dryness and in some cases dermatitis. Additionally, going from the cold air to indoor heating can dilate blood vessels, worsening skin redness, while reduced moisture levels inside puts more stress on already dry skin.
High humidity and scorching temperatures in summer result in increased oil (sebum) production , meaning your skin may be more oily than usual. Studies also show an increase in TEWL (transepidermal water loss) and skin hydration, due to more sweating . Additionally, stronger UV rays increase the visible signs of ageing (e.g. fine lines and wrinkles) and may even disrupt the balance of skin microbes [5,6].
Autumn and spring
During these transitional periods humidity and temperature varies, making it the perfect time to adjust your skincare routine. Research has found that TEWL and skin pH correlate with average temperature, humidity and UV radiation levels , meaning your skin is likely to respond accordingly to the changes in the environment.
Ingredients for dry skin during winter
In the previous section, we unraveled seasonal skincare and how winter reduces skin hydration, flexibility and skin barrier strength. The best way to repair and maintain your skin is by including the following ingredients:
- Ceramides and essential fatty acids: These key components are essential for healthy skin barrier function. During winter, some of these are lost from your skin’s outer layer (the stratum corneum) , so replenishing your natural stores is vital!
- Panthenol and niacinamide: These tried-and-tested skin vitamins work wonders at reducing the redness and inflammation that is associated with dry and sensitive skin in winter .
- Glycerin and Pentavitin®: Glycerin is a holy-grail humectant, holding on to moisture to fight dry skin. Pentavitin (saccharide isomerate) has recently been coined a glycerin alternative, as it makes a unique, yet strong bond to the keratin of corneocytes in your skin, providing long-lasting hydration .
- Hyaluronic acid and squalane: Naturally produced by the body, production of these hydrating ingredients drastically declines as we age , contributing to drier skin (especially during winter). Squalane works as an emollient, and has been used for multiple skin disorders related to dry skin .
Winter skincare tips
So far, we’ve explored why our skin changes during the seasons and winter must-have ingredients. Lastly, I’m sharing my top winter skincare tips!
Moisturizing daily is indispensable to stay hydrated and maintain your skin barrier during winter . As is a facial oil to replenish depleted natural fatty acid stores .
Using hot water in winter can create an illusion of itchy skin relief in the short-term. But it actually aggravates dry skin by stripping it of natural moisturizing factors and oils. This disrupts your skin barrier and microbiome, allowing irritants to easily infiltrate and irritate . Studies also show that frequent washing with harsh soap can induce dry skin in winter , so opt for balm and oil-based products instead.
Less sun doesn’t mean less sunscreen! Although it does mean less vitamin D, which studies have found to exacerbate dry skin . Supplementing this vitamin can hydrate skin, help reduce atopic dermatitis and possibly regulate postbiotic antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) [17-19].