With winter just around the corner, you may have noticed the effect the drop in temperature has had on your skin. While dryness, itchiness and irritation are all quite normal reactions to cold conditions, just because these skin reactions are the norm, doesn’t mean you have to put up with them.
It’s important to be aware of your skin’s needs during the cooler weather and adjust your skincare routine accordingly to ensure your skin doesn’t become dehydrated or over-moisturised and thus, congested.
Depending on your personal needs, this could mean using fewer products, using less of each of your products, or maybe even changing the products entirely, especially as we make the transition from summer to winter.
With that being said, Starts at 60 spoke to leading dermatologist Dr Saxon Smith to find out how to keep your skin in tip-top shape through the cooler months.
Looking after your skin doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, but you should be paying it some attention every day. According to Dr Smith, there are three critical steps to follow:
Traditional soap bars can have a significant drying effect on the skin as they tend to contain detergents that while great at removing daily grease and grime from our skin, are also fantastic at stripping much-needed natural oils from the skin.
This is a big concern for those of us with mature skin, as our skin doesn’t hold its natural moisturising factors — elements that keep the outer layer of the skin protected — as well as it used to.
“Stripping the natural moisturising factors from the skin damages the barrier function of the skin which can make the skin dry, dull and prone to flaking and itch,” he says, explaining if you’re prone to dry skin in winter or dermatitis, these traditional bar soaps will lead to further flare-ups.
As an alternative, Dr Smith recommends looking for a product that is labelled soap-free.
However, he cautions that some natural soap products may still contain detergent-like ingredients, so it’s always best to read the ingredients list on your products first.
If in doubt, Dr Smith advises avoiding products with ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulphate and other sulphates listed on the back.
When washing your face, your skin should feel refreshed, clean and soft – free from any irritation. Because different skin types often react differently to certain types of face cleaners, it’s recommended you choose cleansers that align with your skin’s needs and characteristics.
The longer the bath or shower and the hotter the water you use, the more natural oils and moisture will be stripped from your skin. Instead, Dr Smith recommends opting for shorter and slightly cooler showers.
“Obviously in winter this can be challenging,” Dr Smith says, adding: “Therefore, moisturising your skin every day is key.”
Dr Smith recommends moisturising your skin immediately after you step out of the shower to keep your skin hydrated and replace any lost natural moisturising factors from the showering or bath process.
When it comes to choosing a moisturiser, Smith says it’s best to keep the seasons in mind.
“In winter you need a thicker cream or even an ointment to hydrate the skin because of the heating and air conditioning as well as the tendency to have hotter, longer showers,” he explains.
“Whereas in summer a lighter cream often suffices.”
Use fragrance-free moisturisers that are oil-free if you have oily skin, particularly on your face and neck. Ensure the moisturiser is sheer enough to be absorbed by the skin.
Creams and serums are often the better alternative to lotions, which can sometimes irritate your skin. Choose moisturisers containing shea butter, rich in healthy lipids that enhance skin elasticity and protect against environmental damage and free radicals, and hyaluronic acid, which boosts moisture retention to promote plump, firm skin.
Dr Smith also recommends choosing products that have the highly-effective moisturising ingredient, glycerin, included.
Meanwhile, if you have sensitive skin, Dr Smith says it’s best to stick to fragrance-free skin products that are specifically designed for sensitive skin.
A good rule of thumb when starting a new product is to only apply a small amount on one area of your skin rather than slathering the product all over your face or body. Give it a few hours, and if you have no reaction, continue to use.
Remember, taking care of your skin during winter doesn’t have to be complex or expensive, but it does require a little daily attention.
By reviewing your skin’s needs during the cooler months, you’re not only protecting your skin’s health but radiance too.