Should you change your skincare routine in winter?

Without proper care, winter weather can cause your skin to chap, flake and crack. This often stems from dryness and if ignored can be painful and irritating. To keep skin smooth and hydrated through the colder months, it’s essential to adjust your skincare routine.

Previous research carried out by McCabes Pharmacy revealed that a third of the Irish public suffers from skin problems during the winter. However, recent findings from the pharmacy chain suggested 54.1% of people don’t change their skincare regimen when the weather turns cold.

While almost one in five respondents claimed they do adjust their skincare routine, 6.2% said they didn’t know it would make a difference. And almost one in five confessed to not even having a skincare routine.

What causes dry skin?

When there isn’t enough water in the outermost layer of your skin—known as the epidermis—it loses moisture and dries out. This can happen because of genetics, hormones or certain medical conditions. However, it can also come about due to cold weather or by overusing harsh soaps and hand sanitisers—common causes that are easy to remedy

Lisa Byrne, superintendent pharmacist at McCabes Pharmacy, explains: “In mild weather, dry skin can be easily treated. However, if you ignore the symptoms, the dryness could become severe and lead to skin conditions such as cellulitis or trigger atopic eczema.”

Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that can be painful and cause the affected areas to redden and swell up. This is provoked when skin cracks and bacteria seeps through, which is often the result of dryness.

People who suffer from atopic eczema usually have extremely dry skin because their skin is incapable of retaining enough moisture. Cold and dry weather can commonly trigger the symptoms of this condition, which include dryness, cracking and itchiness.

A winter skincare routine

To give your skin year-round hydration, using cleanser is an important step. Cream cleansers are gentler and help hydrate the skin

Selene Daly, dermatology clinical nurse specialist, at Sligo University Hospital, said: “Using a soap-free wash along with a moisturiser is a way of combatting winter dry skin. Increasing the frequency of the moisturising along with changing to a greasier cream can also help.”

Selecting the right moisturiser is essential. It’s important to consider which products would best suit your type of skin. The use of oil-based moisturisers is recommended through winter as they form a protective layer on the skin and preserve extra moisture. 

You may think that sunscreen is just for the summer; however, it is recommended that you use it through the colder months as well. It’s important to protect your skin from the constant presence of UVA light in winter sun and the reflected glare from snow.

It is also advisable to avoid:

  • alcohol-based products
  • harsh peels and masks when your facial skin is especially dry
  • over-exfoliating
  • harsh soaps

These products can help in certain circumstances:

  • night masks
  • toners
  • serums
  • night oil

Selene adds: “Using physical exfoliators for dry skin is not recommended. These are made from peach kernel, which is abrasive to skin and can trigger an allergic response or a flare of eczema.”

How to keep your skin hydrated

The dryness of your skin largely depends on its hydration levels. Water helps to remove toxins in the body, while hydrated skin is generally plumper and more elastic. If your skin is dehydrated, it may start to become rough.

Drinking the recommended six to eight glasses of water a day can do wonders in terms of preventing skin from drying out. However, keep in mind that this isn’t enough to treat skin conditions such as acne and eczema.

Lisa adds: “When your skin is dehydrated, it might seem logical to lather it with lots of hot, soapy water but this can actually worsen the dryness. It is recommended to avoid long hot baths, keep showers short and only use warm water.”

Enhance levels of moisture in the air

You can prevent the air in your home from becoming too dry by keeping radiators at a low or medium temperature. Placing humidifiers around your home can also increase the amount of moisture in the air.

Selene continues: “Keeping your living areas as cool as possible is important, especially if you suffer from eczema. Too much heat can flare eczema so hot-water bottles, electric blankets, rooms heated over 22 degrees and hot showers or baths are a big no-no.”

By taking sensible precautions and questioning the myths around dry skin, you don’t have to hibernate in winter in order to avoid discomfort. Creating a suitable home environment, investing in the right products and taking care of your body means having a radiant complexion through the colder months isn’t impossible.