The big chill

A young woman with snow on her hands

The cold winter months can leave our skin feeling dry, chapped and sore. Here’s how to protect your complexion from the harsh weather.

The temperature is dropping, the central heating is going on and we’re all digging our woolly jumpers out from the back of the wardrobe. Yes, winter is on its way, which means that we need to take extra care of our delicate complexions. “Winter presents particular challenges for our skin,” says Ian Taylor, operations manager with Green People (www.greenpeople.co.uk). “Exposure to cold, frosty temperatures with windy weather tends to damage the barrier properties of the skin, increasing its porosity. When this is coupled with centrally-heated buildings with very low humidity levels, it is no wonder that the skin tends to be more prone to dryness in the winter months.”

“The winter weather leaves our skin and hair in need of some extra nourishment and moisturisation,” says Rebecca Goodyear, marketing director with Kinetic, natural product distributors (www.kinetic4health.co.uk). “In order to protect our skin during the winter we should ensure it is hydrated and moisturised from inside and out. What we eat and drink can play a big part in our skin health. It is best to avoid sugar, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol, as these can dehydrate and prematurely age the skin.”

Vitamin deficiencies

“If your skin is drier than it should be, the chances are you are deficient in one or more of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, potassium or essential fatty acids,” says Rebecca. “Broken capillaries can be caused by a lack of antioxidants, bioflavonoids, glucosamine and calcium. Acne can be caused by a deficiency in zinc and essential fatty acids.”

Rebecca considers the crucial supplements for healthy skin to be essential fatty acids, diatomaceous earth, MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) and sulfur. “Essential fatty acids help maintain moisture in the skin,” she explains. “Diatomaceous earth is a mineral which is 89 per cent silica, which is essential for healthy skin. If we are deficient in silica, the collagen in our skin breaks down more quickly, causing dullness and tired-looking skin. Nails will also be stronger with regular doses of diatomaceous earth. MSM keeps hair glossy and skin tone even, smooth and youthful. Nails will grow quicker as well as stronger. Sulfur is essential for cell regeneration and renewal.”

The importance of exfoliation

As our skin becomes drier during the winter, this leads to a thickening of the outer layer of the skin, known as the stratum corneum. “This thickening of the stratum corneum restricts the absorption of moisture and nutrients from moisturisers and skin creams, reducing their effectiveness and resulting in a dull, coarse-looking complexion,” says Ian. “To overcome this, it is vital to exfoliate the skin regularly to remove excess dead cells from the skin surface to restore brightness and vibrancy, and to ensure that skin creams can be easily absorbed and work effectively.”

Skin-loving vitamins

“Using natural skincare products that contain rose hip oil, which is rich in healthy fats and vitamins C, E and D, followed by an oil which contains vitamins C, F, E and A would be useful,” says Pavlina Stoyanova from natural skincare brand Sukin (distributed by www.cressuk.com). “People should try hydration boosters as they are super useful for cold, dry weather and leave the skin flawless. A good, natural rosehip-based day cream with vitamin C would be extremely hydrating too. Vitamin C is essential for dryness and contains antioxidants, which makes the skin more plump-looking.”

The power of antioxidants

When it comes to choosing a good natural moisturiser, Rebecca recommends looking for antioxidant-rich ingredients. These include acai, which may heal sun damage and smooth wrinkles; green tea, which is loaded with polyphenols to fight free radical damage; coQ-10, which is another free radical fighter; and vitamin C, which is essential for the production of collagen, helps minimise fine lines and wrinkles and recycles antioxidants. Rebecca also recommends skin-friendly acids such as alpha-hydroxy acids, which help to remove dead skin cells for smoother, softer and more radiant skin; salicylic acid, which reduces spots and blemishes, and in the right levels also exfoliates the skin; and hyaluronic acid which helps smooth fine lines and wrinkles, and is particularly effective when combined with vitamin C.

Stress management

“Get plenty of sleep and de-stress,” says Dr Adam Friedmann, a consultant dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic (www.theharleystreetdermatologyclinic.co.uk). “It is a known fact that stress and exhaustion lower the immune system and make most rashes/skin conditions worse. The more one looks after oneself, the better the immune system and the less of a problem many of these things will be. Healthy diet and lifestyle help, but sweating too hard might make things worse temporarily – so if you’re a keen gym-goer, this is also something to be aware of.”

Top Tip!

“If you use lighter products in the summer, continue to use them but take note of how your skin feels,” says Rebecca. “Have your heavier products ready as back-up for when your skin starts to feel drier. I normally start using heavier products at night – usually combining a treatment serum with a night cream – before my skin has the chance to dry out. In the morning, I will continue with an oil or cream for as long as possible but eventually I will succumb and combine use of the two products. If you do suffer from dry skin, it’s best to use an oil-based cream.”

A South American secret

“Winter is the time to nourish and repair some of the effects from sun exposure and heat we’ve had in the summer months,” explains Judy Rocher, education and training manager with Rio Trading (www.riohealth.co.uk). “Sensitive skin and conditions such as eczema tend to flare up in the harsher winter months. Even perfectly healthy skin that is not nourished and protected may experience problems with dryness and irritation in winter. Rosehip seed oil has been valued for its skin-healing and regenerative properties for centuries. This ingredient derives from the wild rose, Rosa affinis rubiginosa, known as Rosa Mosqueta, which grows high in the Chilean Andes. It helps to replenish and repair skin from within because it is rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids and vitamins. Clinical research, both in Europe and South America, has confirmed its effectiveness in reducing scars, wrinkles and stretch marks. Apart from its use as a beauty oil, it is also able to repair sun damage, age spots and other blemishes with regular use.”

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