Understanding and fighting the Winter Itch
Or Dry Wintry Skin
Between November and March, one of the most common questions faced by skin care professionals relates to the treatment of dry winter skin. Winter is by far the harshest season for skin. According to National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a whopping 81% Americans claim to experience dry, itchy or scaly skin during the winter months.
To understand skin hydration, it's necessary to look at the key components of the stratum corneum - the outermost layer of the skin that makes it impermeable, and protects the body at large from bacterial invasion and other environmental aggressors.
The stratum corneum, briefly, is comprised of corneocytes, which are flattened, dead skin cells that are arranged in a brick-and-mortar manner. Corneocytes are composed of keratin and NMF (natural moisturizing factors). Surrounded by lipids (ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol) these components create a physical barrier that prevents water loss.
The moisture loss triggers such a compromise in barrier function that the skin will begin to chap and develop small fissures, thus losing more moisture. These cracks in the skin generally go to a dermal level, which often causes nerve agitation and bleeding (chapped lips for an example).
licking already dry lips can cause chapping
Clients usually get chapped lips (cheilitis) through outdoor exposure to the cold air, or by sitting by the fireplace inside the warm, dry air. As a result, clients lick their lips, applying a thin layer of moisture to the mucosa and surrounding skin, which immediately evaporates and causes dehydration that leads to cracked, chapped lips. As a remedy, use of beeswax or dimethicone lip balm is recommended. To prevent winter lip chapping, I suggest using a healing lip balm that hydrates below the surface. I prefer Ormedic balancing lip enhancement complex by Image Skin Care, one of the best on the market.
Each day, skin loses approximately a pint of water through normal TEWL (transepidermal water loss). Water leaves the skin and re-enters the atmosphere via evaporation and diffusion. When the skin moisture content drops under 10%, it begins drying and brings discomfort characterized by redness, itchiness and flakiness. In addition to moisture loss in the atmosphere, the artificial heat, wind, snow, hot water, hand sanitizers and soap render dry, itchy skin that also appears visibly older.
Here are some winter 'must-dos' to keep the skin glowing and gorgeous:
- Incorporate Omega-3 Fatty Acids into your diet. EFA's (Essential Fatty Acids) are responsible for skin renewal and our bodies don't produce them. They must be obtained through diet or supplementation. Cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel and krill are excellent sources of EFA's. Vegetarian sources include flax seeds and chia seeds.
flax seeds are an excellent dietary source for fighting winter dryness
- Limit exfoliation to once or twice weekly. Excessive exfoliation will damage living cells.
- Get a humidifier. A humidifier will replace moisture in the air that is lost by artificial heating and temperature drops.
- Avoid over-washing the skin and use tepid water. Washing the skin more than once a day will strip it of natural oils.
- Eat for beauty. While all nutrients are good, some are better at fighting winter skin issues than others: Selenium (eggs, brown rice, Brazil nuts, mushrooms, fish), Silica (green beans, garbanzo beans, cucumbers, celery, asparagus, strawberries), Vitamin C (kale, parsley, green and red peppers, broccoli, citrus fruit), Vitamin A ( liver, dairy products, eggs, cod liver oil, brightly colored fruit and vegetables).
- To minimize discomfort, apply moisturizers with occlusives (oils, petrolatum, silicones), humectants (glycerin, urea, sorbitol), emollients (jojoba oil, squalane), ceramides (greatly helps with eczema), shea butter and aloe vera. For added benefit, you can reapply the mositurizer every couple of hours and apply toner rich in humectants throughout the day. I am proud to offer an organic moisturizing combination that when used together, will swiftly fight and prevent dry winter skin: Esthetic Underground's Organic Revitalizing Mask and Hydrating Toner.
Esthetic Underground's Organic Revitalizing Mask and Hydrating Toner
Be good to your skin this winter. You can always ask me questions about skincare here and be sure that all your skin care goals will be met!