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Most commonly identified by the skin feeling tight and stretched or dull, slightly red, and rough, people planning on spending a lot more time outdoors particularly need to watch out for windburn...

Winter and Skincare – Beautiful skin requires commitment not miracles | September 10, 2019

Cracking-up in winter Winter is that time of the year when one is always willing to sip a hot beverage and munch on a warm snack or two. The warmth of the blanket is all alluring and one can hardly wait to wear the carefully stored warm coats, jackets, boots, and gloves. As wonderful as this time of the year is, it’s also time for dry, flaky, and chapped skin – whether in areas that are exposed or under all that wonderful winter fashion! Winter brings in its wake a focus on keeping warm: food to keep warm from within and layers of protective clothing to deal with the biting cold outside. Getting overlooked somewhere in all this activity is what bears the brunt of the weather – the skin. Continuous exposure to cold air and hard windy weather steals the skin of its moisture resulting in dryness. Even covered skin is affected by the friction caused by layers of warm clothing and the prevalent low levels of humidity in the air. The difference in temperature between heated buildings and the low temperatures outside is also said to add to skin dryness and irritation. Most commonly identified by the skin feeling tight and stretched or dull, slightly red, and rough, people planning on spending a lot more time outdoors particularly need to watch out for windburn. Similar in effect to sunburn, windburn is caused by prolonged exposure to cold, harsh winds. As tempting as the winter sun is it might be better to be prudent about basking in its warmth with adequate skin protection — even more so in snow as it reflects sun rays resulting in snow burn. Another skin condition that could occur in severe weather or in prolonged exposure to cold is frostbite. Unlike windburn which is mainly on the skin’s surface, frostbite affects the underlying tissues as well. Though it can affect any part of the body, the tip of the nose, finger tips, ears, and toes are most vulnerable. Adequate protection and immediate care to warm areas being affected is the best defence against frostbite.   Keeping dryness at bay Of all the body parts it’s the lips, nose, cheeks, hands, arms, lower legs, and thighs that tend to get the most neglected during winter. The skin on the face is the most delicate and thinnest, hence, needs to be most protected; skin covering the lips produces very little or no oil and being prone to cracking and chapping, benefits from regular application of emollient balms. And the nose is particularly vulnerable when the dry atmosphere is accompanied with a cold. Though experts recommend extra hygiene of the hands to avoid spread of flu and colds, frequent washing could cause red, cracked skin – preventable by frequent application of moisturisers and hand creams.   While for severe conditions its best to seek medical care there are some precautionary measures to keep winter dryness at bay:   Moisturise frequently, preferably with heavier, oil-based moisturisers: When humidity is low, oil-based moisturisers are more beneficial than other creams and lotions as oil stays on the skin longer thus retaining the skin’s moisture better.   Step-out with protection: Experts advocate the use of sunscreens even in winter.  They also promote the use of gloves to protect hands, preferably in materials that do not irritate the skin. Wear fabrics that are skin friendly: Wear clothes made of natural fibres such as cotton and silk. These allow the skin to breathe easily. Although wool is a natural fibre it could be a little harsh on the skin.   Layer clothes: This not only keeps one warm but also facilitates ease of removing and adding clothing as the temperature demands.   Use a humidifier: A humidifier increases the moisture content of the surrounding area and this helps combat the warm, dry indoor air that could worsen skin itching and flaking. A little daily care A little daily care could go a long way in keeping the winter as enjoyable as other seasons.
  •         Take shorter baths with warm rather than hot water. The University of Iowa - Department of Dermatology, suggests avoiding hot showers for more than 10 minutes as this strips the skin from natural hydrating oils.  For the very same reason some dermatologists advise restricting bathing to just once in the day in winters, including washing the face.
  •         Bathe with milder, gentler soaps. As a rule of thumb, cleanse with mild soaps and shower gels with additional oils, fats, and moisturisers content. Experiment with different skin cleansers to identify those that leave the skin feeling soft and smooth and not dry and tight.
  •         Pat the skin dry after bathing as rubbing could irritate the skin.
  •         Moisturise while still damp to help the skin absorb the moisturiser better.
  •         Keep deodorants, antibacterial soaps, and fragrances for warmer weather when they are less likely to irritate the skin.
  Be it thick winter coat weather or a light cardigan one, with an extra coat of moisturiser and that additional cup of tea, win over winter!

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