Skin care is tricky at the best of times, but winter throws its own challenges into the mix. Indoor heating, sudden changes in temperature, and the need to cover up 24/7 for warmth, are just a few of the reasons why we need to take extra care of the largest organ of the body during the coldest season. Here’s what you can do to take care of your skin this winter:
For those who don’t suffer from them, chilblains sound like a minor irritation. But these small, burning, itchy, red swellings on fingers, toes, and heels (even the ears and nose) are painful and often persistent. While they usually disappear during the warmer months, they frequently recur, and can make winter extremely uncomfortable. If they go untreated, they can lead to infection. If you are prone to chilblains (or want to avoid them), be sure to dress warmly in loose, dry, cosy clothing. Wear slippers indoors, and ensure outdoor footwear is waterproof but not tight, and socks are warm (those made of natural fibres are best). Avoid sudden changes in temperature (for instance, if your feet or hands are cold, don’t try to heat them by holding them close to a heater or placing them on a hot water bottle or wheat bag). At the first sign of chilblains, visit your pharmacy (and, if necessary, your doctor) for medication which can help.
Dry, flaky skin is a common winter condition. That’s because the more we heat our homes, the more moisture is wicked away from our skin, causing it to dry out to an unnatural degree. To make matters worse, we’re often not aware the drying out is even occurring because we’re forever covered up in warming layers of clothing. Dry skin soon becomes itchy, and the more we scratch, the more we risk introducing infection. Make it a priority to moisturise morning and night to rehydrate your skin.
The skin on our lips is thin and delicate, and especially sensitive. Yet despite the fact it’s quick to dry out, we seldom cover the skin on our lips when we venture out into the cold. What’s more, as our lips dry out in chilly air, we lick them in a futile attempt to provide them with moisture (in fact, licking our lips makes them dry out even faster, and our saliva acts as a skin irritant). Don’t wait until your lips are chapped and cracked to start caring for them. Get into the habit of applying a pharmacy-recommended lip balm in the morning, and before you go outdoors. Apply lip balm again, in the evening, before going to bed as breathing during sleep can also dry out lips. As an added precaution, wrap a soft scarf around your mouth when outdoors in very cold conditions.
As with many other areas on our body, our scalp dries out more in winter than summer. But because our scalp is disguised with hair, abrasions caused through scratching go untreated and can quickly develop into irritating sores we can’t resist picking. In the first instance, consult your pharmacist if sores or itching develop. But to stave off dry scalp, switch to a moisturising shampoo over winter (your hairdresser may be able to recommend one). Foods rich in Vitamin D3 can also help prevent dry scalp. These include eggs, dairy and soy milk, and salmon.
Yes – nails are made from skin cells, too, and both our finger and toe nails can become brittle and cracked during the winter months. If dry winter air is the cause, moisturising is the answer. Apply a pharmacy recommended moisturiser to finger and toe nails morning at night, and after hand washing (and always use gloves when doing dishes). Cuticle oil can also help moisturise nails and the skin around them. A healthy diet with sufficient protein and magnesium can also help to repair damaged nails (magnesium-rich foods include whole grains, wheat bran, nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens).
This winter, stay skin-aware, and stave off problems before they arise.