Dry skin is a common problem for a lot of people during the winter months, as our skin is exposed to colder temperatures and drier air. These conditions compromise our skin's ability to retain moisture and can leave it feeling dry, itchy and scaly. So why do we get sensitive and dull skin in winter, and what can we do to try and avoid it?
Our skin is reactive to the lower temperatures and air humidity that occur in the winter months, and there is an overall decrease in our skin barrier function. The cold causes blood vessels to constrict, leading to a reduction in sebum secretions - the oily substance that moisturises and protects the skin.
Winter also usually means greater exposure to central heating, which reduces air moisture and contributes further to skin dehydration.
So with these causes in mind, what can we do to keep our skin hydrated, soft and smooth in winter?
Aim for warm, not hot
Heaters, fires and hot showers can actually strip the protective oils from our skin, leaving it vulnerable to drying out. Central heating is a very common skin irritant because it reduces moisture in the air. Where possible, try to reduce showers by a few degrees or a few minutes, and put on layers of clothing before resorting to the heater.
Moisturise skin after washing
Moisturisers help to lather the skin's surface with an oily layer to reduce moisture loss. Look for products containing ingredients such as shea butter, mineral oils, lactic acid, hyaluronic acid waxes, fatty acids and glycerides. It's best to apply these immediately after showering or bathing so that lost oils can be restored.
Mix oils and moisturisers
Mixing olive, coconut or grapeseed oil with your go-to moisturiser during winter helps to soothe dry and scaly legs in winter.
Use hand cream
Carry a non-greasy hand cream and apply it after washing your hands to help protect your skin.
Drink plenty of water
In winter, we tend to drink less water because we don't get as thirsty. With less moisture in the air, however, dehydration can still become an issue. Drinking plenty of water can help maintain hydration and improve skin elasticity.
Keep an eye out for new or changing moles
Don't forget - skin cancers still grow in winter. Get to know your skin and monitor it for any changes, including new or changing moles, which might indicate cancer. Dry and scaly skin might actually be something more sinister; if it persists, get it checked by a medical professional.