When it gets cold outside, we turn up the heat indoors to feel comfortable, but the temperature differences and the dry air can adversely affect our skin’s ability to retain moisture, creating opportunities for itchy and painful conditions like eczema and severe dry skin to flare up.
“In the winter, we experience radically different conditions; for example, the cold and wind outside and overheated stuffy rooms. This can make our skin a lot more fragile, dry and damaged,” says Aleyna Zarras, regional trainer for Ontario, Maritimes and the Prairies for La Roche-Posay, L’Oréal Canada. “It’s important that we help to strengthen our skin’s barrier function and seal in moisture.”
An effective skin care routine starts with good cleansing, says Zarras. “Especially for dry and itchy skin, we recommend using a cleanser that is free of irritants like fragrances, paraben and alcohol, followed by a moisturizer.”
Moisturizers rich in emollients and humectants, such as shea butter and glycerin, can help to boost the skin’s barrier function. Emollients are known to fill the tiny crevices between surfaces to keep the skin smooth, and humectants draw water to the outer layer of the skin, she explains. “By protecting the lipids that form the outer layer of the skin, we not only keep the skin’s natural moisture intact, we also help to keep things in and out.”
There are many triggers for issues related to dry skin, says Zarras. “Our environment can alter our skin barrier, making it vulnerable to the irritants or allergens we’re exposed to,” she says. “And that means that during the winter months, someone with eczema-prone skin can be more susceptible to flare-ups.”
For people with dry skin, and those prone to eczema, she recommends moisturizing twice a day at a minimum. “Hydration strengthens our skin’s barrier function, so we can be better protected.”
Zarras also suggests applying moisturizers immediately after a shower or bath when the skin is slightly damp. “That way, you are going to lock in the moisture before it completely evaporates from the skin,” she says.
The same principles can be applied to protecting the skin of children and babies. “Since the skin of a child is still developing, it doesn’t have as much lipids and oil as adult skin,” says Zarras. “This makes children’s skin more susceptible to dryness and irritation.”
A regular routine of cleansing and hydrating can help to prevent dry skin and eczema flare-ups, giving the whole family the opportunity to enjoy what the colder season has to offer since “skin health has a significant impact on our overall well-being,” says Zarras.
“And don’t forget your lips,” she adds. “To prevent chapped, cracked or irritated lips, use a lip balm rich in emollients.”