How to best pro­tect your epi­der­mis against the rav­ages of cold weather

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Front Page - BY SAMAN­THA RIDEOUT

AH, WIN­TER. ’Tis the sea­son for dry skin, along with po­ten­tial com­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing itch­ing, flak­ing, crack­ing, bleed­ing, rosacea (red­ness and in­flam­ma­tion) and eczema flare-ups.

There are sev­eral rea­sons for this. First, the air out­doors is drier, be­cause low tem­per­a­tures cause wa­ter mol­e­cules to con­dense into ice or snow rather than re­main in the at­mos­phere. In­door air tends to be parched as well, an ef­fect of heat­ing sys­tems. Se­niors need to take ex­tra care, since cu­mu­la­tive sun dam­age and slower pro­duc­tion of nat­u­ral oils put them at greater risk of dry­ness.

Hap­pily, there’s plenty you can do to re­duce win­ter’s toll on your skin. To start, adapt your bathing rou­tine. Pip­ing hot wa­ter may feel good, but that’s a sure way to strip away your skin’s nat­u­ral oils. Use warm wa­ter in­stead, keep your baths or show­ers short, and ap­ply a gen­er­ous amount of mois­tur­izer after you dry off. Thick, oily prod­ucts are es­pe­cially ef­fec­tive at fight­ing win­ter mois­ture

loss, “but don’t de­spair if you can’t tol­er­ate those due to pore clog­ging or shini­ness,” says Dr. Bav Shergill, a con­sul­tant der­ma­tol­o­gist and spokesper­son for the Bri­tish Skin Foun­da­tion. “Even a light mois­tur­izer will give you some pro­tec­tion.”

When it comes to your hands, fre­quent wash­ing with soap is es­sen­tial for pre­vent­ing the flu and other in­fec­tions, but it leads to dry­ness. So after you clean them, ap­ply hand cream. If that doesn’t help enough, try a dab of petroleum jelly be­fore bed; you can put on cot­ton gloves to keep it in place overnight. Wear­ing mit­tens or gloves out­doors also re­duces dam­age, since ex­po­sure to the frigid air fur­ther harms skin.

If you’re prone to win­ter itch (which is ex­actly what it sounds like), avoid di­rect con­tact with po­ten­tially ir­ri­tat­ing fab­rics such as wool or syn­thetic fi­bres. “The best ap­proach is to wear sev­eral thin lay­ers,” says Shergill. “The one next to the skin could be cot­ton or a cot­ton/ silk blend, both of which ap­pear to be well tol­er­ated by most peo­ple.” Lay­er­ing lets you adapt to var­i­ous tem­per­a­tures dur­ing the day, keep­ing you toasty while avoid­ing ex­ces­sive sweat­ing that could trig­ger itch­ing and scratch­ing in al­ready-ir­ri­tated skin.

Ide­ally, win­ter­time baths and show­ers shouldn’t ex­ceed 10 min­utes.

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