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Written by Matt Taylor (as seen in Guild News Magazine)
International Lead Educator for Eve Taylor London UK
As the winter season approaches so does the onset of several skin changes which for many of us can lead to a range of uncomfortable skin issues. Icy cold winds and sub-zero temperatures strip vital lipids from the skin resulting in dryness, flakiness and a lacklustre dull appearance.
The inside environment can be arid with little moisture in the air as we crank up the central heating. This can leave skin feeling tight with more fine lines. Temperature fluctuations, as we move from freezing cold outside to warm and toasty inside can lead to sensitivities and impairments of the skin’s natural barrier function. Skin can become red and flushed as the body adjusts to these temperature differences.
The lips are particularly prone to dryness in the winter months, with flaking and chapping leaving them sore and sensitive. Skin can also be particularly susceptible to UV damage at in winter even though it may not be hot outside. UV rays will still have a detrimental effect on the skin by generating free radicals that lead to pigmentation and premature ageing. Snow reflects the UV rays and can increase the UV exposure by twice as much.
How summer skin and winter skin differ
The skin is the largest organ of the body, defending us from the environment we live in. Whether living in a hot country with blazing sunlight, or in cold harsh climates with lots of snow, the skin works tirelessly to protect us.
During the summer months in the UK we can experience higher temperatures; which can increase sebaceous gland activity, making our skin oilier and increasing the chances of breakouts. Higher humidity levels can stimulate the sudoriferous glands, leading to increased perspiration and less clothing being worn which exposes the skin to harmful UV rays.
When the season changes, so do temperature levels which drop quickly. We may notice skin feeling less oily with tightness due to less moisture in the air, fluctuations of temperature will become the norm with low outside temperatures and high temperatures inside. Whilst our skin will adapt to its conditions it likes consistency and dislikes sudden changes which make it work overtime to ensure levels are maintained.
One of the main issues winter skin faces is dehydration. Dehydration occurs when the water content is lost from the cells of the outermost layer of the skin (stratum corneum) which holds over 10% water content in a healthy epidermis.
The skin's outermost layer acts as a barrier to our body, when functioning correctly it maintains levels of moisture. When the skin lacks the moisture it needs and becomes dehydrated it quickly develops tiny cracks and fissures in the barrier allowing for further water to evaporate through these cracks, something known as Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL), these cracks create direct pathways for irritants to penetrate into the skin leading to irritation and aggravation.
Whilst increasing consumption of water will always benefit us, the skin is the last organ to receive the benefits and so the use of correct topically applied products is essential.
Avoiding cleansing with foaming washes high in surfactants and opt for creamy based cleansers which will remove dirt, debris and make-up without stripping away essential moisture and oils. Applying serums rich in Hyaluronic Acid will benefit the skin greatly by infusing moisture into the top layers of skin, whilst using regular facial masques packed with Aloe Vera will by hydrate and soothe.
If the home environment is especially dry consider investing in a humidifier or simple bowls of water placed near radiators to add moisture to the air, simply tricks like this can be very beneficial for our skin.
Temperature fluctuations can also lead to impairment of the skin’s natural barrier function. Skin can become red and flushed as the body adjusts to the temperature difference. Cold weather encourages us to turn up the temperature in the shower or immerse ourselves in hot bath water, whilst this may offer us some warming relief, the increased water temperature can break down vital skin lipids; think about when washing greasy dinner plates, hot water run on the surface breaks down the oil and grease and so hot water on the skin has the same effect, disrupting the barrier function leading to increased sensitivity and water loss.
Whilst many of our clients think applying solar protection ends as summer time fades, we need to ensure they realise the importance of all year-round protection. Damaging UV is prevalent in all hours of daylight, whether dull, cloudy or raining it bombards us with rays which cause skin damage and the onset of premature ageing.
Whilst we don’t experience too much snow in the UK, sun damage is at one of its highest levels in the winter due to the sheer reflectiveness of the snow, in fact, fresh snow reflects even more UV radiation than water. You may have seen parodies of people on skiing trips with ‘goggle tan’ - tanned faces with a defined white untanned skin in the shape of skiing goggles, whilst this may look humorous it is a very real reality and exposure to snowy conditions can lead to both a tan as well as sun damage. Ensuring an SPF of at least 25 or higher, reapplied regularly will offer protection; those embarking on skiing trips should look to reapply every two hours.
Chapped lips and cracked hands
One of the pet peeves of millions during the winter season is those tight chapped lips and dry cracked hands. Our lips are exposed to elements constantly and are very susceptible to drying as they comprise of just 3-5 layers and don’t produce sebum to keep them lubricated. Cold weather and central heating strips any moisture from these delicate skin layers very easily leading to tightness, cracking, flaking and general discomfort.
Using lip balms rich in Beeswax, Shea Butter and Honey will infuse nourishment and emollience to lock in that essential moisture and creates a buffer against the temperature fluctuations which cause the dryness.
We must also take care of our hands during the winter months is essential to reduce over drying and uncomfortable cracking. Avoid highly foaming washes which can strip away vital lipids, in place opt for conditioning hand washes or a creamy cleanser to maintain moisture levels and nourish at the same time. Limiting the amount of times our hands are washed will also help to maintain moisture levels, if regular washing is unavoidable follow with application of a hand moisturiser to rescue them from potential dryness. Ensure hand wash and had moisturiser are kept together as a duo to remind you to moisturise after every wash.
Wearing gloves in low temperatures will reduce dryness and offer a warming barrier to the elements, if gloves are not practical or disliked then ensuring hand moisturiser is applied will seal in moisture and act as an invisible glove. A hand moisturiser with added SPF will be better still to protect the backs of the hands from damaging UV and premature ageing.
What can we do to help winter skin?
We are in the ideal position to help our clients keep their skin in the best health during the winter months by offering an array of treatments, homecare and advice; using the power of social media we can get our treatment offerings across with targeted adverts, tips and advice or even competitions to win a free treatment.
Look to revise your service offerings with a winter portfolio of treatments for the face, body and hands for all round body wellbeing. For face, offer your most nourishing treatments and look to include products rich in Oatmeal, Aloe Vera, Silicones, Hyaluronic Acid and lipid rich oils. Add in elements of gentle heat to give your client’s a warming experience, cocoon them in a fluffy cover or duvet, use a heated under blanket and include the use of warm steam towels during the treatment, small touches like these always add a feeling of luxury.
Encourage clients to adjust their winter skincare wardrobe; just how we wear different clothes for the cold season, so must we look to changing the products we use. Subtle changes like switching a moisture lotion for a cream will add increased emollience; opting for a creamy cleanser in place of a foaming cleanser will reduce drying in the skin or if the client doesn’t wish to change their existing products then recommending they use a serum to layer up their regime or a twice weekly masque to offer the added nourishment they need.
Exfoliation can play a key benefit to winter skin and reduce the dry dull look which affect the complexion. Using a gentle exfoliant rich in proteolytic enzymes will digest the top most dead skin cells and allow serums and moisturisers to absorb more readily to nourish and hydrate. Alternatively using a facial scrub with powdered bamboo will assist with the sloughing away of dead skin cells without over abrasion.
For the body, gentle but thorough exfoliation treatments will buff and polish away dead skin allowing oils and body wraps to penetrate more effectively, massage with pre-warmed oils benefits as the gentle warmth encourages penetration of the lipids; follow with a hydrating thermal body wrap to infuse essential moisture and vitamins whilst cocooning in warmth and coziness. Finalise with a rich weight moisturiser to saturate the skin with emollience and strengthen the skins barrier.
For the hands we can offer nourishing hand treatments or look to upsell our existing manicures with inclusion of paraffin wax or hand mask. A lipid-based serum added to the back of the hands before moisturiser application will also be beneficial. If moisturisers used within the manicure are lightweight, simply swapping over to a richer consistency formulation will more appropriate for the season.