Dr Ginni Mansberg was voted most trusted Australian Healthcare professional in 2022
Winter is notorious for wreaking havoc on the skin, often leaving people with dry, red, and sometimes irritated skin.
Most of us have experienced this not-very-fun trio of skin issues during winter. In fact, according to ESK’s (Evidence Skincare) data (from Australia), these three concerns (dry, red, and irritated skin) peak in August and September and are at their lowest between December and February.
Redness peaks as a concern for about 60% of users (vs 50% in summer), sensitivity at 39% (vs. 27% in summer), and dry skin at 29% (vs. 19% in summer).
Not surprisingly, there is a strong link between these skin concerns, often exacerbated by our habits in winter (more on that later). Additionally, the lack of sunlight exposure during winter can lead to a decrease in vitamin D levels, which can also impact the health of your skin.
Why does skin go dry, red, and sensitive during winter?
Winter skin often has a compromised skin barrier, which makes it drier, more sensitive, and often results in redness (an inflammatory response). In winter, the air tends to be drier and colder, which can have a significant impact on your skin. The cold temperatures and low humidity levels can cause your skin to lose moisture and become dry, itchy, and flaky. This can be particularly problematic for people who already have dry or sensitive skin. Add in heaters in the rooms you sit in and with wind, winter can be absolutely brutal on the skin.
How can we combat these changes?
There are several tricks to looking after skin in winter conditions:
Protect your skin from UV rays: Given that UVA (ageing rays) are present in winter, too, that means protecting your skin every day, year-round. UVA are there from sun up to sun down and they also penetrate glass. Given that UV exposure is estimated to account for 80% of premature skin ageing, a broad-spectrum sunscreen should be the cornerstone of every skincare regime.
Avoid showers or baths that are too hot: While taking a hot shower or bath can feel like the only thing you want to do in winter, it can unfortunately have negative effects on the skin. When water is too hot, it can remove the natural oils and moisture from the skin, leaving it dry, itchy, and irritated. The heat can also cause the blood vessels in the skin to dilate, which can lead to redness, inflammation, and a burning or stinging sensation. The same goes for spending too long in front of a heater. If your skin does feel like it has a damaged barrier function, look to products that are going to nourish and repair irritable and dry skin, such as E.S.K’s Repair Plus, which has just been revamped with added Panthenol (provitamin B5) and Squalane to increase hydration and skin calming properties.
Avoid putting things on the skin that can irritate or dry it out: The most common culprit is soap (because of its high pH), but there’s a host of other products and ingredients that can dry skin out. Hint: Tight and red skin is never a good thing. If you are using a product that feels like it takes off layers of your face, put it down immediately. While it might make you feel like you’ve cleansed thoroughly, it’s actually doing more harm than good. Instead of soap or harsh stripping products, opt for a gentle cleanser such as E.S.K’s Calming Cleanser. This is a soap-free face wash that gives your skin a gentle yet thorough wash without stripping it of its natural oils.
Use moisturising ingredients that help the skin to retain water: There are three types of moisturising ingredients that can either attract water (humectant), form a smooth film on the skin (emollient), or block water loss from the skin (occlusive). In winter, you will need a ‘heavier’ moisturiser, which has more emollients and occlusive ingredients. ‘Heavier’ is not a scientific term, but often you can feel whether a moisturiser sticks around for a while after application (heavy) or it feels like there is nothing there. Not the most scientific way of choosing a moisturiser for winter, but practically, it usually works. These moisturising products may come in the form of creams or oils. The form doesn’t matter, only the function does. Use ingredients that help the skin improve its natural ability to retain more moisture such as lactic acid, gluconolactone, and Vitamin B3.
Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet: These simple things can also help keep your skin healthy and hydrated.
Dr Ginni Mansberg is an Australian doctor who was voted most trusted Australian Healthcare professional in 2022. She has a passion for making medical evidence accessible to all and campaigns against dubious health claims that prey on people’s insecurities and their wallets. These passions were the driving force behind her co-founding Evidence Skincare (ESK), an Australian skincare brand that, as the name suggests, is based on evidence for real results. Dr Ginni is the author of The M Word, the ground-breaking, best-selling book on menopause, Save your Brain and The New Teen Age. She is a podcast host with her popular Help I Have a Teenager podcast on Mamamia network.
By Dr Ginni Mansberg, Co-Founder of Evidence Skincare