Cold winter weather can be harsh to your skin. Cold air, wind, and low humidity outdoors dry your skin out. Similarly, warm and dry air indoors steals moisture from your skin. Without the proper care, dry skin can lead to redness, itchiness, chapping, and cracking, and even other skin conditions such as eczema and acne.
But with the proper skin care (from both the inside and outside), you can counteract these effects and keep your skin looking healthy and youthful.
Here are some tips to keep your skin looking its best in the winter. Many of them apply year-round.
- Eat Lots of Healthy Fats and Especially Enough Omega-3 Fats
The best way to keep your skin supple and soft is to moisturize from the inside! Your skin needs fat to stay pliable, flexible, and healthy. Eating whole foods naturally filled with fats will help dramatically: eggs, nuts, chia seeds, avocados, lean meats like fish, turkey, chicken, or beef, some whole yogurt and cheese, even butter, and maybe a little milk (not a lot of milk as the lactose can be difficult on skin, and of course not milk if your body disagrees with it). Even lactose intolerant people should be able to handle a little bit of yogurt and cheese that are well-fermented, which reduces the amount of lactose (in general: solid yogurt and sharper/aged cheeses will have less lactose than creamy yogurt and younger, sweeter cheeses). Especially make sure your milk and beef come from 100% grass-fed cows. Consider small fish too, not just salmon. Sardines and anchovies are loaded with healthy fats and vitamins and minerals, and at the same time can be less expensive than other fish and contain less mercury than larger fish (and are far more sustainable). Other good sources of fats are oils; coconut oil and olive oil can be consumed with everything, and several doses of cod liver oil can be taken each week.
- Consume Lots of Veggies and Some Fruit
Your skin and body also need the vitamins and minerals in vegetables, such as Vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, and selenium, to stay healthy and moisturized. The salts in vegetables and fruits will also help you retain more water and stay hydrated. Furthermore, the antioxidants in fruits and veggies help fight free-radical damage and aging. Base your diet on vegetables, but limit the fruit, as the sugar in fruit can cause inflammation and be hard on your body and skin. Of course, organic vegetables and fruits are usually preferable.
- Drink Lots of Fluids
Water of course will help you stay hydrated and drinking more will especially help if you don’t usually drink enough. Drinking tea will also help you stay hydrated. But water alone isn’t enough. It needs to be consumed in combination with plenty of vitamins and minerals and salts and healthy fats, from vegetable, fruits, nuts, etc., so that your body retains the water.
Exercise and sweating help to warm you up, clear your pores, and increase your circulation–delivering nutrients to your skin.
- Keep the Thermostat Low
Don’t crank up the temperature too high (keep your house and office a little cooler and wear more clothes) and turn the heater off at night. To stay comfortable, simply wear more clothes during the day instead of turning up the heat and use more blankets on your bed at night. The other side benefits of a little lower indoor temperature are being more alert during the day and sleeping better at night.
- Cover Exposed Skin
This may be obvious, but clothes, gloves, scarfs, hats, etc. should cover as much exposed skin as possible when it is very cold, protecting you from the elements that sap valuable moisture from your skin.
- Protect Yourself from The Sun
Just because it’s cold and wintery doesn’t mean the sun can’t damage your skin. A high percentage of UVA rays still penetrate the atmosphere, aging your skin. As you do in the summer, use caution if you’re outdoors during the day in the winter. Wearing a hat is always helpful, as is full-coverage clothing (which shouldn’t be a challenge when it’s cold). Sunscreen lotion can be worn during extended sun exposure.
- Avoid Wearing Irritating Clothes
Synthetic fibers can irritate dry, cold, sensitive skin. Try wearing softer clothes with natural fibers like cotton or cotton flannel, especially while sleeping, during the winter. And keep your clothes dry; if they get wet, change them.
- Sleep in Socks and Gloves
If you are cold or the skin on your hands and feet is damaged, sleep in socks and gloves to protect them from moisture loss and rubbing against the sheets throughout the night. You may also want to put a moisturizer on first. To avoid getting moisturizer in good gloves, consider wearing socks on your hands instead.
- Limit Exfoliation
Don’t over-exfoliate your skin. One time per week should be more than plenty, especially if you normally lightly wash your face with a wash cloth (with very light rubbing of course, not scrubbing).
- Avoid Alcohol-Based Skincare Products
Putting products with alcohol on your skin can dry them out. In particular avoid astringents, which can be very harsh on your skin.
- Use A Hydrating Mask
If your skin is dry, you may also consider using a homemade hydrating mask made with natural moisturizing ingredients such as yogurt, milk, egg yolk, avocado, and/or coconut, jojoba, or olive oil.
- Use A Humidifier
Consider using a humidifier if your home is very dry. This can help prevent your skin from drying out too much.
- Keep Wash Water Cool
Shower and wash your face in cool or lukewarm water, not hot water! In particular, make sure you avoid hot water on your face, which is especially sensitive. Also, don’t take long showers, as the longer you are in the water the more your skin will be dried out. When you wash your hands, use only cool or lukewarm water as well for the same reason. You may even consider putting a filter on your shower head to remove the chlorine from the water.
- Use Mild Soap
Use only the mildest of soap on your body, or none at all. In fact, much of the time water and a little rubbing (for hands), or water and a wash cloth (in the shower), are probably enough. Try olive oil or coconut oil or palm oil soaps; the best soaps will be made of natural oils (without other ingredients). Don’t use soap on your face unless you have to remove makeup or sunscreen, and even then, coconut oil works best. Normally, water and a wash cloth with gentle cleansing is plenty!