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Are the Comforts of Winter Damaging Your Skin?

January 5, 2022

All my life I have battled rosacea—a skin condition that in the winter gets aggravated with the harsh cold wind outside and the dry heat inside. I earned the nickname “Rudolph” growing up from this condition, because my nose was always bright red in the winter. The teasing over my red nose and cheeks made a serious impact growing up, knocking my self-confidence down for years. I was always cautious of the obvious known triggers like the cold, heat, caffeine, and spicy foods, and avoided them where I was able. My key to managing my skin condition has been to find some of the lesser-known triggers—things we don’t realize will have an adverse effect on it—and managing those. It has become a passion of mine to try and help others who have suffered from the same issues find better ways to help their skin.

What’s Causing That Dry Winter Skin?
During the winter months, most people experience some sort of frustration with their skin—it is not limited to those with rosacea. It’s funny how it works—the things we do for comfort in the cold weather can sometimes be the worst things for our skin. When we come in from shoveling or being out in the cold, all we want is to get warm and dry. There is nothing that feels better than sitting in front of a fire and getting that instant warmth…but sadly, that dries out your skin. Taking a hot shower can also feel incredible, but that, too, dries out your skin and can even strip it of the natural oils—oils that help provide a barrier to keep in the moisture we need to keep our skin at its best health.

Cranking up the heat when we get up in the morning or when we get home from work can also be detrimental to our skin. Our home heating systems tend to produce a very dry heat, which can further dehydrate our skin. The liquids we consume can even have a significant impact. We tend to drink more hot liquids in the winter and less of the necessary cool, hydrating water, and alcohol in excess effects your skin as well—the facial blood vessels become restricted, which can stop the oxygenated blood from getting where it’s needed, creating that reddened, puffy face we all know and hate. And although it’s easy to do in low winter temps, we often harm our skin by forgetting to wear sunscreen. Snow and ice can reflect the sun right back onto our skin, so even though it may not feel possible in the cold winter air, there is still a big risk of getting a sunburn and doing further damage.

Help Save Your Skin
Thankfully, there are some ways we can better balance that comfort we crave in the wintertime with how to best keep our skin healthy and hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is top of the list—keep the hot drinks to a minimum and keep drinking cool water. Consuming alcohol this time of year as we celebrate is OK, but don’t overdo it. One in celebration is fine, anything more can really start to impact your skin. Get a humidifier and keep it on a cooler setting—it is unpleasant, to say the least, to wake up with a bloody nose because our nasal passages are so dry from the overnight heat. Take a warm—not hot—shower and limit it to ten minutes. If you are red when you exit the shower, the water is too hot! Pay attention to the type of soap you are using—look for gentle moisturizing options such as Dove or Cetaphil.

Using a good moisturizer when you get out of your shower is also crucial, and I highly recommend one with sunscreen. Check your toners, too—many of them contain alcohol, which can enlarge your pores over time and be very drying. Try something like Dermalogica’s Multi-Active Toner, which does not contain that evil drying ingredient, SD alcohol. Using a good toner with quality ingredients can help your skin retain moisture. Use it after you cleanse but before you moisturize, and it will help prep your skin with the right combination of ingredients to even out porosity and retain moisture.

If you are a skincare geek like me, it can be fascinating to learn about the different products that are available. I love that we use Dermalogica at Cortiva Institute in our Esthetics program. We have been using them since we opened our program a year ago, and they have rapidly become one of my favorites. Dermalogica strongly supports our school and has a solid product line backed by a great education. But no matter what brand you use, make sure you know what is in it! Creating a good, solid regimen for your skin is crucial year-round.

Cheers to having a winter season with all the comforts we want, in a way that helps our skin!

Elisabeth Johnson is the Campus Director of Cortiva Institute in Cromwell, CT. Cortiva offers a robust Massage Therapy and Esthetics program as well as CEU courses for advanced training.

She can be reached at 860.667.1886 or at: elisabethj@cortiva.edu. Elisabeth resides in the Stony Creek section of Branford with her boyfriend Chris and his three kids—Chloe, Katie, and Max, and their dog, Juniper.

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