Written by Jennifer Matthews, BSN, RN, LE
Keep your skin hydrated, soft, and glowing with our cold weather skincare routine
Q: Why does my skin feel drier and tighter during the winter season and what can I do to help it?
A: The reason your skin gets so much drier in the winter is because cold air isn't able to hold in as much moisture as warm air can. This makes it more likely for any moisture on your skin to quickly evaporate back into the air, which leaves your skin feeling drier during the winter months.
Cold winters, low humidity, and indoor central heating tends to wreak havoc on the top layer of your skin (stratum corneum or skin barrier) leaving it feeling tight, dry, itchy, and sensitive. It can appear dull, ashen and red, and the skin can flake and peel.
The top layer of our skin, which acts as a barrier, has an extracellular lipid matrix which helps to prevent water evaporation from the lower layers of the skin. If our lipid matrix is compromised due to external factors such as harsh cleansing surfactants, improper products, UVR damage, or hot and long bathing, our protective barrier of oils are stripped. When this occurs, water evaporates and then our skin feels dry and sensitive and irritated. In the winter this becomes exacerbated due to the low moisture content in the air.
So, in the winter, how do we make our skin feel hydrated and comfortable?
Our goal is to treat and protect winter dry skin with emollients. An emollient is an oily substance that fills in the spaces between the keratin found in the stratum corneum, thus creating a smooth skin surface. Examples of emollients are fatty acids, lipids, and ceramides. These active substances, which are already found in our skin, are intended to smooth and soften our skin. They also pack and nourish the extracellular lipid matrix which is part of the top layer of skin.
Remember, the top layer of our skin is made up of dead keratin cells and lipids, and that one of the primary functions of the skin barrier is to prevent trans epidermal water loss. When we apply emollients such as fatty acids, lipids, and ceramides, we are essentially packing and filling all the little cracks and fissures in the skin barrier. Once these cracks and fissures are filled with emollients, we can successfully prevent trans-epidermal water loss thus leaving our skin comfortable and hydrated and nourished!!
A good analogy for our skin barrier is that our sc is like a brick and mortar system. The brick is the keratin and the mortar is the oil, and emollients such as fatty acids, lipids, and ceramides have the ability to seep into the skin and repack this ‘mortar’ which is the extracellular lipid matrix. We could say we’re ‘re-grouting the mortar’ so water doesn’t evaporate from the lower layers of the skin.
My top picks for alleviating winter dry skin that is suffering from dryness, sensitivity, and irritation are RaVina Labs Nourishing Rosehip Oil, which is suitable for dry, sensitive-dry, and mature skin types, and RaVina Labs Balancing Complexion Oil which is geared for normal, oily, and sensitive-oily skin types. Both products are replenishing emollient blends of botanical oils that are designed to hydrate, nourish, and soothe your winter skin.
Enjoy the winter, but take care of yourself by taking care of your skin.