I'm not sure where in the world people are lucky enough to have four distinct seasons, but in Ottawa, we have two. The hot, humid, only-a-Corona-will-save-me-now summer and the frigid, dry, peace-out-I'll-see-you-in-six-months-when-it's-a-helluva-lot-warmer winter.
Unfortunately, I have eczema (an itchy ultra dry skin issue) which thrives in neither condition. Basically, my skin is only happy when I'm in a perfect room temperature of 21°C. My eczema started as a child and by my early 20's I thought I had outgrown it, but a few years ago my eczema flared up in the most awful of ways. Extremely dry, raw, red itchy patches popped up all over my body. The worst areas were around my eyes where at times it was so bad it looked like I had been in a catfight, and on my hands where it hurt to do the dishes and wear bracelets or my beloved Fossil watch.
After many dermatologist and naturopath visits, I was diagnosed with a severe nickel allergy (there was nickel in my tweezers (!!!) which was why my eyes were flaring up). Through a lot of trial and error in nutritional changes, moisturizers and medicated creams, I have *knock on wood* mostly gotten a handle on my dry skin.
The upside on all of this is that I am now a walking encyclopedia of how to keep your skin moisturized. Here is my guide on how to save your skin this winter:
Between the cold, wind and dry air, winter is no party for your skin. The best technique for keeping your skin supple is to pat dry your skin (as opposed to rubbing) with a towel and to apply your moisturizer immediately as you get out of the shower and each and every time you wash your hands, while your skin is still slightly damp. For your body, wait about ten minutes for the moisturizer to sink in before putting on your clothes. Consistency is key to help your skin strengthen it’s protective layer.
The best moisturizer is a matter of personal opinion. Try and look for creams over lotions, and ones that contain high quality moisturizing ingredients such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid.
My personal favourites are:
Face: Cliniderm Soothing Cream
Hands: Cetaphil Barrier Cream
Oils are amazing in preventing water loss and moisturizing the skin. The trick is finding the right oil for your needs. For dry winter skin I mixed my moisturizer with a small amount of coconut, jojoba or argan oil. No matter how dry your skin is, you need to use it sparingly or risk looking like a grease ball.
My naturopath introduced me to the all natural Suki line which has a fantastic face oil called Suki Pure Facial Moisture – Nourishing. One to two drops combined with my Cliniderm Soothing Cream leaves my skin glowing!
Wash Your Face Once a Day
Unless your skin is incredibly oily or you’re fighting acne, consider washing your face just once a day. No matter how gentle your cleanser, most are stripping away precious oils in your skin, which are in high demand come wintertime.
Wash your face at night to remove the day’s makeup and environmental pollutants, then in the morning just splash water on your face, moisturize and you’re ready to go!
Watch Your Diet
It’s no secret that what you put into your body shows on the outside. While severely dry skin can be the result of a complicated mix of genes, environmental triggers, allergies/intolerances and just bad luck, eating healthy will ensure your skin is nourished from the inside out. Experts recommend drinking at least 8 glasses of water, plenty of fruits and vegetables and healthy whole grains. Limiting nasties such as caffeine, sugar and processed foods will also help. In terms of vitamins, make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B, E, biotin, zinc and essential fatty acids.
Careful in the Shower
Hot showers rob your skin of moisture, so limiting your time in there will only help your skin. While showering or bathing, keep the water on warm and spend no more than ten minutes with your rubber ducky!
Get a Humidifier
Think you’re safe from the cold winter air once you get into your home? Think again. Your heating system can dry out the air – and your skin. Put the moisture back in through a humidifier. I keep mine in my bedroom and turn it on before bed. Adding a humidifier made a HUGE difference for me in terms of my skin comfort while sleeping.
Seek the Help of a Professional
If you’re skin looks drier than usual or is cracking, itchy or inflamed, seek the help of a dermatologist sooner rather than later. If you do have eczema, you will likely need a medicated cream to get rid of it. As much as I don’t like to take medicine (even in cream form!), NOTHING else worked to make it go away permanently.
Good luck this winter and if all else fails, perhaps a winter getaway to a more tepid climate is in order!