Winter has arrived and with it, the cold air responsible for those annoying flaky bits of skin patients just can’t seem to get rid of. A healthy, strong barrier function of the skin is crucial to overall skin health, and this time of year is arguably the harshest for the skin’s barrier function. – Dr Janine Ellenberger: GR8SKN Skincare

Winter's cold, dry air alone is enough to contribute to dry, flaky skin.

HOW WINTER COMPRISES THE SKIN’S BARRIER FUNCTION:

Winter’s cold, dry air alone is enough to contribute to dry, flaky skin.

Most indoor heating systems make dry skin worse by sucking even more moisture out of the air.

Add a diet of increased sugar and skin can become inflamed and its barrier function diminished, thus allowing transepidermal water loss (dehydration as a result of water leaving the body through the skin).

People also tend to take longer, hotter showers in the winter. This habit is sure to suck the moisture right out of the skin.

As if that isn’t enough, people tend to drink less water in the winter because they think they don’t need to hydrate as much as they do in the summer. While this may be true to a small extent, it’s important to still drink water every day.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. There are plenty of ways to strengthen and maintain the skin’s barrier function and reduce threats of dry skin.

TIPS TO KEEP SKIN HEALTHY THIS WINTER:

1. Choose the right moisturiser. True moisturisers give the skin structural fats (like ceramides, sphingomyelin, and phospholipids) which support and strengthen the barrier function of the skin and prevent transepidermal water loss. This enhances the skin’s natural moisturising factor (NMF), which allows the skin to build up its own natural moisturising abilities over time. A great moisturiser will also act as a vehicle to deliver key ingredients (vitamins A, C, E, and antioxidants, to name a few) in a fat-soluble form that will allow that healthy good stuff to get where it needs to go – the deeper layers of the skin.

2. Use a humidifier. By replacing this lost moisture back into the air with a humidifier, patients can start to breathe easy again because not only will their sinuses feel soothed and hydrated, but their skin will start to glow with dewy hydration too.

3. Diet: part 1. Cut back on sugar and processed foods. High sugar intake often leads to inflammation of the skin (and the rest of the organs). Moderation is key. Patients’ skin will thank them in the long run. Alcohol should also be limited or avoided (depending on the individual) as alcohol is a diuretic and therefore dehydrating.

4. Diet: the sequel. It’s not just about what to avoid, you also want to encourage the eating of good things. It is so important patients incorporate lots of healthy fats into their diet, which increases the strength of the fatty bonds in skin cells. Salmon, avocado, nuts, and grass-fed beef are all good options. It’s also important to highlight the need for simple hydration in patients’ diet. Fruits like strawberries, cucumbers, pineapple, and watermelon are a few of the top contenders when it comes to water content, although they may prefer warmer alternatives. Butternut squash, green tea, and homemade vegetable soups can provide hydration, warmth, and nourishment.

With a little dedication, your patients can keep their skin supple and hydrated all year round by working to strengthen and maintain their skin’s barrier function.