With winter weather just around the corner in many parts of the country (wow, I’m happy to live in Southern California), I thought I would touch on the subject of “Winter Dry Skin”. What got me started on this subject was with the Santa Anna winds blowing off the desert here in SoCal in combination with very low humidity, almost zero humidity many of my personal training clients were complaining about dry skin.
So I started doing some research to expand my knowledge on this subject and the following is a result of what I’ve learned. Please keep in mind that chronic or severe skin problems require a medical professionals (Dermatologist) assessment but if the problem isn’t that serious, I’ve learned there are a lot of things you can do on your own to improve your winter dry skin condition.
Using quality moisturizers a few times a day, especially in trouble spots and staying away from the use or over-use of harsh and drying soaps will prove to be helpful. Also avoid excessive bathing, especially in hot water since hot water can actually worsen the problem of dry skin by removing the normal protective and natural skin oils. Researchers say within three minute of bathing its best to apply an application of oil such as “moisturizers” (also known as an emollient or lubricate) which will provide excellent benefits to the (dry) skin by trapping and sealing water in, making skin softer, smoother and less likely to become dry, cracked and itchy.
Also keeping your body “well hydrated” (drink lots of water) will really help your skin to remain looking healthy all year long. Ordinary dry skin (xerosis) in most cases isn’t that serious. However it usually is uncomfortable (itchy) and can affect the way your healthy skin looks. With a winter dry skin condition, you may experience flaking, scaling, peeling, a feeling of skin tightness, and redness. The skin may appear dehydrated, rough instead of smooth to the touch, and kind of cracked in appearance. If your skin becomes very itchy do your best to void continued scratching as it may result in “dermatitis” (your skin will become red and inflamed), easier said then done I know.
Most dry skin conditions in winter, are the direct result of several “environmental” factors. Some of these common factors include the exposure to cold temperatures and wind, as well as low humidity and the exposure to indoor heating.
Factors other then environmental ones, can also affect the appearance and feel of your skin. These include such health conditions as “Psoriasis and Thyroid disorders”. The use or over-use of “Alcohol and Drugs” are determining factor. (A quick note on alcohol and drugs; caffeine and alcohol can visibly dry your skin, as well as some prescription drugs like diuretics, antihistamines, these in some cases will have skin-drying effects). As I mentioned earlier, not drinking enough water can cause mild to serious dehydration, one of the warning signs of dehydration is that skin appears dry and loses its elasticity. Effects of illness that may cause diarrhea, vomiting, high fever, and excessive sweating during workouts without replacing the lost fluids can also lead to dehydration and affect the healthy appearance of your skin.
Most cases of (winter) dry skin will respond well to basic self-care without worry, but if your skin doesn’t improve in spite of your self-care efforts, and if dryness and itching starts interfering with your daily routines and sleep, if you start noticing larger patches of scaling, peeling skin with redness and if you develop open sores or infections from continued scratching, well then it’s time to quickly seek the attention of medical professional. At this point the problem is serious and why wait for it to get worse.
While conducting my research on this subject, I found an excellent medical explanation and want to share it with you since I found it so interesting and very easy to understand;
What causes dry skin?
Healthy skin can be pictured as a multi-layer cake covered by a single sheet of clear plastic food wrap to keep it fresh. The plastic food wrap prevents the frosting and underlying layers of the cake from drying out by preventing loss (evaporation) of the water from the cake into the air. It is the moisture in the cake that gives it its freshness. The outermost layer of the skin, which acts like the plastic food wrap and is about the same thickness, is called the stratum corneum. (This is the layer that peels off after a sunburn). The stratum corneum consists of dead skin cells embedded in a mixture of natural oils (lipids) that are made by underlying living skin cells. These natural skin oils keep the water inside our body from escaping into the air and also keep irritating substances and germs from entering the body. Both the skin oils and the dead skin cells hold a certain amount of water in the stratum corneum and it is this stratum corneum water that helps keep the skin soft, pliable and smooth.Dry skin results when there is not enough water in the stratum corneum for it to function properly. One way this can happen is when protective oils in the stratum corneum are lost and the water that is normally present in the skin is allowed to escape. Too much soapy water, exposure to harsh chemicals, the normal aging process and certain types of skin diseases are some of the causes of decreased amounts of protective skin oils. As the stratum corneum dries out it shrinks and, as it shrinks, small cracks can occur. This exposes the underlying living cells to irritating substances and germs in the environment.
Well I hope you found this article to be informative. Remember take care of your skin and it will take care of you!