As we continue to wait out the global health crisis, the seasons have changed again. In Australia Autumn has given way to Winter. The days are much cooler and the air is much drier.
At this time of the year moisture levels in the air are lower because cold air holds less water vapour than warm air does. Even when the rain falls the air itself is dry.
In winter we also we spend more time indoors, in artificial environments with heating systems which remove the moisture from the air and blow out warm, dry air.
The absence of moisture in the air causes the moisture in our skin to evaporate more quickly. In addition, activities which heat the body, such as hot showers and exercise, bring warmth and moisture to the surface of the skin where, when exposed to the dry air, it evaporates quickly leaving the skin dehydrated.
The most superficial layer of the skin is the epidermis. The epidermis is composed of skin cells, lipid (fat) and protein which form a protective barrier. Under the epidermis is the thickest layer of the skin, the dermis. The dermis contains collagen protein which provides most of the skins structure, and also holds a lot of the body’s water content.
So, how can you prevent your skin from drying out in Winter?
1. Stay Hydrated: Water does not have to be cold to be hydrating. You can increase your water intake by drinking herbal teas, collagen-rich bone broth, soups, miso soup, and by eating fruit and vegetables with high water content (celery, cucumber, apples, watermelon etc). Limit your intake of alcohol as it is a diuretic and contributes to dehydration.
2. Healthy fats: Healthy fats help reduce inflammation and support the skins protective lipid barrier to prevent moisture loss. Healthy fats come from whole food sources and include: cold-pressed olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, free-range grass-fed meat, coconut oil and ghee, and Omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring as well as walnuts, hempseeds, flaxseed oil and chia seeds.
3. Vitamin C + Vitamin A. These antioxidant vitamins support skin cell production and collagen synthesis, and protect cells from damage caused by hash environmental conditions. Vitamins A and C are found in brightly coloured vegetables: carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, dark green leafy vegetables, red capsicum, turmeric, beetroot etc.
4. Minerals: Zinc, Copper and Selenium: These essential minerals are protective antioxidants and are involved in collagen production which supports skin integrity. Zinc, copper and selenium are found in seafood, meat, legumes, pumpkin seeds, whole grains and eggs. Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium.
5. Proteins: Lysine: Lysine is an essential amino acid which is a building block of collagen, the main skin barrier protein. Foods rich in lysine include red meat, poultry, cheese (especially parmesan), sardines, eggs, tofu and nuts.
6. Moisturisers: Moisturisers help to reduce skin dryness by creating a seal to support the skin barrier and prevent moisture loss. When choosing a moisturiser choose a cream or ointment which have a high oil content and therefore provide better barrier support than a lotion, which has a higher water content. Apply moisturiser immediately after you towel-dry after your shower or bath to trap moisture in the skin
7. Avoid: Skin care products that contain alcohol, fragrance, retinoids, or alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) as these can cause skin drying and be irritating to dry, sensitive skin. Avoid going out into cold dry air after your shower, keep the bathroom door closed to keep the steam in while you dry yourself and apply moisturiser.