Developing a Healthy Winter Skincare Routine
As it’s obvious that winter is upon us here in Reno, let’s talk about a few tips to keep your winter skin healthy. There are a few things that contribute to the changes of skin in winter compared to summer. In winter, the humidity in the air is much lower than in the warmer months, contributing to dry skin. Additionally, the heating elements in our homes suck the last bit of moisture that is still available out of the air before it heats are home. Lastly, the wind here in Reno kicks up and blows cold air in our faces, and this also contributes to the difficulties some of us have caring for our skin in the winter.
Keeping the skin hydrated is the most challenging of our tasks. Hydration is the key. It is popular to believe drinking more water will improve the hydration of the skin. Although drinking a lot of water helps some, external hydration is really where you need to combat dryness. After each shower or bath, I suggest putting on the thickest moisturizer your body can handle. This traps the moisture from the shower in your skin. Some of my favorite moisturizers are Aquaphor ointment, Cerave Cream, Cetaphil Cream, and Eucerin Cream. I also recommend avoiding antibacterial soap as these can strip the fat barrier from your skin. Stick to gentle cleansers such as Cereve, Cetaphil, or Dove soap. Avoid fragrance in your soaps, lotions, or body sprays as dry skin can be easily irritated from fragrance-containing products.
Some medical conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis can flare in the drier winter months. Your skincare routine may need to be stepped up a notch with a thick moisturizer application as many as two or three times a day. If you use medications for your condition, you may need to increase applications in order to keep your condition under control. Lastly, you may need to see your dermatologist at the beginning of each winter to help you tailor your regiment to your specific condition and situation. We always want to minimize side effects from prescription medications while maximizing effectiveness, so you may need to see your provider to balance these two things.
Sunscreen applications can be slightly different in the dryer months than in summer. With the humidity, the dryness some people experience from sunscreens does not usually have a huge effect. But, in the winter months, you may need to switch to a moisturizing sunscreen such as Elta MD daily. If we are skiing, consider that the higher altitudes require a higher SPF and potentially more frequent application. If you need some suggestions on some more hydrating sunscreens my favorites are Elta MD Facial and Elta MD Daily.
For anti-aging considerations in the winter, the most difficult part is to balance the drying effects of some of our antiaging products with the already dry weather. Sometimes, certain products that we like to use every day or a couple times a week have to be avoided in drier climates. Often, my patients need to decrease the frequency of certain products or discontinue them completely in the winter. Some examples are retinoids, glycolic acids, and bleaching creams such as Lytera or hydroquinone. Retinoids such as retinal, retinol, and Retin A have the main side effect of dryness and irritation. Usually, women over 35 can use these a couple times a week or even every other night when the humidity is higher, but in the dryer winter months, the frequency of application may need to be decreased to once a week or stopped completely if there is not enough hydration. One way I try to combat this is with TNS Ceramide Cream placed on top of my retinoid at night. Ceramide creams are very hydrating and are available in a couple of different forms. Over the counter, you can purchase Cereve Cream for an over-the-counter less concentrated form. In the office, I have TNS ceramide cream, which has a higher concentration of ceramides. I also decrease the frequency of application to about once per week. As we know that retinoids build collagen, help fine lines and wrinkles, and inhibit pigment, we like to use them as often as possible. Because of this, decreasing the frequency and using ceramide-based moisturizers will help us to be able to use these even in the driest of climates.
For the glycolic acid products, some of these can actually be irritating while others can be hydrating. It just depends on which formulation you’re using. If they are irritating, decreasing the frequency is the most common solution, but you can also change the base from an astringent or alcohol-based glycolic acid to a cream or moisturizing base glycolic acid. These are available in our office if you are not able to find them over the counter in cream form. Bleaching creams such as Lytera or hydroquinone are best used when there is less sun exposure, but can often a drying effect. For this reason, they are harder to use at times in the winter months. I use the same strategies with these products as a user of retinoids, decreasing the frequency and using a ceramide-based cream over it.
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