After enjoying a gloriously long and warm fall, old man winter has arrived in Canada and is suddenly slapping us in the face with cold, dry air. This type of weather immediately sucks moisture from your skin, and causes it to quickly become dry, itchy, red and flakey.
Skin is fascinating. It is the largest organ on our bodies, and is also made up of several different parts including water, protein, lipids (fats), and different minerals and chemicals. Skin also regenerates itself approximately every 27 days, with keratinocyte cells moving from the bottom layer of the epidermis to the top.
The top layer of the skin (the stratum corneum) is very important to the skin's appearance. It provides protection, keeps skin hydrated, and significantly contributes to skin radiance, evenness of color, and smoothness.This is also the layer that skin care products act on, as most products are unable to penetrate deeper into the dermis due to molecule size (keep this in mind when watching commercials for products that claim to be able to replace collagen or elastin. Although these products may include these ingredients, they are totally ineffective for replacing lost collagen or elastin, despite the company's claims).
So now that we know a bit about the skin, the following information can help you get through the winter with hydrated, plump and glowing skin.
Increase Internal Water Content - There are many reasons skin becomes dry, some external (weather) and some internal (diet). Dry skin is characterized by the lack of moisture in the stratum corneum. Cold weather contributes to excessive water being evaporated off the skin which contributes to extreme dryness, cracks, fissures, wrinkles, fine lines and roughness.
Water is the main plasticizer of the skin, and when levels are low, cracks and fissures occur. Dry skin is a result of decreased water content in the stratum corneum, and decreased water content eventually leads to skin roughness. The water content of skin needs to be greater than 10%, so staying hydrated and maintaining a healthy diet are basic things you can do to ensure your skin, and body, are as healthy as possible.
Avoid Hot Water - Even though we all love hot showers, hot water is not good for skin, especially facial skin. All water is drying, as it washes away the sebum that helps to provide a protective layer on our face, but hot water strips the sebum faster than warm water. Sebum creates a lipid-based occlusive film on the skin, which has an effect on hydration by preventing water evaporation and transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Also if you are combining water with any type of cleanser or soap (yes, even cold processed) the chemical reaction that happens affects the PH of the product you are washing with. So you may be exposing your skin to products that have a PH of 8.5-10, which is far too alkaline. If your skin is dry, sensitive, and you suffer from eczema,, this may be why.
In fact, according to a 2010 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology that tracked women's skin over an eight-year period, women with an alkaline stratum corneum (the skin's outermost layer) developed more fine lines and crow's-feet—and were more prone to sun damage—than those with acidic skin.
So when showering, avoid direct contact of water with your face and cool the temperature down while cleansing. Also choose a cleanser that compliments your skin type. For example, cold process soap is ok for oily skin, but can be very drying for dry skin. This is because soap strips the sebum from your skin, and if you have dry skin this is the last thing you want. For dry skin cleansing, try colloidal oatmeal or milk powders. Oat lipids help decrease TEWL and can safely be integrated into a daily skin care regimen for cleansing, moisturizing and providing protection. If you don't want to DIY your cleanser, Juji Skin has Oatmeal and Coconut Facial Cleansing Grains. Also I've read rave reviews about the oil cleansing method, for both dry and oily skin. I have not tried this yet, but if you are interested be sure to research which oils are best for your skin type.
Safely Exfoliate - Exfoliation is important too, especially in the winter because the dry and cold weather can cause skin cells to dry out and accumulate on the surface of the skin. This leads to a dull complexion, and can make fine lines and wrinkles stand out even more.
There are so many natural products you can use to exfoliate with. Using a fine, moisturizing facial polish once or twice a week will help remove any dead skin cells from your face and promote healthy cell turnover. Make sure that the exfoliant has very small particles, as larger ones (even the size of granulated sugar) can actually tear your facial skin. Good examples of safe exfoliants are super-fine sugars, baking soda, finely ground oatmeal and bean powders, and various clays.
If you want to DIY your face scrub, there are many good recipes on-line. These scrub recipes are fun to make, should be toxin-free, and you can get most of the ingredients in the grocery store. Keep in mind that DIY scrubs will only last a few days, depending on what you have in them. Professionally formulated scrubs like Juji Skin's Activated Charcoal Scrub have longer shelf lives, but avoid scrubs with a list of ingredients that you can't understand as most are full of preservatives and unnecessary toxic chemicals.
Moisturize Naturally and Frequently - There are so many moisturizers on the market, it is hard to choose which ones to use, especially if you are looking for something more natural. Most products have a slew of toxic ingredients and preservatives, which can irritate and even further dry out your skin (ie: alcohol). And because this is a natural skin care blog, I would highly suggest to stay away from anything mainstream. Most of these products are formulated with a high content of water, as it is the cheapest filler to use. And if water is used, multiple preservatives must be used, some of which are linked to cancer.
The good news is that plant, fruit, nut and vegetable oils can keep your skin hydrated and protected, while they also plump up the stratum corneum which helps to diminish fine lines and wrinkles. These ingredients help with TEWL as they are occlusive agents. Good examples of natural occlusive agents are Argan Oil, Safflower Oil, Borage Seed Oil, Olive Oil and Jojoba Oil. Using products that include 100% active ingredients and no fillers is your best bet, especially if it is an organic product. Any water or filler in the product will decrease efficacy. Juji Skin has two amazing organic facial serums Hydrate and Restore that both help with dry skin and plump up fine lines and wrinkles.
Another amazing and natural skin moisturizer is shea butter. Shea butter comes from shea nuts, and is hailed for its protective and emollient properties. It's not greasy like coconut oil, and shea butter has high amounts of unsaponifiable matter, Vitamin E and other natural active elements. It is often used as a natural moisturizing agent for the skin as it penetrates deeply into the dermis and leaves a smooth, satiny finish.
Look for face balms or natural moisturizers that include high amounts of organic shea butter, along with other organic vegetable and plant oils. When applied to clean skin, these balms are excellent at sealing in moisture and are non-comedogenic, so they do not clog pores and should not cause breakouts.
You will probably need to moisturize more frequently in the winter, and the more you moisturize, the more prevention you are taking against future lines and wrinkles.
As always, Juji Skin has great products that can help with dry skin issues. We are also available for any questions or concerns you may have with your skin and would love to hear from you.
Even though winter can be challenging, try to enjoy the season. After all, is there anything more beautiful than falling snow on a quiet, peaceful winter's night?