Take the Woe out of Winter’s Dry Skin

20 Feb

Yesterday CNN Health promoted a segment about ways to help dry skin during the winter months.  I hung around to see what  I could learn.  I was disappointed; it was the same old tired information that has been repeated year after year after year, and it is the same information that is on almost every website discussing dry skin.  CNN’s report was basically a fluff piece, something that is not uncommon in television news. 

Their expert (dermatologist) suggested not to take hot showers or baths; keep the showers short; apply moisturizer; give extra attention to joints (elbows and knees).  Common sense tell us the same thing.  It really annoyed me that CNN (ditto to other news outlets that do this) has an almost unlimited amount of resources, and this was the best it could come up with.  While the suggestions are helpful to some extent, they will not give much relief.  I know.  I did them for years.  So, I am going to pick-up where CNN left off and give you some other insights and suggestions to help get your dry skin under control.

Things That Can Worsen Dry Skin
Definitely, winter’s dry air and the dry air heat in homes and offices create the perfect setting to suck the moisture right out of your skin.  At the same time, however, there could be things that contribute to your dry skin that you do not notice during other times of the year because the dryness is not as severe.  During, say the summer months when there is more humidity in the air, your skin may not be as dry.  Therefore, you may not notice factors other than winter that contribute to your dry skin woes.  Even if that is not the case with you, these still may worsen winter’s dry skin: 

  • Trigger Foods.
    You may have a sensitivity or allergy to certain foods that reveals itself on your skin.  Wheat, gluten, yeast, corn (including corn by-products), dairy, and sugar are usual suspects.  For example, wheat, yeast, and sugar make my dry skin and seborrhea worse.  An elimination diet is  an easy way to see if certain foods bother you.  With an elimination diet, you eliminate one food for a certain period of time and then reintroduce it.  
  • Alcohol.
    Drinking alcoholic beverages increases dry skin because it dehydrates the body.  For women, this is even more so because women have less body water then men ( (52% for the average woman v. 61% for the average man) to begin with.  Also, alcohol stays in women’s body longer then men because women metabolize it slower, which will affect the skin in numerous ways.
  • Caffeine.
    Too much caffeine will also worsen dry skin.  Caffeine is a diuretic that increases the excretion of water from the body; thereby increasing dehydration.  Also, too much caffeine can cause nutrients to be excreted from the body.  Since the skin is the last organ to receive nutrients, a lack of or decrease in them will affect it.
  • Smoking.
    Really nothing more needs to be said.  Smoking is bad any way you look at it. Period.
  • Wool and Lanolin.
    You may be allergic or sensitive to wool.  Of course, you don’t wear wool in the summer, so you would not notice it.  If you are sensitive or allergic to wool, it will make your dry skin worse.  Since lanolin is derived from wool, lanolin in products can make you dry skin worse.
  • Glycerin.  
    Humectants, such as glycerin,
    are believed to draw moisture to the skin.  However, that is not the case for everyone.  Some people (self included) dry skin becomes worse when using glycerin products.  Also, research has shown that in dry climates and when humidity is low (winter – less than 65%)  glycerin draws moisture away from the skin.  Another thing to watch out for is petroleum derived glycerin.  This is a cheaper version of glycerin.  Also, glycerin can be obtained from animals.  Petroleum and animal based glycerine can be harsh for your skin.  If you want to use glycerine, make sure the product states that it is a vegetable form.
  • Chemicals and Petroleum-based Ingredients.
    They can irritate the skin, making dry skin itchy and drier.  Often they are added because they are cheap.  Products made with them are marketed to make them alluring to the consumer.  They are often used to emulsify; preserve; give a certain feel or texture, and/or scent skincare products.
  • Lotions.
    Lotions can build up on the skin; therefore not giving skin a chance to shed dead skin cells.  If dead skin cells are not removed, your skin will be flakier.
  • Sugar/ artificially sweetened carbonated  beverages.  
    Stop or reduce your consumption of these because of the chemicals, such as phosphoric acid, and sugar.  They will irritate already dry skin and too much phosphoric acid found in many sodas (esp. colas) interferes with absorption of some nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin K.  Vitamin K is an important skin nutrient.
  • Cleansing bars.
    What is usually referred to as “soap,” is generally a detergent.  These detergent bars can be too harsh for dry skin.  The same with most commercial shower gels; they are too harsh for dry skin.

Things That Can Help Dry Skin
Dry dead skin cells hang around because there is not enough oils to help them to flake off.  Skin oils keeps skin moisturized as well as help with the removal of dead skin.  The plan then is to find ways to increase skin oils, keep moisture in, and remove dead skin cells.  Try these suggestions and see if they help you combat dry skin:

  • Increase omega 3 fatty acid intake.
    One of the symptoms of omega 3 deficiency is dry skin.  And as we have stated several times on this blog, most Americans are deficient in omega 3 while being high in omega 6.  Omega 3 and omega 6 need to be in balance.  Due to the western diet, Americans are out of balance with these essential nutrients.
  • Eat fresh vegetables and fruit daily.
    Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, collards, and broccoli (not a leafy vegetable, but is skin loving) have many skin-loving nutrients.
  • Eat foods high in vitamin C.
    Research shows that vitamin C helps with wrinkles and dry skin. Vitamin C helps form collagen.
  • Drink WATER daily.
    There is nothing like good ‘ol water for keeping skin hydrated.  Juice, soda, coffee, and tea don’t count.
  • Use a warm air vaporizer or humidifier.
    Place one in your bedroom and/or home.
  • Exfoliate regularly, at least once a week. 
    Because there is not enough oil on the skin, dead skin needs to be manually removed.  I exfoliate every time I shower.  Be careful, do not use harsh detergent exfoliators.
  • Water filter for the shower head.
    Chlorine in water is dry skins worst enemy and winter only makes it worse.  So invest in a water filter for the shower head; they start at about $35.00 – $45.00 dollars; you’ll thank me.  They make a huge difference.  And if you want to take a bath, you can run the water through the shower filter (takes awhile, but worth it).  A dechlorination ball also works great for baths.  We’re familiar with Rainshower Dechlorination Crystal Ball.  You use it by placing the ball in the tub as it fills with water.
  • Moisturize skin at least 2x day.
    But do not use just any old moisturizer, moisturizers are not created equal.  Of course, we prefer plant oils and botanicals to lotions.
  • Keep skin covered.
    This help skin to retain as much moisture as possible.
  • Exfoliate the bottoms of your feet.
    Nightly before going to bed scrub the soles with a body brush.  Afterwards, massage a plant-based oil into them (extra virgin olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil, etc.) and put on cotton socks.  Your feet will love you for it.  The bonus is that this routine is very relaxing and will help you to sleep.
  • Pamper dry hands.
    Apply moisturizer (plant based) and wear a pair of cotton gloves over them to bed.
  • Spritz face throughout the day. 
    Use an herbal hydrosol (skin loves rose and lavender) to add moisture to your face during the day.  It’s an especially good way to moisturize skin while wearing make-up.  You can also use plain distilled water in a spritzer.

These are our suggestions to help winter’s dry skin.  If you have a suggestion we missed, we would love to hear it.  Just add your comment below.

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