Hydrate appropriately - moisturize intelligently - exfoliate wisely
Skincare is a dynamic daily activity that we should revisit at least once per year. Winter time presents us with the perfect opportunity for this reevaluation as during this season our skin is exposed to new environmental stressors on the top of solar radiations (UVA, UVB, IR, and visible light) and pollution. Cold winds, low temperatures, dry air, and external forced air heating contribute to pre-mature aging during the winter triggering what I like to call: Skin Winter Blues.
Skin Winter Blues are the result of three factors that are closely related to each other: cold weather and winds, dried air and external heaters. Let me explain a little bit further the mechanisms behind Skin Winter Blues. Cold weather activates our body survival response which is characterized by peripheral blood vessel constriction. What does this mean? - it means that blood is taken away from our extremities (fingers, toes and of course our skin) and is redirected to the core of our body in an attempt to preserve its temperature more efficaciously. This is the reason why our fingers, toes, and skin feel colder than the rest of our body during winter. This blood redistribution fools our body to think that is properly hydrated and therefore we do not feel like drinking the much-needed water. In fact, it has been estimated a 40% decrease of the thirst response under cold-winter conditions. Another consequence of this blood redistribution and its concomitant "fake hydration" state, is the continuous or increased production of urine, which aggravated even further skin dehydration. Cold weather also increases fluids loss through respiration (we can actually visualize our own breath (water vapor that we are loosing) on a cold winter morning). A greater respiratory water loss is triggered by the winter-induced increased metabolic rate, generating another vicious cycle of skin dehydration.
During these colder months, air humidity drops significantly facilitating skin water evaporation. Thus, our skin is flaky and feels dry and tight. In addition, harsh winds strip our skin of its natural lipids compromising barrier function and increasing transepidermal water loss (TEWL). In fact, during winter our skin decreases in 25% its ability to hold moisture.
Although cell-turnover is not affected during winter, the combination of harsh conditions and the severe state of skin dehydration promotes faster cell death resulting in a dull complexion. This layer of dead cells on the skin's surface also contributes to breakout formation by clogging pores and preventing sebum from flowing freely. In addition, we have to remember that dehydrated skin tends to produce more sebum (oils) to compensate for the lack of moisturization and therefore acne-prone skin is especially sensitive to winter conditions.
What should we do to avoid Skin Winter Blues? - there are simple solutions that we can implement in our daily routine. First, drink water even if you do not feel like it; remember that the winter-triggered survival response had fooled your body into a state of "fake hydration". Second, moisturize your skin as much as need it using rich creams that contain skin mimetic lipids such as phospholipids to replenish those lost due to winter conditions and third, clean your skin using a gentle cleanser that does not strip your moisture, oils or lipids and exfoliate regularly to remove dead cells using a gentle pH optimized chemical exfoliator.
PS do not forget to apply your sunscreen (appropriate amount) on a daily bases even during winter and reapply when outdoors every 2 hours