Colder temperatures, dry air, and decreased humidity that accompany the fall and winter seasons can have a detrimental effect on skin health, especially among those with more sensitive skin types. These patients are particularly prone to adverse symptoms and cutaneous manifestations related to seasonal shifts, including irritation, dryness, flaking, and even bleeding presenting all over the body. During the upcoming months, all individual skin types can greatly benefit from incorporating preventative measures to protect the skin barrier and paying close attention to external factors that may worsen skin sensitivity.
Skin Protection and Sensitivity Prevention Recommendations
Many skin care products and recommendations claim to alleviate seasonal skin irritation, however, many of these offer conflicting advice and some can even make symptoms worse.
Making sure to stay hydrated, maintaining humidity levels, and avoiding harsh ingredients can help ease common winter skin sensitivity while promoting a healthy, nourished complexion along with the dermatologist-approved tips
Selecting Skin Care Products
Skin care products tailored to environment-related skin needs should be interchanged throughout the year with a special emphasis on hydration and replenishment of nutrients
during colder winter months. Fall and winter weather conditions call for the use of thicker creams and ointments which are both more effective and less irritating to the skin. Shea butter, olive oil, and jojoba oil are all beneficial ingredients that help soothe dry and irritated skin along with lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, and petrolatum.
Experts recommend using only gentle, fragrance-free skin care products during colder seasons as scented soaps and creams may be too harsh for dry or sensitive skin. To help the skin retain its natural oils, avoid using deodorant soaps or products that contain alcohol, retinoids, or alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA). Other common sensitive skin irritants to avoid include wool and synthetic fibers, hot water, as well as strong exfoliants.
Maintaining Hydration Levels
There is a general tendency to consume less water during winter months, however, maintaining adequate hydration levels is just as important in colder seasons. Staying well-hydrated can help the body – and in turn the skin – retain moisture while also boosting mood and cognitive function, assisting weight management, and promoting overall physical health.
Controlling Humidity Levels
Using a humidifier at home can also help maintain optimal moisture levels and combat the adverse effects of heating systems which tend to produce dry, skin-irritating air. Humidifiers are a great way to add moisture back into the home – which should ideally be at a level of 40% humidity.
Taking Cold Showers
Instead of long, hot baths, shorter, lukewarm showers are recommended as they can help the body retain hydration instead of striping the skin of its natural oils. On average, daily showers and baths should range between 5 to 10 minutes and incorporate gentle, fragrance-free cleansers.
As board certified dermatologist Dr. Purvisha Patel told Huffington Post in an article: “Hot water evaporates fast, and if the skin is not immediately moisturized, the cracks in the skin let the skin nerves get exposed to air, resulting in what feels like lots of paper cuts and eczema, or ‘winter’s itch’.”
Using Sun Protection
Although the amount of sunlight exposure decreases during the fall and winter seasons, the sun’s rays remain equally damaging to unprotected skin. In addition, snow can aggravate their harmful effects by reflecting up to 80% of ultraviolet rays compared with only 20% reflected by sand. As such, it is essential to continue using products with an SPF 30 or higher on exposed areas of skin and reapplying them throughout the day when necessary. This can help reduce the risks of sun damage, excessive dryness, and other winter skin symptoms.
During the fall and winter seasons, colder temperatures can have detrimental effects on overall skin health; adequate hydration is essential to maintaining a healthy complexion, preventing signs of premature aging, and protecting the skin barrier. Prevention and protection measures, such as the use of seasonable products and avoidance of common irritants can work to maintain optimal skin health all year round.
To learn more about important factors for consideration in sensitive skin irritation, psoriasis, and other dermatologic conditions, clinicians can access the LiVDerm CME Education Library which offers educational resources and online courses that feature expert content from our live events. LiVDerm’s online dermatology CME/CE activities delve deeper into the cutaneous sensitivities in specific populations – such as patients of color and pediatric patients – as well as valuable updates in common dermatologic conditions.