Welcome to winter and its special beauty and calm. What does winter mean for your skin health? Let’s take a look at what changes many of us make to our lifestyles during winter and how that can impact the condition of our skin:
We’re Indoors More
It’s cold outside, so we’re inside for a greater part of the day to stay warm. That means, however, that we are often in environments with artificial heat. Forced air heat can be quite drying on your skin, so be sure to moisturize often with creams and lotions that give you barrier protection to seal moisture in. Stay hydrated with warm soups, hot drinks, and extra water throughout the day.
We’re Outside Less
Since we aren’t outside, and the sun is lower in the sky, we’re getting less sunshine on our skin. Moderate sun exposure is good for your health as the contact of sunshine on our skin is a primary way that we produce vitamin D. Many adults, especially those living in northern latitudes, are vitamin D deficient, which is bad news for your immune system. Vitamin D deficiency can leave you vulnerable to all the colds and flu going around during winter. You can check your vitamin D levels with a physician, and take a vitamin D3 supplement. Be sure to follow the dosage recommendations, as too much vitamin D can be toxic.
That being said, if you are outside for extended periods of time, or enjoy skiing at high altitudes, or participate in other winter sports, you still need a good sunscreen for exposed areas, as they can still burn.
We’re Bundled Up
Winter means layers of warm clothing, thick socks, lined boots, and cozy blankets. The extra warmth is lovely but can cause problems for those with heat-sensitive skin conditions like rosacea, or those who find certain fabrics irritating (check out our article on skin-friendly fabrics).
You especially want to avoid damp layers of clothing next to your skin – which can happen either due to perspiration or melting snow. Not only will the dampness make you feel colder in the long run, but it may trigger a flare-up of an existing skin condition or an uncomfortable rash. Look for moisture-wicking fabrics for the layers and socks you wear next to your skin so that your skin stays dry and can breathe.
We’re Eating Richer Foods
Cold weather means holidays that focus on sweets, as well as rich and fatty foods. Winter can also mean that you have a bigger appetite since your body is eating more to fuel itself to keep warm.
However, it’s easy to fall short of eating enough fruits and vegetables during the winter. A cold, crisp salad might be less appealing when it’s snowing outside, so try your best to include warm dishes that are veggie-focused. Try stews and soups with nourishing root vegetables, or purees and vegetable mashes that feel like comfort food. Your skin needs the vitamins and minerals in vegetables to stay radiant and healthy. Whole grains and beans also offer solid nutrition as well as the fiber you need, and can keep you warm, full, and satisfied on the coldest of days.
We’re Exposed to Less Light
Winter can be a difficult time for many, especially those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Holidays can be a lonely time for some, while others may be grieving the loss of loved ones. Those who suffer from skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, TSW, and eczema, may also suffer depression and stay indoors or isolate themselves during a flareup (read more on skin conditions and depression.)
Taking care of your emotional and social needs during the winter is just as important as taking care of other aspects of your health. If you suffer from SAD, talk to a health professional, try lightbox therapy, and do whatever it takes to get the light back into your life. If you’re depressed, isolated, and just not feeling like yourself, reach out and talk to someone – either a friend or loved one, or a therapist. One great thing to come out of the Covid pandemic is the widespread availability of remote therapy. You can talk to a licensed counselor online now through many affordable platforms. A good therapist may give you the new insights you need to regain your hope and resilience, so you can feel better.
All of nature changes through the seasons, and so do we. Our bodies are amazing at adapting to seasonal change if we support them properly with the right care. Winter is a special time to gently and warmly nurture ourselves, to listen closely to the cues our bodies and emotions are giving us that tell us what we need. If we honor those cues, we can be a partner with our body in protecting and increasing our well-being.
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.