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Dry, itchy skin in winter: causes and cures

Many women suffer from flaky, itchy or irritated skin in winter. We take a look at some of the most common causes of dry skin in winter, as well as our tips for staying hydrated when it’s cold out.

Dry, itchy skin in winter: causes and cures

What causes dry skin in winter?

Whether our skin type is dry, oily, combination or sensitive, most of us have experienced dry skin at some point or another. Properly known as xerosis, dry skin can occur as a result of age, genetics or skin imbalances, but it also often occurs as part of our skin’s response to changes in our environment.

vasoconstriction can leave skin feeling cold, dry, and suffering from redness and discomfort

During winter months, cold air, low humidity and indoor heating causes blood to be drawn away from the dermis. 
This process is known as vasoconstriction, and can leave skin feeling cold, dry, and suffering from redness and discomfort.

Other factors affecting skin in winter include colder temperatures, which decrease the epidermis’ ability to synthesize lipids, and a decrease in humidity, which slows sebum production. 

Specifically in winter, rough-textured clothes, particularly garments made of wool, as well as showers or baths at too hot of a temperature can contribute to uncomfortable, itchy skin, with scratching only making the problem worse.[1]

Taking care of dry skin in winter: tips and tricks

Just as you would in summer, it’s important to adapt your skincare routine to take into account winter’s changing climate. Just as lips tend to become chapped in winter, skin can become flaky and/or peel as temperatures start to drop.    

Many skincare experts recommend swapping lighter creams and gels for products with a richer texture. For example, you may find that skincare oils, such as jojoba oil can help with symptoms of dry skin. Obviously, diet also plays a key role in maintaining skin’s health. While topical application of ingredients rich these vitamins will help nourish skin, incorporating vitamin-rich ingredients, such as castor oil, into your diet has also been shown to improve skin health.[2]
Finally, it’s also crucial to remember to apply a daily SPF throughout the winter, as UVA rays - the ones responsible for premature skin aging - are present all year round. Also, don’t forget that UV rays are able to reach our skin even on cloudy days.[3]
Fortunately, most day creams are usually enriched with at least SPF20, making it easy to get in your daily dose of hydration and sun protection in one go.

[1]Weber, T. et al, ‘Treatment of Xerosis with a Topical Formulation Containing Glyceryl Glucoside, Natural Moisturizing Factors, and Ceramide’ in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 5.8 (2012) pp. 29-39 [Accessible here]
[2] Latreille, J. et al, ‘Dietary Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Intake and Risk of Skin Photoaging’ in Public Library of Science One 7.9 (2012) [Accessible here]
[3] Robert Kandel, directeur de recherche honoraire du CNRS, Laboratoire de météorologie dynamique (LMD/IPSL), Palaiseau.

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