Winter skincare essentials

This winter, so far, is Australia’s coldest in decades, and as the cold snap envelopes most of the country, our skin may be feeling the effects. As seasons change, our skin needs also change. Skin can become dryer and more sensitive in the colder months.

With the sun’s heat less apparent, we may neglect to apply sunscreen. Such neglect is risky, as sunscreen application remains an essential step, all year round, in any good skincare regime.

This winter, pharmacies can encourage customers to look after their skin, moisturise, and remember to keep up the ‘slip, slop, slap, seek, slide’ measures in line with the Cancer Council and Heart Foundation campaigns that encourage the use of sun-protective clothing, broad-spectrum sunscreen and headwear, seeking shade, and wearing sunglasses.

The skin is the largest organ in the body, with functions including:

  • Defending against bacteria.
  • Cooling the body by sweating.
  • Sensing pain, pleasure, temperature, and pressure.1

According to a paper published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, low humidity and low temperatures can negatively impact the skin, interfering with the skin barrier.2

Keeping the skin moisturised and remembering sun protection are vital to ensure healthy, glowing skin.

Moisture in mind

Harvard Health advises that the skin’s moisture within the epidermis (the top layer of skin) reflects the humidity in the air.

As winter weather tends to have low humidity, this can be reflected in the moisture of our skin, the US medical education source says, and why many people experience drier skin during winter.

Therefore, it adds, using a good moisturiser to replenish and trap moisture in the skin is necessary to beat dry skin.3 

Not-so-hot showers 

While a hot shower can be relaxing and warm us up on chilly mornings, dermatologists warn that hot water can cause skin dryness and worsen conditions such as eczema.

Baylor College of Medicine in the US city of Houston recommends that people opt for lukewarm showers and baths to prevent dryness.4

The Victorian government’s Better Health Channel supports this, advising that hot water is a skin irritant that should be avoided for people with eczema.5

Beat the UV 

In Australia, the sun’s UV rays remain strong in winter. In a 2022 statement, the Cancer Council says UV strength, not temperature, is key when it comes to avoiding skin damage.

“Temperature isn’t related to solar UV strength, and our skin can actually be damaged without us knowing,” the Council said. “UV can be high even on cool and overcast days.

The UV index measures the UV strength: the higher the number, the stronger the solar UV and the more damage it can do to unprotected skin.”6

These factors demonstrate why applying sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, even in winter, is so important to ensure skin protection, not only from the ageing effects of the sun but from the UV rays that can cause skin cancer.

Dermatologist Dr Eleni Yiasemides, a spokesperson for the CereVe skincare brand, lists these top tips for a winter skincare routine:

  • Avoid hot water on the face and body, as the heat can dehydrate the skin, leaving it dry and feeling tight.
  • Use a thick moisturiser enriched with ceramides (lipid molecules), which can help support the skin moisture barrier, reducing moisture loss to help repair dry skin.
  • Continue to wear sunscreen daily, as the UV exposure remains high in Australia in winter.
  • Don’t over-cleanse, which can strip the skin of its natural protective barrier.
  • Respect the barrier of the skin by using an appropriate soap-free cleanser and avoiding over-cleansing.

References: 

  1. Better Health Channel. ‘Skin explained’. 2020. vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/skin#the-epidermis [Accessed 11/7/22].
  2. Engebretsen KA, et al. ‘The effect of environmental humidity and temperature on skin barrier function and dermatitis’. 2012. wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/jdv.13301 [Accessed 11/7/22].
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. ‘What to do about dry skin in winter’. 2011. harvard.edu/womens-health/what-to-do-about-dry-skin-in-winter [Accessed 11/7/22].
  4. Baylor College of Medicine. ‘Hot showers can damage skin during winter’. 2018. edu/news/hot-showers-can-damage-skin-winter [Accessed 11/7/22].
  5. Better Health Channel. ‘Eczema (atopic dermatitis). 2020. vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/eczema-atopic-dermatitis [Accessed 11/7/22].
  6. Cancer Council WA. ‘Protect your skin this winter’. 2022. asn.au/articles/news-2022/protect-your-skin-this-winter [Accessed 11/7/22].

This feature was originally published in the August issue of Retail Pharmacy magazine