Winter is not only a season for putting away swimsuits, golf shoes, and SPF shirts, but it’s also a time when your skin needs extra care. Cold weather can be as harsh on your skin as the summer sun. Those living in colder climates can combat the harmful effects of cold air and low humidity by adopting a few daily habits. Here are some tips for taking care of your skin during the winter months:
1. Use Sunscreen
Even though the UV levels are lower in winter, UVB rays can still harm your skin. Snow and ice can reflect up to 85% of the sun’s rays, acting like a magnifying glass. Furthermore, for every 1000 meters above sea level, UV radiation increases by 5-10%. Therefore, your skin is at a higher risk of sunburn in these conditions. The FDA recommends applying broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30-50 every 2-3 hours when outdoors, especially if you’re on slopes or ice during the day. Don’t forget to protect your eyes; wear protective sunglasses or glasses with large lenses that offer 100% UVA and UVB protection. Additionally, find a lip balm with SPF and apply it regularly. Consider consuming vitamin D-rich foods or taking supplements, as the reduced daylight hours in winter can lead to a deficiency. Vitamin D, produced by the skin, is essential for skin health and immune function.
2. Stay Hydrated
Whether you’re shoveling snow, engaging in outdoor sports, or simply braving the cold, your body can experience cold stress. When your body gets cold, it redirects blood inward to protect vital organs, making your skin and extremities more susceptible to skin damage and cold-related conditions like frostbite. Cold stress can occur even at temperatures above freezing, especially when humidity and wind speed play a significant role. Dehydration is common in cold weather because it reduces the sensation of thirst by up to 40%. You may not feel thirsty even when losing water molecules through respiration. Even a 1% level of dehydration can compromise your skin’s ability to self-regulate and increase peripheral cooling, reducing blood flow to the skin. To maintain a healthy skin barrier, support your internal antioxidant system by including vitamin C and E-rich foods and supplements in your diet. These antioxidants help in creating new skin cells, repairing damaged ones, limiting photodamage, and maintaining skin resilience against environmental toxins.
3. Include Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), found in dietary sources and supplements, help maintain skin integrity and suppress inflammation when exposed to harsh winter conditions. Healthy fats are integral to the cell bilayer, regulating what goes in and out of the cell, including water. They also help maintain skin structure and function. Fish and fish oil contain beneficial PUFA, while olive oil is a source of MUFA. In cold weather, the average skin temperature can drop by up to 14 degrees Celsius before internal body temperature changes. To conserve heat, your body uses brown fat (brown adipose tissue) as an energy source. Studies suggest that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids stimulates receptors responsible for activating brown fat thermogenesis. Omega-3 fatty acids also support mitochondrial function, which contributes to maintaining skin health. Activating brown fat is beneficial as it is associated with improved insulin and glucose control, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
4. Take Collagen Supplements
Winter weather can lead to dry, wrinkled skin due to low humidity and cold winds. In a 2020 study that factored in temperature, humidity, and UV radiation, collagen consumption was found to significantly reduce water loss through the skin. Women who consumed collagen experienced better skin hydration and retained more moisture than those who did not over a four-week period. Thorne’s Collagen **** contains niacinamide riboside to support mitochondrial function and plant extracts for skin hydration, elasticity, and tone. Consider adding collagen supplements to your winter skincare routine to combat the effects of dry, cold weather.
By following these expert tips, you can protect your skin and maintain its health and beauty even in the harshest winter conditions.