Your skin faces a lot of enemies in the winter. In addition to the weather, other drying factors include harsh soaps, dietary deficiencies, and indoor heating systems that sap moisture from the air.
Dry skin is not caused by a lack of oil, but by water loss from the skin’s outer layers. Try these natural solutions to keep skin healthy.
Keep Moisture In
Start by drinking at least eight glasses of water a day to help keep your body and skin well hydrated.
To help keep your largest organ—the skin—soft and smooth, use moisturizers and body lotions that help skin attract and retain water. Choose moisturizers with shea butter and plant oils like sesame, borage, jojoba, and macadamia nut. Natural ingredients resemble the chemical composition of sebum—the skin's natural oil—so they are able to mix with this important lipid barrier, helping to replenish it.
Humectants like hyuralonic acid and vegetable glycerin also help retain moisture. To seal water in, apply lotions and moisturizers after bathing or showering when your skin is still damp.
Skin also becomes drier as we age, and its top layer begins losing its ability to hold moisture. This process doesn’t have to be as ominous as it sounds. Ceramides, which can be found in many natural moisturizers, are lipid molecules that work to strengthen the skin’s intercellular cement and slow the evaporation of moisture.
Choosing the right soaps and cleansers to clean without drying is critical. Avoid products with harsh synthetics or detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, which can remove sebum.
Instead, select soaps and creamy cleansers with gentle, emollient ingredients like goat’s milk, vegetable glycerin, and olive and coconut oils. Exposure to excessively hot water also depletes skin oils. It’s wise to cut back on long, hot showers and baths, which can rob skin of moisture.
Nutrition is also important when it comes to keeping your skin healthy through the fall and winter. “Foods such as salmon, sardines, herring, walnuts, and flaxseed oil should be incorporated into the diet as much as possible,” says Jennifer Nevels, NMD, at the IntegraMed Center in Mesa, Arizona. “They are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial because they contribute to cell membrane formation and support the barrier function of the skin, helping to prevent moisture loss.”