Seasonal Skin Care
While we’re in the deep, dark, frozen middle of winter here in the USA, people in the southern hemisphere are dealing with the blazing heat of summer. Last week it was -43F (-42C) in Colorado and 112F (44C) in NSW, Australia—a difference of more than 150 degrees! Obviously your skin needs are markedly different in such weather. How do the seasons affect skin care?
In winter weather, especially in colder climates, hydration is the main issue of concern. Wind, low humidity, and furnace heating all suck moisture from the skin, leaving it dry, flaky and itchy. Dryness can affect skin anywhere on the body, but the hands are often the most uncomfortable, and dryness on the face can significantly affect appearance. So switching to a heavier moisturizer and remembering to apply it regularly is the most important factor in winter skin care. Moisturizers containing urea saturate the skin better. Applying a thick, richer moisturizer at night before bed will be especially helpful, as the skin rejuvenates and repairs itself during sleep. Drinking extra water to stay hydrated during the winter is also important, for both skin and overall health.
Winter skin care isn’t just about moisture, though. Exfoliation is useful in winter to remove flaky skin and brighten the appearance. (Exfoliation can reveal a healthy new layer of skin, but is not recommended for those with skin irritation, peripheral vascular disease, or some kinds of anemia. Pregnant women should check with their doctor.) And don’t forget to wear sunscreen in winter! Clouds and rain do not block UV rays, and snow can even reflect the sun back up off the ground. Additionally, people in very cold climates need to be diligent about protecting delicate skin when outside. Frostbite is no laughing matter, so cover up! When you go out wear gloves, a hat that covers your ears, and a barrier such as lip balm on your lips.
Hot summer weather, on the other hand, makes skin care all about protection from the sun. In summer, between the beach and the pool, we all tend to be outdoors more often. Summer clothing is lighter and offers much less coverage. Unfortunately, UV rays can cause damage to unprotected skin in as little as five minutes. So make sure to wear sunscreen every day, reapply it often, and use enough to fully cover your skin: two ounces (60mL), or about a shot glass full, for the average adult. Try to avoid being outdoors in the strongest midday sun, and wear long sleeves or a hat whenever possible.
If you do get a mild sunburn, you can treat it with, hydrocortisone (1%) cream, aloe or cooling gels. Even a washcloth soaked in skim milk and water can help soothe overheated skin. Not only will it help you feel better, cooling will reduce the redness, pain, and peeling. Aloe left in the fridge will be especially nice on an inflamed sunburn. Drink extra water after a burn or when outside in the heat, as you can lose fluids through sweat more quickly than you think. And exfoliation is important in summer, too. It helps your skin absorb both sunscreen and moisturizer, and gives exposed skin a bright, even appearance.
Whether you’re in the North or South, don’t forget to care for your skin before you go out and enjoy the weather.
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The Specialist doctor from the University Hospital in Gothenburg, alumnus UC Berkeley. My doctoral dissertation is about Digital Health and I have published 5 scientific articles in teledermatology and artificial intelligence and others.