Maintaining a Strong Skin Barrier Function in the Winter
Winter is coming at us fast, and while we love the festivities of the season, we don’t love what it does to our skin. Sure, holiday stress may be the cause of that stress breakout on your chin, but you can thank the cold air for those annoying flaky bits of skin you just can’t seem to get rid of. A healthy, strong barrier function of the skin is crucial to overall skin health, and this time of year is arguably the harshest for the skin's barrier function.
Here are the many ways in which this season comprises your skin's barrier function:
Winter's cold, dry air alone is enough to contribute to dry, flaky skin.
Most indoor heating systems make dry skin worse by zapping even more moisture out of the air.
Add a diet of increased sugar (see the warning below) and your skin can become inflamed and its barrier function diminished, thus allowing transepidermal water loss (which is just a sciencey way of saying "dehydration because water is leaving the body through the skin").
People also tend to take longer, hotter showers in the winter (it just feels so good) but once again, this habit is sure to zap moisture right out of your skin.
As if that isn't enough, people tend to drink less water in the winter because they think they don't need to hydrate as much as they do in the summer. While this may be true to a small extent, feel free to trade in that eggnog for a glass of water every once in a while.
Don't worry; it's not all bad news. There are plenty of ways to strengthen and maintain your skin's barrier function and also reduce threats of dry skin.
Follow these tips all winter long to keep your skin happy and healthy:
Choose the right moisturizer. True moisturizers give the skin structural fats (like ceramides, sphingomyelin, and phospholipids) which support & strengthen the barrier function of the skin and prevent transepidermal water loss. This enhances the skin's natural moisturizing factor (NMF), which allows your skin to build up its own natural moisturizing abilities over time. A great moisturizer will also act as a vehicle to deliver key ingredients (Vitamins A, C, & E and anti-oxidants, to name a few) in a fat soluble form that will allow that healthy good stuff to get where it needs to go: the deeper layers of the skin.
Use a humidifier. By replacing this lost moisture back into the air with a humidifier, you can start to breathe easy again (literally and figuratively) because not only will your sinuses feel soothed and hydrated, but your skin will start to glow with dewy hydration too. Phew!
Diet: Pt 1. Cut back on sugar and processed foods. High sugar intake often leads to inflammation of the skin (and the rest of your organs). While it's important to enjoy the holiday season and its plethora of candy canes and cookies, enjoy it in moderation. Your skin will thank you in the long run. Alcohol should also be limited or avoided (depending on the individual) as alcohol is a diuretic and therefore dehydrating.
Diet: The Sequel. We're not here to only talk about what to avoid; we also want to encourage the eating of good things! It is so important to incorporate lots of healthy fats into your diet; this increases the strength of the fatty bonds in your skin cells. Chow down on salmon, avocado, nuts, and grass-fed beef. It's also important to add simple hydration to your diet; fruits like strawberries, cucumbers, pineapple, and watermelon are a few of the top contenders when it comes to water content, but we agree that you may prefer a warmer alternative. Butternut squash, green tea, and homemade vegetable soups can give you hydration, warmth, and nourishment.
With a little dedication, your skin can stay supple and hydrated all year round by working to strengthen and maintain your skin's barrier function.