The cold season is always harsh on our skin, so try these tips for avoiding any problems.You skipped back from the summer hols with a tan, skin glowing, feeling hot then the next thing you know the clocks have gone back, it's freezing in the mornings and your skin’s gone back to its dry, grey, weary-looking ways.
Sorry, but that’s the Winter Effect. It happens to the best of us as temperatures drop, so do humidity levels. The result is dry skin, and when skin gets dry it gets weak and prone to all sorts of problems.
Then we switch the heating on and the problems get worse.
"During cold spells, your skin is constantly bombarded, dried out, and increasingly susceptible to infection," explains Jeff Moore, instructor of pharmaceutics at Philadelphia’s University of the Sciences.
Cracking, chafing, dry patches and itchiness are all symptoms of winter skin.
And the only way to get it back to peachy perfection is to give it some extra special attention. Here’s how:
Moisturise from the inside
Drink plenty of fluids (and no, we don’t mean mulled wine). When you’re properly hydrated, so is your skin. Six to eight glasses of water daily make all the difference.
…and from the outside
Moisturising creams create a barrier that protects the skin against dryness, allowing time for hydration and healing to occur within. Regularly apply a product with rich ingredients like shea butter or petroleum/soft paraffin straight after a shower when skin is moist.
Take short, cool showers not long, hot baths
No matter how chilly it is, languishing in a piping hot bath or shower for hours can draw out key moisture from the skin. Your best bet is to keep the temperature "comfortably warm" and keep those showers short. If you do take a bath, make it lukewarm and add some oatmeal in a muslin bag, to soothe dry skin.
Pat, don’t rub
"When drying after a bath or shower, pat dry - don't rub", says dermatologist Dr Ella Toombs. "Rubbing will remove the skin cells and oils you've just applied."
Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate
Exfoliating your skin regularly removes rough bits and promotes new cell growth. It also enhances the absorption of moisturisers.
Avoid harsh soaps
Generally, products containing preservatives and fragrances strip water from the skin – instead, go for simpler products that contain glycerin, which traps and maintains moisture, or natural oils like avocado or cocoa butter.
Moisturise the air
It’s not necessary to fork out on expensive humidifiers to up the moisture content in air dried out by heating. Just hang a wet towel in front of radiators or pop a bowl of water beneath them, especially in the bedroom at night.
Slather on the sunscreen
Sunscreen isn't just for hot summer days: winter sun can damage your skin, too. Apply cream to your face and hands about 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply regularly if you stay outside for a long time.
The skin on the hands is thinner than elsewhere and harder to keep moist, which can lead to itchiness and cracking. So protect them with a hand cream topped by gloves when you go outside.
Avoid harsh facials
If your face is dry, don’t use harsh peels, masks or alcohol-based toners, which will strip vital oils from your skin. Use a gentle cleansing milk or oil instead.
The important thing is not to wait until it's too late. Says Moore: "The earlier you incorporate these tips into your daily routine, the greater improvement you'll see.
"While we often neglect our skin, or only treat it for cosmetic reasons, it's important to remember that our skin is an organ, part of the body just like anything else, and requires consistent care."