Winter weather, with its frigid temperatures and whirling dry air, can be harsh on the human body’s largest organ– our skin. The average adult has about 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) and 22 square feet (2 square meters) of skin, protecting our insides from extreme temperatures, damaging sunlight, and hazardous chemicals. For many people, cold and dry winter air makes their skin more susceptible to itching, peeling, and burning. So, how should we do our part in protecting the organ that protects us? Here are five tips to be kinder to your skin during the winter:
- Plug in a humidifier– Dry winter air often strips skin of its own protective oily layers and sucks out skin’s natural moisture. One of the best ways to work against this dryness is to regulate internal environments by adding moisture back into the air. Experts, including those at Harvard Medical School, recommend using a humidifier and, if possible, placing it on its 60% setting. This way, the air is neither too dry nor too humid.
- Limit duration and temperature of showers– As relaxing as a long hot shower sounds, it isn’t very good for your skin. Continuous exposure to hot water, in a way that mirrors exposure to cold air, disrupts skin’s protective oil layers by scalding through them. Generally, the moral of the story seems to be that temperature extremes are not good for skin health. To that end, experts recommend taking 5-10 minute lukewarm showers throughout the year, but especially during the winter months.
- Lather on sunscreen– Even though sunscreen advertisements spike during the summertime, sun protection is important during every season! Though you might be spending less time outside in the winter, your UV ray exposure isn’t diminished. In fact, you still need sunscreen to protect your skin from snow glare, which is when sunlight reflects off of the white snow and increases the potential for UV exposure. Consider applying sunscreen to exposed skin, like your face and hands, around 30 minutes before going outside.
- Avoid wet clothes– When you trudge through the winter snow, it’s possible that your clothes will get wet and cold. Don’t leave those wet clothes on! Wet fabric making contact with skin can potentially lead to friction and subsequent irritation.
- Moisturize more (especially your hands)– Moisturizing is an important part of helping your skin maintain its protective oil layer. Naturally, since those layers are under more duress during the winter, it is even more critical to moisturize. The skin on your hands is thinner than on other parts of the body, making it more vulnerable to environmental wear and tear. So, try to carry around hand lotion (preferably oil-based over water-based) when you are out and about for moisture reinforcement throughout the day.