Winter Skin Woes and Whys
How to adapt skincare routines and ingredients to face the season
Practicing in the Medical Aesthetics field means understanding skin, not just from the inside out, but from the outside in. It also means being a resource for your patients and clients, so they can turn to you when they want their skin to look and feel its very best.
This information may help you provide your clients with effective ways to treat their skin during the winter—a period of weather extremes from colder temps to bracing winds to blasting furnaces indoors. Weather and seasonal changes can impact your patients’ skin condition for a number of reasons.
1. Lower humidity: colder air is drier air, and when the air is dry, the skin has less moisture to absorb in the atmosphere.
2. Wind: cold winds further strip the skin of its natural oils by damaging the outermost layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum or skin barrier.
3. Indoor heat: the air indoors is dry, too, from keeping the heat on. This dries out the skin even more.
4. More dead skin cells: when the skin barrier is damaged, more dead skin cells accumulate on the skin’s surface, which not only give a dry, chapped appearance, but also helps prevent the body’s naturally-produced oils from getting to the surface and adding moisture to the skin.1
Ingredients to provide extra moisture.While light moisturizers and serums may provide sufficient moisture during milder weather, winter temperatures and conditions may mean switching to a product with stronger moisturizing abilities and ingredients.
Humectants: Humectants in moisturizers help attract moisture to the skin. Examples include:2
- Ceramides. Ceramides are long chains of fatty acids that actually naturally make up the stratum corneum, so using a product with ceramides may help strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier.4
- Hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid can be especially effective because of its ability to absorb 1,000 times its weight in water. This may help the skin’s surface retain more moisture.3
- Glycerin. A natural compound usually derived from animal fats or vegetable oils, glycerin is the third most popular ingredient in skincare products, and has been well researched as an effective humectant.7
- Sorbitol. A naturally occurring sugar-based alcohol that aids in moisture retention and skin conditioning.8
Emollients: Emollients help soothe and smooth the skin’s appearance by filling gaps between skin cells that make skin appear dry. Examples include:5
- Linolenic acid (ALA). An omega-3, ALA is a skin-identical ingredient with moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, but its topical effects are less established than that of fellow omega fatty acid, linoleic acid.9
- Linoleic acid (LA). An omega-6, LA is the most abundant naturally occurring fatty acid in the epidermis. It is not only important for dry, barrier damaged skin types but also for acne-prone skin. Research shows that problem skin has lower levels of linoleic acid.9
- Lauric acid. A 12 carbon length fatty acid that can be found naturally in coconut milk, coconut oil, laurel oil, and palm kernel oil. It's also in breast milk. As a skincare ingredient, it can be used as an emulsifier or as a cleansing agent.10
Emollients are generally thicker in consistency and may take longer to be absorbed into the skin, so they may be more effective when applied for overnight use.5
Treating skin with a softer touch.Exfoliation is important even during the winter. By removing excess dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, exfoliating promotes a smoother and more youthful appearance, and also allows naturally-produced oils to reach the outermost layer.3
However, because winter skin is drier and more susceptible to damage, you may want to recommend a gentler exfoliation regimen to your patients. Instead of harsh scrubs that may further irritate skin, chemical exfoliants such as glycolic, lactic acid or AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) may be gentler on skin.3
In a study that compared different types of chemical exfoliants, participants with sensitive skin reported lactic and glycolic acids had the lowest stinging potential. Other evaluation criteria included the ability to increase skin cell renewal, and their ability to improve moisture content and reduce lines and wrinkles over a six-week period. Both lactic and glycolic acids were the most effective of all products in the test set.6
Any exfoliation may leave the skin more susceptible to UV damage, so you may want to remind your patients to use a daily moisturizer with a sunscreen, even during the winter. Just because the sun isn’t as hot does not mean anyone should skip the SPF (Sun Protection Factor).3
If your patients are experiencing dry or irritated skin during the colder months, you can be a resource to help them put their best face forward all year long.