Winter's frigid temperatures and harsh winds can play havoc on our skin. Our tips will keep you glowing all season long.
The winter months are ideal for skiing, snowshoeing, and skating—but cool air and whipping winds can also dry out our bodies from head to toe. Here are some tips to help you sport soft, glowing skin while enjoying your favourite cold weather activities.
1: Be sun savvy
Sunscreen isn’t just for balmy beach days. “People often aren’t aware that, ideally, you’d be wearing a sunscreen during winter days when it’s a little bit bright outside,” says Frances Jang, MD, the founder of Skinworks dermatology clinic.
Thanks to factors such as sweating and UV-reflecting snow, alpine athletes need to be especially sun smart. In fact, our skin may be more susceptible to sunburns on the mountain than on the beach. If a slope is 10,000 feet (3,048 m) above sea level, for example, skin-damaging UV radiation can be up to 45 percent stronger.
Before heading outdoors, slather on a broad-spectrum, mineral-based sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. If possible, use a winter-specific sunscreen with moisturizing ingredients such as lanolin or glycerin.
2: Use a humidifier
Cracked lips, scaly skin, itchy scalps—ah, the joys of winter skin! To make matters worse, these conditions are often aggravated by the drying effects of central heating. Hooking up your humidifier is a simple solution that
can add much-needed moisture to the air in your home or office.
3: Ditch wet socks and gloves
Whether we’re hitting the slopes or shovelling snow, soggy socks and mitts are a no-no. Cold, wet clothes can irritate sensitive skin and may lead to eczema flare-ups.
Keep spare mitts on hand in case the ones you’re wearing get wet. Alternatively, wear a pair of breathable cotton gloves beneath a pair of waterproof gloves for added warmth and protection.
4: Take shorter showers
Nothing beats a long, steamy bath on a chilly day—right? Unfortunately, hot water can further dry out our skin by sapping its natural oils. For a healthy, hydrated glow, shower or bathe once per day for no more than 10 minutes, and use lukewarm water. If skin is itchy or irritated, consider adding finely ground oats—a natural cleanser, moisturizer, and buffer—to your bathwater.
5: Be gentle
“Sensitive or dry skin conditions tend to be exaggerated in the colder months,” says Jang. “So people have to be a little more cautious about the products they’re using.”
To avoid aggravating winter woes, kick harsh soaps, toners, and exfoliators to the curb. Simplify your skin care routine and opt for a mild, fragrance-free cleanser or soap such as castile. Some soothing ingredients to look for in a natural cleanser include
- almond flour
- ground oats
6: Ward off windburn
A winter breeze may feel wonderful when we’re flying down a slope … but no one wants peeling, wind-roughened skin. Outdoor sports enthusiasts need to bundle up with protective clothing such as hats, scarves, and gloves.
“When we’re outdoors, we have to be careful about the dangers of frostbite and windburn,” says Jang. “If you’re skiing, for example, you need to protect your nose and cheeks.”
When windburn does occur, peeling is an unpleasant but natural part of the healing process; however, you can ease irritation by applying cooling aloe vera liberally and frequently.
7: Drink up
Healthy hydration is a no-brainer when we’re exercising in summer, but ice-cold water may be less appealing at this time of year. Nevertheless, it’s important to drink plenty of water year-round to nourish our skin—especially when exercising. Any activity that causes sweating, such as skiing or snowboarding, will require us to rehydrate often. Skip the post-ski beer, though, as drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration.
8: Help your hands
Perhaps no body part shows the wear and tear of winter activities more than our hands. In an attempt to steer clear of colds and flu, we may also wash our hands frequently with harsh soaps and hot water.
Be gentle on dry, hurting hands, and wash with warm—not scalding—water. Consider scrubbing only the palms and between the fingers if your knuckles appear red and chapped. For extra softening, apply an oil-based moisturizer throughout the day.
9: Love your lips
Our hands aren’t the only area that can benefit from some cold-weather TLC. A nourishing lip balm is essential to ward off windburn and sun damage, which can also trigger cold sores in outdoor athletes.
Look for natural, sun-protective products to pamper your pucker. Softening ingredients that can help to banish chapped lips include
- almond butter
- cocoa butter
- shea butter
- avocado oil
- coconut oil
- jojoba oil
- extra-virgin olive oil
- sweet almond oil
- vitamin E
10: Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
It can’t be repeated enough—moisturizer is a must during winter. “The most effective time to moisturize is after you take a shower or bath,” says Jang. “Apply a layer of moisturizer over towel-dried skin that’s still a bit damp to really seal in moisture.”
For soft skin on and off the slopes, moisturize dry areas such as the face and hands two to three times a day. Choose an oil-based ointment without alcohol, fragrances, dyes, or other chemicals for the safest, gentlest care.
Diabetes skin care tips
Winter can be especially drying for those with diabetes. High blood sugar may result in dehydration, poor blood flow, and nerve damage—which can then lead to infections and other unsavoury skin issues.
If you have diabetes, take these extra precautions to ready your skin for winter.
- Refrain from putting hot water bottles or heating pads on your feet.
- Watch out for cuts, sores, blisters, redness, calluses, or infections on hands and feet.
- Treat cuts immediately with products that don’t contain antiseptics, iodine, or alcohol.
- Wash feet every day in warm water, but do not soak.
- After bathing, pat skin dry rather than rubbing.
- Avoid scratching dry skin.
- Wear breathable, organic cotton clothing.
- Always wear shoes and socks, even indoors, to help stave off sores and blisters.