When the cold weather strikes, we’re flooded with information about driving safely in the snow and keeping our houses warm, but one topic that tends to get overlooked is how our skin fares at this time of year. If you participate in any sort of winter sports or outdoor activities – whether it’s a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood on a chilly day or a serious session of cross-country skiing in the mountains – you’ll want to protect your skin from the elements.
If you thought switching from your usual lotion to a heavier cream is all there is to mastering good winter skin, think again. There’s a lot that goes into protecting your skin in winter. Here’s a look at how to set the stage for happy skin, from wearing the right clothes to finding soothing products and eating right for maximum skin health.
Dressing for the occasion
First, you need to dress properly for winter sports. This doesn’t guarantee you won’t run into skin problems, but it can go a long way toward minimizing the chances. Here are some tips for getting your sportswear just right at this time of year.
Dress in layers
The less skin you expose to harsh winter weather, the better. Before you head out for any outdoor activity when it’s cold, dress in layers. Use a base layer with a breathable material or “wicking fabric”, and avoid wearing garments made of cotton close to your skin because it will stay wet from sweating and irritate your skin.
Top your base layer with a fleece or sweatshirt, and then wear a jacket over top. This will give you some room to shed layers as your activity warms you up. Don’t forget about mittens or gloves!
In fact, it’s a good idea to bring an extra pair of socks and gloves with you so you can replace the ones you’re wearing if they get wet.
Don’t overlook footwear
Those tennis shoes you use for running in July aren’t necessarily the right choice in January. At the very least, different socks may be in order. If you’re hiking, don’t just look out for boots that are warm – you also need them to be lightweight for greater agility.
Insulated boots can be a godsend for outdoor walking and hiking, but you don’t want to overdo it as you will sweat a lot, which could actually have the effect of making you even colder. Make sure you choose the right level of insulation for the sport you have in mind; snowshoeing requires a lot more insulation than walking, for example.
If you’re jogging around the park or training for a marathon, Runner’s World recommends shoes with waterproof liners like Gore-Tex to keep your socks from getting soggy. Outsoles that have grippy lugs can help prevent slipping and sliding, which could put a quick end to your winter sports plans!
Shoes with integrated knit socks, meanwhile, and a high top to cover your ankles can keep you warm while sparing you the annoyance and discomfort of snow making its way into your shoes.
Protecting your skin physically
As I mentioned, clothes are only part of the equation. You could splurge on the best winter sportswear money can buy and your skin could still end up suffering if you don’t take steps to protect it from the harsh elements. Here’s a look at what you should be focusing on when the temperature drops.
We tend to associate sunscreen with days at the beach, but the sun still shines long after we’ve tucked away our swimsuits for the season. In fact, when the sun reflects off of snow or ice, you can be even more likely to get burned, so you shouldn’t skip the sunscreen just because it’s winter. If you’re skiing in the mountains, this is especially important as UV radiation is stronger when you reach higher altitudes.
Be sure you apply it to every part of your face and body that will be exposed to the sun.
A study published in the journal PLOS ONE showed that skiers missed around 10 percent of their skin when applying sunscreen to their faces. The areas they tended to miss most were their eyelids and the bridge of the nose, although experts say you can skip your eyelids if you’ll be wearing ski goggles or sunglasses the whole time you’re outside.
Look for natural sunscreen ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which protect your skin from sun damage without putting your health at risk.
Create a barrier with a thick balm
Whipping wind like you’d encounter on the ski slopes can do a number on your skin, so use a balm to create a protective barrier. Massage a thick layer into your hands and face, especially your nose and cheeks, before hitting the slopes. Natural ingredients like extra virgin coconut oil and olive oil are particularly suited to the elements. Some formulations also contain natural sunscreens so you get greater protection with fewer products.
Stop chafing in its tracks
Unfortunately, the same chafing that plagues some people in summer won’t let up just because the temperature drops. Shorts weather may be well behind us, but it’s still a good idea to powder inside your athletic pants if you’re prone to thigh chafing with cornstarch or tapioca powder, which are gentler and safer than talc-based products.
You can soothe chafed skin with a soothing balm containing ingredients like aloe vera, while coconut oil can help to moisturize chafed skin and heal inflammation. Apply a thick layer of a product with these ingredients while you sleep to wake up with happier skin.
Protect your lips
The cold wind and the dry indoor heat your lips are subjected to at this time of year can ruin their natural protective barrier, which means they simply won’t be able to stay hydrated and soft. You should avoid licking your lips at all costs. Instead, use a thick, protective product with ingredients like beeswax and coconut oil. And don’t forget to protect your lips from the sun – either apply sunscreen to your lips before heading outdoors or look for a lip balm that contains physical sunscreens like zinc on the ingredients list.
What you do indoors also matters
The tricky thing about winter is that when you come indoors, your skin’s vulnerability doesn’t end. Indoor heat takes moisture right out of the air – and your skin.
Lower the thermostat
Turning up your heat full blast might be your first instinct when you’ve come in from a cold day of sports, but doing so will make the air in your house uncomfortably dry. For healthy skin, experts recommend somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Consider a humidifier
Counteract dry air in your home from the heater by using a humidifier in the rooms where you spend the most time, like your bedroom. This will add moisture to the air and help keep your skin nicely hydrated.
Don’t overlook the importance of caring for your skin from the inside out. Topical solutions are great, but tackling the issue from the inside as well is a more effective and thorough approach.
Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, flaxseed and salmon, can help counteract dry skin. The vitamin E found in seeds and nuts can help protect your skin from inflammation and sun damage. Avocados are another good choice for counteracting dry skin, hair and nails, which is why they’re often featured in natural face masks. Their high content of vitamin E and monounsaturated fats prevents skin aging and helps retain moisture.
Drink lots of water
Yes, you need to use lots of heavy lotions and balms in winter, but don’t forget that hydration also comes from within. Drink lots of water before, during, and after your outdoor activities. You should drink more water than you think you need, and when you’re heading out for a latte with your friends afterward, don’t forget that caffeine contributes to dehydration.
Watch out for hot baths
A hot bath or shower sounds very inviting after a long day of outdoor activities, but spending a long time in hot water can remove your body’s natural oils and make your skin more vulnerable.
Keep your showers short with water that is warm but not hot, and avoid hot tubs that aren’t well-maintained because they can harbor bacteria that can be problematic for skin. Close the door when you’re taking a hot shower or bath to trap the humidity inside and keep the room warm and moist. After your bath or shower, slather on a moisturizer that can replenish and locks in hydration like Dr. Doug's Original Miracle Balm. This is something you should do immediately as studies show it’s most effective when done right after you bathe.
Don’t let skin concerns keep you inside when you’d rather be hitting the slopes or bundling up for a snowy walk. Keep your skin happy inside and out so you can enjoy every minute of this exhilarating season.