End-of-winter skin care basics

By: Alison Dunn Mar 04, 2011

If winter has been tough on your skin, try these tips to keep it healthy

There’s no doubt our harsh Canadian winters can be tough on skin. Going from the cold, dry outdoors into our dry, hot homes isn’t the ideal situation to keep anyone’s skin hydrated.

“The humidity in the air drops in the winter,” says Dr. Lisa Kellett, a Toronto-based dermatologist. “You have the cold, you have the wind and that causes what we call transepidermal water loss, or water loss in the skin. That’s why people have skin that is flaky.”

What can you do to keep your skin healthy after a rough winter? Kellett offers this advice:

  • Skip the shower. If your skin is extra-dry in winter, switch from showers to baths only. Showers are more drying than baths, Kellett says. If your skin is extremely dry, she also recommends adding a few drops of moisturizing oil to your bath to keep skin hydrated.
  • Ditch the towel. The best way to lock moisture into the skin is to actually apply moisturizer directly on to wet skin. Grab your bottle of moisturizer after the bath and apply directly to damp skin, then pat dry.
  • Swap your soap. Some soaps, particularly harsh deodorant soaps, can be quite drying to your skin. Make sure you choose a gentle, moisturizing soap or body wash instead of grabbing your usual deodorant soap.
  • Wash hands with care. There’s no avoiding hand washing this winter, but that doesn’t mean you have to dry out your hands completely, Kellett says. She recommends using a good barrier cream (a cream that sits on top of your skin to prevent water loss) after you wash your hands to keep dry skin at bay. And look for a cream that comes in a pump rather than a jar to prevent spreading germs, which happens when everyone continually dips their hands in a jar.
  • Slather on the SPF. Just because it’s not summer doesn’t mean you can neglect proper sun protection. Kellett says you should use a sunscreen all year on exposed skin of at least 30 SPF (sun protection factor) or higher. “Skin cancer doesn’t care what season it is,” Kellett says. “It can happen in any season.” She also says any dry, flaky skin that doesn’t go away should be checked by a dermatologist.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.