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Looking After Skin During Cold Weather

By: Jody Ehrhardt - Updated: 16 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Frostbite Frostnip Skin Conditions Dry

With all of the hype surrounding skin cancer, premature ageing and sun induced skin damage, almost everyone is aware of the precautions that must be taken during the warmer months of the year to keep skin as healthy as possible. Unfortunately, though, too many people are unaware that similar precautions need to be taken during the cold winter months as well. From overly dry skin to the development of frostbite, cold weather can really take its toll on your skin. However, with a little know how and an ounce of prevention you can avoid cold weather catastrophe and keep your skin healthy and glowing.

Dry Skin

One of the most common skin conditions brought on by cold weather is the development of severely dry skin. Dry skin occurs more often during colder weather because cold air is often drier than warm air, and this lack of humidity leaves your skin feeling (and often looking) thirsty. Dry skin usually appears in patches, and can be unsightly and even uncomfortable. Once you notice the appearance of dry skin the best remedy is to use an alpha hydroxyl cream to slough off the dead skin cells, and then follow with a moisturiser. If your dry skin has become itchy, you can also apply a topical anti-itch cream to combat the discomfort.

To prevent dry skin from occurring in the first place, you should add a moisturiser to your daily skincare routine. If the idea of applying a heavy moisturiser to your skin leaves you less than willing, you can easily use a moisturising makeup base for daytime and save the application of an intense moisturiser for nighttime while you sleep. Adding this simple step to your cold weather skincare routine can help keep dry skin at bay.

Sun Damage

One of the most common mistakes people make in protecting their skin during the winter months is leaving the house without sun block. However, just because it’s colder outside in February than it is during June doesn’t mean that the sun is doing any less damage to your skin. In fact, it can often be worse if you are outdoors when there is snow on the ground, which will reflect the sunlight even better than water. To protect your skin from the damage that the sun can do (including drying, wrinkles, and even skin cancer); simply apply sun block just as you would during the warm summer months. You can even eliminate the extra step by using makeup or hydrating lotion that contains an SPF of at least 15. This will protect your skin from sun damage whether you are hitting the slopes or shovelling your driveway.

Overexposure to the Cold

There are two main skin conditions that can result from overexposure to the cold—frostnip and frostbite. These cold weather skin conditions can occur anytime you are outdoors for an extended period of time, even if the temperature is not below freezing.

  • Frostnip—this is the freezing of the top layers of skin. It typically affects the ears, cheeks, and small appendages such as fingers and toes. It occurs in these areas because they are farthest away from the heart, so there is less blood flow to keep them from freezing. To prevent frostnip, it is important to wear loose fitting clothing and gloves (cutting off circulation will only decrease the amount of heat the appendages receive), and to keep these areas as covered and dry as much as possible. If you experience numbness, notice a hard and rubbery sensation to the top layer of skin, or develop white and waxy skin, you may have frostnip. To reverse the effects of the cold, blow warm air on the affected area or place that area on a warmer part of the body. Do not rub the area as this can cause permanent skin damage.

  • Frostbite—this is the actual freezing of the tissue in which ice crystals form inside the skin and can destroy the tissues and even cause you to lose the affected appendage. Frostbite has similar symptoms as frostnip, but instead of the wooden feel only on the superficial layers of skin, it will have that same sensation throughout. If you think you may have frostbite, you should place the affected area in warm water (not hot) and then wrap loosely with gauze. Do not re-warm the area until it can be kept warm for at least thirty minutes. If normal sensations haven’t returned by this time, seek medical help. It is also very important, as with frostnip, to avoid rubbing the skin to warm it, as this can result in the ice crystals inside the skin doing even more damage.

Although cold weather can have many harmful effects on your skin, there are numerous steps you can take to prevent them. By simply keeping your skin warm, as covered as possible, moisturised, and blocked from too much sun, you can help your skin keep its beauty and health throughout the entire winter.

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