Dr Denning's Top 5 Dos and Don'ts for your skin this winter

As the temperatures drop and the central heating goes on, you've probably noticed your skin becoming drier and more sensitive. Here I explain why and give my 5 top tips to help take care of your skin as we head into the depths of winter.

Most people’s skin gets drier and more sensitive in the winter months. When the temperature outside starts to drop, so does the humidity and the air becomes dryer. To make things worse we crank up the radiators to stay warm inside, drying out those environments too.

The uppermost layers of your skin are called the stratum corneum, and they act like your skin's shield protecting what's inside, while keeping out environmental elements. This stratum corneum is made from about 10-15 micrometers of dead-cell skin and plays an important part in keeping natural moisture inside the skin. With the changes that come with winter weather, our stratum corneum starts to dry out, opening up the skin's natural barrier. When the barrier function is compromised yet more moisture leaks out from its surface, further drying out the skin. People often find when their skin becomes dry it is itchy and end up scratching, further compromising the barrier function.

To stop this self perpetuating dryness cycle, there are a few things you can try:

  1. It is important to replace some of the hydrolipid barrier that is diminished when the weather cools down. I often point patients in the direction of Curel's sensitive, dry skincare range. This whole system is focused on repairing the skin’s barrier and replacing lipids and ceramides and is perfect for the transition into winter weather and preventing the skin from drying out. The Japanese company's 'double moisturising' ethos is new to the UK but the first moisturising step with "facial lotion" (although to us Brits it looks more like a toner) helps optimise the skin’s surface for lipid penetration by priming the skin to the correct pH and creates a lipid gradient helping the second moisturiser to penetrate deeper into the epidermis. This is suitable for both oily and dry skin types feeling the effects of cold weather as the range is low in oil content and has a lighter second moisturiser for those who don’t like a heavy cream. To top it off it can be bought at a reasonable price in your local Boots or online here.

  2. Consider replacing your AHA and BHA exfoliating serums for ones that contain PHAs instead which are less drying and gentler on sensitised skin. PHAs (or 'polyhydroxyacids') exfoliate the surface but don't penetrate as deeply due to their higher molecular weight. Look for ingredients such as lactiobionc acid and gluconolactone in cleansers and moisturisers. Not only do they gently exfoliate but they help repair the skins barrier as well as being rich in antioxidants which help prevent further skin damage from free radicals. I recommend Neostrata's Restore range for gentle exfoliation of sensitive skin.

  3. Choose moisturisers that have lanolin or cetyl (rather than ethyl or isopropryl) alcohols as they're kinder, lipid based alcohols which are more hydrating.

  4. Cool down and shorten your showers to avoid more moisture evaporating from the skin. It helps to moisturise immediately after with a thicker moisturiser

  5. If you're waking up feeling dry then it might be worth investing in an air humidifier to help increase your bedroom air moisture levels and stop your skin drying out over night

If you continue to have issues with your skin this winter, make sure you book an appointment with your local friendly skin expert to examine you and give you bespoke advice on how you can best get through the cold months as smoothly as possible.