Love it or hate it, you can’t go anywhere this time of year without hearing that old familiar tune: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…” Unfortunately, sometimes it feels like Jack Frost is not content with nipping at your nose—it feels like he’s gnawing your face off. But the chill of winter does more than just put you in a deep freeze, it can make wholesale changes to your body, too. So get ready—‘cause baby, it’s cold outside.
Change #1: Dry as a Bone
What’s Happening: Lower humidity during the winter means that the water in your skin evaporates quicker, giving you that tight-as-a-drum, dry and flaky feeling. And don’t think you can escape all that moisture-sucking by heading indoors—central heating in your home or apartment can just exacerbate dryness. Even doing what you think is going to make your skin baby-bottom soft again—like taking a hot shower—can actually have the opposite effect: Turning the temperature dial to “11,” combined with that corner drug-store bar soap you’re using, strips your body of the natural oils that lock-in the moisture in your skin, making you even drier.
What to Do About It: Moisturise, specifically the areas of skin most exposed to the elements like your face and hands. Applying moisturiser after a warm, not hot, shower when your pores are open maximises absorption. If you look like a lobster when you step out, your shower’s too hot.
Change #2: ‘Ello, Ol’ Chap
What’s Happening: The same lack of humidity that dries out your skin also affects your mucous membranes, including your eyes, nose, and, perhaps most notably, lips. Chapping occurs when those thin membranes dry out, making them prone to cracking and blistering. As if that wasn’t bad enough, those cracks can become irritated and infected by bacteria that find their way into the sores from your grubby hands and saliva.
What to Do About It: Chapping lips can be painful and hard to hide, so keep that lip balm or moisturiser close and a water bottle closer. Just like with dry skin, adding a protective layer between the winter air and the affected area can minimise how much moisture is escaping your skin and causing your chapping situation. Also, drinking a lot of water during the winter ensures that your body will be well-hydrated, making it much harder for the cold winter air to suck you dry.
Change #3: Feel the Burn
What’s Happening: There’s a lot of research behind UV exposure and what can be damaging to our skin, but the main point is this: The sun doesn’t change in the winter; you’re just colder (and paler). UVB rays, which are shorter and only affect the outer layer of your skin, are more intense in the summer when the earth is tilted toward the sun—hence the tans. When the earth tilts the other way, UVBs don’t quite reach us.
UVA rays, on the other hand, are always there. Winter, spring, summer or autumn. And the UVAs are the ones that penetrate deeper into the skin and can have hazardous effects. So while you won’t get a tan, you can still get a sunburn if you’re not careful.
What to Do About It: Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. What, you thought it was only something you put on when you go to the beach? Your skin is prone to damage any time you’re exposed to the sun, so regular application of sunscreen is a must unless you want your cheeks to end up looking like shoe leather. If you’ve also got a dry-skin problem you can kill two birds with one stone by using a face moisturiser with added SPF.
Change #4: Down with the Sickness
What’s Happening: Crowded stores, holiday stress, eating junk… that way sickness lies. Winter is the toughest season on your immune system, and not just because there’s more illness flying around. Cold weather may or may not affect how well a cold virus spreads, but there is certainly more opportunity to be around potentially sick people as you and everyone else opt to stay indoors.
What to Do About It: The holidays and being constantly indoors make eating well a difficult proposition in the winter, but if you want to make sure you’re healthy mixing in some fruits, veggies and lots of water with your holiday ham is a must. Eating healthy and staying well-hydrated keeps your immune system in tip-top shape and the viruses and bacteria that make you sick at bay. Also, wash your hands! It’s so easy and normal and what you should already be doing—it shouldn’t even need to be said.
Now that you’re ready to battle the winter elements, go outside and play in the snow—just make sure you’re back before the street lights turn on, ya’ hear?