4 Ways to Support Healthy Skin for a Non-Stop Winter Glow
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, said no one’s skin ever.
While there are certainly wondrous features of wintertime (hot chocolate, hearty stews, cozy clothes, crackling fireplaces, and holiday celebrations), this season can be supremely taxing on your skin. The dry, cold breath of winter can suck the moisture right out of your epidermis (outer skin layer), leaving your skin cracked, dull, flakey, itchy, red, scaley, and tight. But just because winter is closing in doesn’t mean your skin is doomed. In the same way we winterize our wardrobe, we can winter-proof our skin.
Glowing Skin Starts in the Gut
Our skin is our largest organ and can only perform its functions (i.e., protection against pathogens, temperature control, water retention) optimally when in a state of homeostasis. So, in short, healthy skin really starts from within [your gut], and what’s good for your gut, ultimately, is good for your glow.
The skin microbiome, like the gut microbiome, is a rich ecosystem that supports a diverse population of microbes. Both microbiomes play an integral role in immune function. Researchers are beginning to understand there is actually a direct line of communication between the gut and skin via the gut-skin axis. Gut imbalance can disrupt skin function leading to higher immune system response and various skin issues. Studies have also stated that “the intestinal microbiome contributes to skin allostasis, the restoration of homeostasis after a disturbance or stressor, through gut-microbiota-mediated effects on both innate and adaptive immunity.”¹
The more the gut microbiome is studied, the more we are beginning to realize that it is connected to and has an influence over the function of our mind and body, which is why taking care of it is paramount to comprehensive health and beautiful skin this winter and all seasons to come.
Why Does Your Skin Dry Out in the Winter?
While humidity might not be a friend of our hair, it is to our skin. Low or no humidity is a classic characteristic of winter, and the lack of moisture in the air is greatly responsible for the lack of moisture in our skin. To make matters even drier, to escape icy outside temperatures, many of us crank up the heat indoors, which also has a strong drying effect. Throw in some skin-chapping wind, fewer hours of sunshine (vitamin D is a potent anti-inflammatory), more handwashing (winter = flu season), and then a heavy dash of holiday stress and overindulgence, and it becomes clear as ice why our skin suffers during this season.
No one wants skin that’s dry and irritated, but there is a much deeper reason beyond esthetics why maintaining skin health throughout the changing seasons is important. Our skin serves as an invaluable barrier against the outside world (blocking out bacteria and other environmental hazards). It is also teeming with essential and hardworking microbes that collectively form our skin microbiome. Our skin can offer insight and alert us—via a rash, unusual mole, or a change in color—to health problems too.²
Winter is coming, but winter skin doesn’t have to.
How to Hydrate and Nourish Your Skin This Winter
Winter might be hard on your skin but supporting your skin during this season isn’t hard to do.
Eat a skin health-supporting diet
A balanced and fully personalized diet regimen to support healthy skin provides essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that our skin cells need to regularly repair and regenerate. Eating for skin health can support healthy function, quality, and appearance of your skin—plus, what’s good for your skin cells is good for all the cells in your body. Your skin wants plenty of vitamin A, vitamin B5, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc.
To supply this to your skin, you can start by finding out if these skin-healthy foods are right for your body: almonds, avocado, blueberries, broccoli, carrots, citrus, extra virgin olive oil, flax oil, hemp seeds, kale, pomegranates, pumpkin seeds, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and walnuts. All of these are great possibilities to add to your winter diet.
Two recipe ideas:
Oatmeal with Pomegrante & Citrus
Bonus: A fiber-rich, plant-based diet feeds your gut microbiome, which is home to 70-80% of your immune cells³—a skin health-supporting diet will also support immune function, which we all know is extra important during the flu and holiday season.
Water is the main component of our cells and tissues and represents more than half of our body composition. Water plays an essential role in helping us maintain homeostasis, and a deficiency has been associated with dermatological dysfunction.⁴ When we are dehydrated—it is believed that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated⁵—our skin can appear lackluster because insufficient water is being transferred to the skin. On the flip side, when we are adequately hydrated, our skin can appear more plump, elastic, and radiant.
In the winter, when we are less likely to sweat or feel hot, it is easier to forget to drink sufficient water. But whether it is summer or winter, we need the same basic amount of water (which varies based on weight, activity level, and climate).
Tip: Hydrating isn’t exclusively tied to drinking water; you can also eat hydrating (watery) foods like watermelon, cucumbers, and celery.
Turn down the heat
Of course, you want to maintain a level of comfort in your home, but the lower you set your thermostat, the better it is for your skin. Heat in the house can be as drying for your skin as the chill outside. Limiting prolonged high temperatures indoors also extends to shower and bath time. While a scolding hot shower might feel heavenly, it is actually quite harsh on your skin. Dial back the heat a little and reduce the amount of time you spend taking a steamy shower to save your skin.
Tip: Try a humidifier in your house to add moisture back into the air during this dry winter season.
Whether in the heat of summer or the depths of winter, a proper skincare routine is vital for maintaining skin health. While everyone’s routine will differ based on factors such as skin type, it is important to properly clean, protect, and moisturize your skin regularly. In the winter, proper pampering means you:
Do moisturize right after you bathe (pat your skin dry and then apply a fragrance-free rich moisturizer for best moisture-locking results)
Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, peptides, plant-based squalene, shea, and lightweight oils like jojoba are super moisturizing, strengthening, and restoring ingredients.
Don’t forget to protect and keep your hands and lips moisturized throughout the day
Do treat yourself to a facial or professional treatment
Don’t forget to wear sunscreen even on cloudy days
Salem, I., Ramser, A., Isham, N., & Ghannoum, M. A. (2018, July 10). [Details on the gut-skin axis]. Frontiers in microbiology. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from PubMed Central.
Walker, D. W., Smigaj, M., & Tani, M. (2020, October 12). [The benefits and negative impacts of citizen ... - wiley online library]. WIREs Water. Retrieved October 31, 2022, from onlinelibrary.wiley.com
Wiertsema, S. P., van Bergenhenegouwen, J., Garden, J., & Knippels, L. M. J. (2021, March 9). [Information on the gut microbiome, immune system, infectious diseases and nutrition]. Nutrients. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from PubMed.gov
Palma, L., Marques, L. T., Bujan, J., & Rodrigues, L. M. (2015, August 3). [Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics]. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from PubMed Central
Taylor, K., & Jones , E. (2022, October 3). [Adult dehydration]. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from PubMed.gov