January 2023

Winter weather can bring a whole host of skin problems. We sat down with British Skin Foundation spokesperson and Consultant Dermatologist Dr Adil Sheraz to learn how to look after our skin during the winter. 

Winter poses its own problems with regards to skin conditions. During the winter months our skin does not retain as much moisture as needed. This may be due to a reduction in ceramides. Ceramides, simply put, are lipids or fats in the uppermost layers of the skin that play a vital role in the barrier function. Studies have shown there are reduced ceramides in the skin during winter resulting in dryness, scaling and thus lack lustre skin. You can improve the skin's barrier function by applying regular emollients that contain ceramides and vitamin B.

A number of skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema or seborrhoeic dermatitis tend to deteriorate in the winter. 

Most of the above conditions tend to get better in the sun which is why you may notice your skin flaring the winter.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis is probably the most common of the three and results in a flaky rash sometimes with greasy feeling flakes around the nose, forehead and scalp. This is caused by a yeast that lives on our skin, however due to either an overgrowth or other factors is now causing a rash to develop. 

Both eczema and psoriasis may flare during the winter. With heating being turned on the skin can dry out making it more itchy and prone to flare ups. Also during the winter you're more likely to suffer with strep throat infections, a well known trigger for a type of psoriasis called guttate psoriasis. 

How to look after your skin in the winter:

1) Moisturise: The skin on certain parts of your body is thinner and therefore will lose more fluid. Areas such as your lips, knees, elbows will often look dryer. Most of this ‘drying out’ will occur at night. So make sure you moisturise not only during the day but before sleeping. Consider a humidifier to put back some of that moisture in the air. 

2) Hydration: We tend to drink less water in the winter and will often resort to hot caffeinated drinks which act as diuretics resulting in more fluid loss. Dehydration will give a lacklustre and dull appearance to the skin. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water and not just coffee or alcohol! 

3) Diet: What goes into your body affects the way you look on the outside. Make sure you continue to take in lots of hydrating foods including fruits and vegetables. Foods such as cucumber, spinach and grapefruit have a high water content and are also generally good for your skin. 

4) Exfoliate: A weekly gentle exfoliation will clear the stratum corneum. This is the top few layers of skin which is mostly comprised of dead cells. Clearing this layer will give your skin a more glowing appearance and also allow for better penetration of moisturisers. 

5) Sunblock: A sunblock should ideally be used all year around. Remember that ice and snow will reflect UV light and can even increase the amount of exposure to UV radiation. Depending on your skin type use a high factor sunblock and one with high UVA star rating. This protects against developing wrinkles and importantly reduces skin cancer risk. 

Dr Adil Sheraz, Consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation Spokesperson