General Medical · Health

Medical Monday: Top 10 Tips for Winter Skin Health

Several months ago, dermatologist/dermatologic surgeon Anetta Reszko, a member of our Medical Advisory Board, wrote for us a three-part Series, “COMPLEXION: Treatments for Mature Skin.”  Here’s an update on her comprehensive primer on medical treatments for, and products designed for, mature skin.

1. Eat a Balanced Diet and Stay Hydrated

Eat a healthy diet full of nutrients and vitamins to keep your skin, hair, and nails looking and feeling healthy. During winter months, supplement your diet with essential fatty acids (EFAs) and minerals, especially zinc and selenium.


  • Omega-3 fats, found in fish such as salmon, sardines, and fish oil
  • Gamma-linolenic acid, such as evening primrose oil
  • Zinc-rich foods like oysters, pumpkin seeds, beef, crab, lima beans, and chickpeas
  • Natural selenium sources like Brazil nuts, shiitake mushrooms, salmon, shrimp, eggs, and garlic

Stay hydrated. Skin is designed as a protective barrier to keep moisture in and environmental stressors such as bacteria and allergens out. But cold winter air has extraordinarily low moisture content. Especially when combined with wind, cool air dramatically dehydrates the skin. Keratinocytes—skin cells—are like interlocking blocks. Lack of hydration and resulting dry skin causes gaps between individual keratinocytes, resulting in progressive and worsening skin dehydration, increasing so-called transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and leading to skin inflammation (redness, scale formation, itchiness).

Dr. Reszko’s Tip: Dehydrated and inflamed skin is also more prone to develop contact allergies. Avoid products with fragrances, preservatives, and lanolin. Lanolin is a common component of moisturizers and a known source of contact dermatitis, especially in older individuals.

2. Winterize Your Moisturizer

As the weather conditions change, so should your moisturizer. Find an “ointment” oil-based, rather than water-based, moisturizer. Oily base will create a protective layer on the skin that retains more moisture than a cream or lotion. In general, ointments are more hydrating than creams, and creams are more hydrating than lotions.

Dr. Reszko’s Tip: Look for moisturizers containing “humectants,” a class of substances (including glycerin, sorbitol, and hyaluronic acid) that attract and retain moisture of your skin and ceramides [waxy lipid molecules found within the skin]. Ceramides are the key component in restoring the barrier function of the skin. Together with cholesterol and saturated fatty acids, ceramides create a water-impermeable, protective organ to prevent excessive water evaporation. Note that normal aging is associated with a decline in ceramide synthesis, requiring additional supplementation.

Another Tip: After applying a moisturizer, immediately cover the area with clothing to enhance absorption and prevent evaporation. Maintenance of the skin barrier is more valuable than treatment after the skin is already dehydrated, red, dry, and itchy.

3. Protect your face

If your face is uncomfortably dry, avoid using harsh peels, masks, and alcohol-based toners or astringents, all of which can strip vital oils from your skin. Instead, use a cleansing milk or mild foaming cleanser, a toner without alcohol, and masks that are “deeply hydrating.”

Choose appropriate oils for the face. Look for “non-comedogenic” (non-clogging) oils, like avocado oil, primrose oil, or almond oil.

Dr. Reszko’s Tip: The popular body moisturizer shea oil/butter might be too clogging for the face

4. Use Sunscreen

Sunscreen isn’t just for summertime. Winter sun, in combination with reflecting snow glare and higher altitudes of ski slopes, can be as damaging as a day at the beach Apply a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) mineral (with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) sunscreen to your face and your hands about 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every 2 hours.

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  • Ann March 2, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Great review! I wish it was published 2 months ago!