The skin is the largest organ in the body, working constantly to protect the body from the negative effects of the outside world. Though there are a variety of external substances and conditions that assault the skin on a daily basis, the most consistent and constant is the weather.
Effects of weather elements on the skin
Geologically, wind and rain are the most damaging weather elements due to the debris and chemicals that they transport. The effects of these elements on the skin can be damaging to the surface layers.
Cold snowy weather can have a profound effect on the condition of the skin, sensitising it and dehydrating it severely. Cold air is naturally drier and, together with the effects of a cold wind and the addition of dry central heating indoors, can dull the skin, drying it to such a point that it becomes itchy and irritated. In extreme cases, skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema may develop.
Caring for your skin in bad weather
Making changes to the skincare regime as the weather changes is the best way to stave off skin problems and to deal with any problems that have already developed. First, it is important to use sunscreen and lip balm year-round, even when the sky is cloudy. The sun’s UVA and UVB rays penetrate the clouds and have profound effects on the integrity of the skin cell structure, resulting in short-term damage, such as sunburn, and long-term damage such as spots, wrinkling, dryness and, of course, skin cancers such as melanoma.
Protecting the skin from weather damage means helping the skin retain its natural oils as well as adding extra moisture as needed. Showering is a time when the skin is at great risk of drying out, so shorten the time spent under the showerhead and turn down the temperature. Hot showers open the pores and allow more moisture to escape. Choose a body wash instead of bar soap, as bar soaps are, with few exception, very drying. After washing, pat the skin dry rather than rubbing and apply a moisturiser while the skin is still slightly damp.
Moisturisers come in two varieties: humectants, which draw the water inside the body up to the skin to rehydrate the surface area; and occlusive, which form a barrier on the surface of the skin that locks in interior moisture. To prevent the loss of moisture, a full body moisturiser should be balm-like and greasy, thick and made with mild ingredients. An exception to this is face moisturiser, which should be oil-free.
When weather damage to the skin does occur, it is still possible to repair and rejuvenate it. Of course, moisturisers and balms can repair the damage over time. For skin conditions, prescription creams may be required to sooth and heal the skin. Additional advice about treating and repairing weather damage to the skin, as well as tips by Dr. Paul Flashner, information about skin treatments such as laser resurfacing and microdermabrasion, may all be found online.