You winterize your car, you winterize your home, you winterize your wardrobe…but do you winterize your skin? Why do we winterize all of these different things in our lives? The extreme cold, windy, sometimes snowy outdoor air plus super-dry and stuffy indoor winter air contribute to potentially damaging physical changes to the entire body. Even if you don’t live in a naturally cold or temperate climate, your skin will likely still experience certain changes even with subtle fluctuations in temperature, humidity, and precipitation.

Skin that is normally supple and moist becomes tight and dry, and skin that is already on the drier side can become flaky, scaly, even cracked. Simple things like smiling or raising an eyebrow can be downright painful. So how do we fix this? From a Nutritional Aesthetics® perspective, healthy skin in any season is the result of giving the skin the nourishment, hydration, and protection it needs both internally with the right foods, and externally with the right topical regimen, spa treatments, and environmental changes. Today we’re focusing on the topical.

Here are our top 5 topical suggestions for how to winterize your skin:

1. Switch to a less irritating, more protective cleanser. Most water or gel based cleansers–especially those which foam–can strip the skin’s naturally protective lipids away. In the winter, this can be devastating–the skin needs its lipids to keep moisture in, not just for appearances’ sake, but also to help it perform its temperature regulating, immune-boosting, and sensory functions. Instead, try a lotion, milk, or oil cleanser. If you do use soap, be sure it’s an all natural, traditionally made soap, containing nourishing oils and herbs.

2. Use moisturizers that contain with more saturated lipids. Lipids–meaning natural oils, fats, butters, and waxes–are composed of different fatty acid chains of various levels of saturation. The less saturated a lipid is, the lighter and “drier” it is (hemp seed and rosehip seed oils are examples). The more saturated (virgin coconut oil and shea butter are examples) a lipid is, the thicker it is, and longer it remains on the surface of the skin without getting absorbed. The level of saturation each person needs varies, but overall in winter, most people benefit from using more saturated lipids–polyunsaturated and unsaturated lipids will absorb too quickly, leaving the skin wanting more. Sometimes an extra lipid layer in the form of an oil, salve, or balm can make all the difference.

3. Use moisturizers that also contain hydrating ingredients. Though it’s the emollient ingredients that seal the moisture that moisture has to be there in the first place. Though some comes from the inside by drinking water and eating hydrating foods, it’s also important to hydrate from the outside in using humectants such as glycerin and aloe vera. Demulcent herbs, also help bring added moisture into the skin. Marshmallow root (Althaea) and plantain (Plantago major) are examples.

4. Watch the temperature in your bath or shower. Even though it feels so good to take a hot bath or shower when it is cold out, hot water is damaging and drying to the skin. Warm water is best, and apply your moisturizer or body oil while your skin is still damp to lock in that moisture. It’s also really helpful to bathe or shower in filtered water. Tap water contains chlorine in addition to other substances that aren’t just toxic, but also contribute to dry, irritated skin. Using a whole house filter, or even simply a shower filter can make a world of difference.

5. Be mindful of pH. An alkaline diet is trendy these days, for its purported disease fighting power. However, this is a concept that does not translate to topical skincare. The skin naturally is on the more acidic side (its pH typically ranges from 4.5-5.5), and repeatedly using products that are too alkaline can be extremely drying. Even water itself can be drying because its pH is 7. Look for pH balanced, natural products.

For more tips on how to winterize your skin, click HERE to download our Wonderful Winter Skin Guide, this season’s edition of our Integrative Guide to Healthy Skin.

What do you do to winterize your skin?

Please share in the comments below.