Dry skin: How to combat itchy skin in the cold months

Itchy skin has been preying on my mind a lot this week so when I received these top tips and advice from Epionce I knew I had to share them.

Being itchy can be a symptom of menopause, but it can be made worse by cold weather and changes of temperature (and boy, have we seen this in the UK this week. It was my birthday last Tuesday and we sat outside in a beer garden celebrating – in February!)

We think of March being the start of spring in the UK, but it’s still officially winter – and anyway, we all know that the British weather pays no heed to what the calendar says. I’m not expecting any warmer weather until the end of April at least even then, apart from climate change, I’m being optimistic.

Until then, we can more or less bet on it being cold, wet and windy and this can make your skin uncomfortably dry or chapped – the delightful “winter itch”. Colder temperatures constrict your pores and this is what can lead to dryness and dull skin. Some people prone to acne can even find the colder weather causes them to breakout more.

Characteristics of winter skin.png

Top tips to fight winter skin

  • avoid hot showers that pull moisture from your skin. It’s tempting to turn the thermometer up when it’s cold outside, but believe me you’re not doing your skin any good at all. Keep it lukewarm;

  • that also goes for your central heating. Lowering your indoor temperature will stop your skin suffering from a sudden jump from the UK cold outside to the balmy Med in your living room.

  • wear sunscreen every day – even if it doesn’t look sunny outside.

  • you can also consider buying a humidifier to help regulate moisture levels in your house. Not only will it keep your skin’s moisture levels balanced, I find humidifiers help me breathe a little easier, and finally

  • eat nutrient-dense foods and drink plenty of water.

Why you need to wear sunscreen

Out of all of these, I think sunscreen is the one most of us forget about. I find many women my age are dismissive of the need to wear sunscreen in winter – or, in fact, any time or location that isn’t summer at the beach (and rarely a UK beach). It’s easy to see why. When I was a teen, I’d smother my skin in cooking oil (yes, honestly) to get a tan. That’s how we grew up and it’s still a mind-set I see too much, sadly.

Harmful UVA rays are around all year round. They penetrate through clouds and windows and reflect off surfaces such as grass, asphalt and cement – all the things around us. They can also reflect off snow, so watch out you skiers.

Snow reflects the sun’s UVA rays so if you’re heading off for a skiing break, don’t forget the sunscreen

You need to be even more careful if you live at a higher altitude or head off somewhere high for a winter break because UVA rays are stronger the higher up you go. Don’t be confused that this means mountains or the like. I used to live in Madrid, which is about 667m or 2,188ft above sea level. I know it’s Spain, but winter in Madrid is freezing so I was hit with all these factors – cold air, UVA rays because it’s still incredibly sunny and the central heating in offices and at home.

So basically, wearing sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 should become a daily habit, no matter what the calendar says.  

How do I treat dry skin?

Washing can also strip away your body’s oils, so go for a soft, gentle cleanser. Forget soaps – they’re too drying. Instead, I love Superdrug’s Vitamin E Hot Cloth Cleanser. It’s a dupe for the Liz Earle cleanser, only this one doesn’t make my sensitive skin break out. Oh, and be gentle when you dry your face. Gentle pressing is better than a vigorous exfoliation! Yes, we want to remove the dead skin cells, but you should exfoliate in a gentle way, not via a lack of fabric conditioner!

I follow this with The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, which really makes my dehydrated skin feel full and fresh. The little fine lines don’t look as bad, neither. (I’ve also been trying the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% to try and brighten my skin, but I have to say it is doing absolutely nothing for me.)

This time of year should also see you up the level of thickness in your moisturiser to protect and quench thirsty skin. However, I’ve been using the Boots No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Day Cream (Christmas present) and I have to say, I’m not feeling the love at all. I like the Night Cream, but the Day Cream seems thin and weak and doesn’t nourish my skin at all, so if you have any recommendations, send them my way!

When it comes to my body, I’m a good old E45 girl – especially at the minute, as my hormones are rocking away and I have extremely itchy dry skin. I go for the thick cream as I love how sumptuous it feels in winter and it works wonders on my hands and feet. In summer, I go for a lighter body lotion, such as Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Deep Moisture Body Lotion For Sensitive Skin. Neither of these are fancy or sweet-smelling – that’s what my perfume is for – but they’re the only ones that do the job for me. Good old drugstore!

Skincare ingredients to look out for

As well as following these tips, you should also look out for the following ingredients in your skincare products to help:

  • apple fruit extract – a gentle anti-inflammatory ingredient to calm irritation;

  • date fruit extract – not only stimulates collagen, which helps promote glowing, vibrant skin and provides elasticity, but also has anti-inflammatory and barrier-repairing properties;

  • avocado extract – firms the skin and provides anti-inflammatory and barrier-repair properties;

  • safflower extract – works to repair the skin barrier, has anti-inflammatory properties and provides skin-firming benefits, and

  • flax extract (linseed) – provides anti-inflammatory properties and stimulates collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans, which help restore and replenish your skin.

Step it up with a face mask

Masks are an excellent way to give your skin some much-needed TLC at this time of year. Go for something hydrating and smoothing, such as the Epionce Enriched Firming Mask, to counter the harsh weather and help repair the damage.

As well as hyaluronic acid and shea butter, which together help moisturise and hydrate your skin, the Epionce mask also contains willow bark to help the skin shed dead cells, clear pores and stimulate new cell formation.

Apply after cleansing and leave on for 5-20 minutes. You can also leave it on overnight to get maximum hydration.

If you’re in the UK, you may not be familiar with Epionce. It’s a relatively new brand over here, but its founder, Dr Carl R Thornfeldt, is an award-winning dermatologist in the US with more than 30 years’ experience. Thankfully, that means there’s none of that “my skin feels like it’s been kissed by a million unicorns” type hype.

Best of all, Epionce doesn’t use animal testing, either directly or indirectly, and instead its clinical studies are performed on people. The results are then peer reviewed and published before a product goes out.

It certainly stands up to its testing – the brand was a finalist in last year’s Aesthetic Awards at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel in London. (It won the 2012 awards in the US, when it was named Best Anti-Ageing Skin Care Line.)

What do you use to help your skin in winter? I’d love to know – especially any moisturisers! Leave me a comment below…

Also, you may have been wondering what happened to last Friday’s post… Well, I had to go into London for a couple of days for something very special that I can’t share with you right now as I’m sworn to secrecy. Honestly, I had to sign forms and everything. But I can tell you it was extremely emotional and exciting and nerve-racking all at once and I’ll be able to tell you all about it next month.

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Additional photos: Kcxd (CC BY 2.0) No “gifting”, sponsorship or payment was involved in this post.