Winter Skin Care

While winter in Calgary is a great time for skating, skiing, snowboarding and cuddling up by the fireplace it can be a horrible time for your skin. Check out advice from Calgary Dermatologists Dr. Paul Kuzel  and Dr. Elaine Dupuis on how to keep your skin feeling and looking great in the winter.

What products do you think are a base necessity to any skin care regime?

Dr. Dupuis: I recommend daily sunscreen application to all of my patients. Sunscreen fights against the damaging effects of UV rays, including skin cancer and signs of aging such as dark spots and wrinkles. A hydrating moisturizer will help maintain a healthy skin barrier and many moisturizers now contain sunscreens. Look for products that have both UVA and UVB coverage and a minimum of SPF 30.

Dr. Kuzel: Everyone should be using a good daily facial cleanser, usually with salicylic acid unless they are too sensitive or overly dry. Similarly, everyone (especially in Calgary!) should have a great moisturizer, ideally one for the face and one for the body. Finally, everyone regardless of skin tone, should have a good quality sunscreen with an spf of at least 30. Then, the basic necessities for skin care start to diverge a little, based on an individual’s age, skin type, underlying skin conditions, etc.

What causes skin to be so dry in the winter and how can I combat it?

Dr. Kuzel:  In the winter, the humidity in the atmosphere drops significantly. In fact, Calgary is one of the driest climates on earth in wintertime! The bigger the difference between the humidity in the air and the moisture level in your skin, the more likely the moisture is to evaporate out of your skin into the environment. The best way to prevent this is to find yourself a good moisturizer and be vigilant with applying it at least twice a day.

The best moisturizers are ones which contain barrier-restoring lipids such as ceramides which help to lock moisture into your skin. The most important time to moisturize is directly after a bath or shower – in fact we say that within two minutes after a shower, you should have pat-dried and moisturized your skin from head to toe. It sounds daunting but by doing so, you will significantly decrease your chances of developing eczema during the winter months. Body washes should also be avoided during showering, as like any soap these can be very drying to your skin, leaching out the essential lipids which help your skin retain moisture.

Will taking longer/warmer showers in the winter have an affect on my skin?

Dr. Dupuis: While bathing can temporarily add moisture to our skin, it is often short-lived as hot water or prolonged exposure ends up drying out our skin even more. Application of a thick moisturizer immediately after showers or baths will help lock in moisture to our skin. . . A thick moisturizer (think “cream”) is best for dry skin on the body. For sensitive skin, I recommend Cetaphil or CeraVe cleansers and moisturizing lotions.

Will sunscreen interfere with my Vitamin D intake?

Dr. Kuzel: Vitamin D has a variety of beneficial effects on the human body.  The link between Vitamin D and the skin is complicated in that sun exposure is the main way by which our skin generates our own endogenous supply of vitamin D. That being said, ultraviolet light exposure has a number of detrimental side effects on our skin, not the least of which is an increased risk of various forms of skin cancer. Studies have never shown a correlation between regular sunscreen use and vitamin D deficiency. So, on balance, it is my unequivocal recommendation to be vigilant with sun protection including regular sunscreen use, as it will lower your risk of developing skin cancer without predisposing you to vitamin D deficiency.

Would a humidifier in my bedroom help prevent/treat dry skin?

Dr. Dupuis: Yes! The infusion of moisture into the air can help fight against dry skin. However, it would not be enough do all the work so applying moisturizers regularly to your skin is necessary.

Are certain skin conditions agitated by winter weather?

Dr. Kuzel: Yes, eczema being the main one. That being said, there are a number of other skin conditions which can worsen during the winter months. Some examples of these include cold-induced hives (cold-induced urticaria), Raynaud’s phenomena (a condition involving constriction of blood vessels on the hands and feet when exposed to cold weather) and even acne. Other examples of skin conditions which can get worse in winter include psoriasis and rosacea.

What are the best budget buys for winter skin care you have seen?

Dr. Dupuis: For those on a budget, I recommend Glaxal Base moisturizing cream or Cetaphil Restoraderm replenishing moisturizer cream – both are gentle on sensitive skin. Keep it simple for lip care with plain Vaseline petrolatum or a lip balm (like La Roche Posay Cicaplast Levres barrier repairing balm) for soothing chapped lips. You can find many packaged gift sets in stores (such as Avène Cicalfate cream for hands). These sets are a great way to try new products and keep skin protected.

Is there anything else that we should know about winter skin care?

Dr. Dupuis: Sunscreen is just as important during the winter season as in the summer. UV rays can penetrate through the clouds year round, contributing to increased risk of skin cancer and premature aging. On sunny days, the snow reflects and intensifies UV light making it easier to burn.

*Interview has been edited for length

Dr. Dupuis can be found at the Institute for Skin Advancement and Dr. Kuzel can be found at Rejuvenation Cosmetic and Laser Dermatology. Check back next week for more information on dermatology and other best skin practices. 

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