Why does skin get dry in winter?
Epidermis is the outer layer of the skin. The top layer of epidermis contains dead cells, which bind water, and natural moisturising factors (NMF) that keep skin moist. Dead cells together with some other structures form a barrier which protects our bodies from various parasites.
If the human skin is exposed to low humidity even if only for a few hours, moisture in the outer layer of the skin decreases and the skin becomes rougher. Skin needs time to adjust to new environment. However, if a person is exposed to certain humidity for a prolonged period of time the skin adapts. In a climate with low humidity skin starts producing a lot of NMF and the barrier function is enhanced. In a climate with high humidity its production of NMF deteriorates and the barrier degrades. Therefore, when the skin adapts to a high humidity environment, its capacity to respond to external changes is decreased.
Now let's see what happens in the UK during winter. Relative humidity in winter is very high, however, heating dries out a lot of moisture at home, at night heating is often turned down. There is a lot of fluctuation in moisture levels - from high humidity outdoors and possibly at night to low humidity during the day when indoors - skin struggles to adjust and starts drying out, roughens.
|The same castle in summer and in winter on a foggy day|
In summer humidity levels are the same at home and outdoors, so skin adapts to whatever level of humidity there is. Humidity level is a lot lower in summer in than it is in winter, so the skin barrier is stronger in summer, moisture level in the skin does not fluctuate and, as a consequence of this, skin feels nice and smooth.
There are other factors to watch out for in summer such as excessive exposure to sun or wind that may also dry out your skin.
How can you keep your skin moist?
- If possible, avoid abrupt changes in humidity levels. You may consider acquiring a humidifier.
- Prevent skin from losing moisture by using sun creem and mild cleansers (harsh cleansers damage the protective barrier and reduces skin moisture and smoothness).
- Apply creams and lotions that have hydrating ingredients.
- Drink lots of water. Although drinking water does not moisturise dry skin, it is generally beneficial for you as it stimulates cell activity, enhances nutrient absorption, detoxification.