Is Cold Weather Harmful for Your Skin?
As the temperatures begin to drop, you may have noticed some changes in your skin, and have likely wondered…
Is the cold weather harming my skin?
In some ways, yes, but in others, no, the cold can actually be beneficial.
Here is everything you need to know…
Common Cold Weather Skin Issues
Let’s begin with some of the most common skin problems that people experience in cold temperatures.
Your skin’s protective barrier sits on the outer layer of your skin, and performs a number of important functions.
One of these is to help your skin retain moisture. It does this by trapping moisture into your skin, preventing it from evaporating into the air.
However, the cold weather can sometimes interfere with this.
Firstly, it strips away the natural oils that make up your skin’s protective layer, leaving it exposed and vulnerable. Secondly, the air tends to be quite dry in cold weather, meaning that moisture ends up evaporating into the air at a much faster rate, especially with a damaged protective barrier.
Fortunately, you can do something about this…
A rich and thick moisturizer can make a huge difference, as this will provide your skin with an extra protective layer, covering over any gaps that have come about from damage to your own natural protective barrier.
Of course, you do need to be using a moisturizer with the right ingredients for this, with key ingredients including:
- Hyaluronic Acid – a humectant, meaning that it draws moisture from the air into the skin, immediately hydrating and plumping up skin cells
- Urea – another humectant that is extremely effective at hydrating the skin
- Ceramides – a glue-like substance that holds your skin cells together, ceramides are fantastic for strengthening your skin’s protective barrier
- Red Algae – extremely hydrating and moisturizing, making it able to replenish the skin’s natural barrier
- Shea Butter – boasts powerful anti-inflammatory properties, while also containing a wide range of vitamins and minerals
- Oils – from jojoba to macadamia to avocado, these oils will not only soften and condition the surface of your skin, but also provide it with a waterproof barrier
One final tip when it comes to boosting your skin’s moisture content…
Make sure that you apply your moisturizer to damp, rather than dry, skin.
Because damp skin already contains moisture particles. Applying your moisturizer over the top of this will trap these water molecules beneath it, ensuring that the only place for them to go is into your skin, rather than evaporating into the air.
You may think that the dry skin that the cold brings would put a stop to your acne breakouts, but the opposite can often happen.
Well, in addition to retaining moisture, your skin’s protective barrier also guards the skin from all of the bacteria, dirt and more that you come across on a daily basis, blocking these from actually entering into the skin.
When this barrier is damaged by the cold, all of those unwanted substances enter the skin at a much greater rate. This not only leads to clogged pores causing breakouts, but also exacerbated breakouts due to infections.
When it comes to treating cold weather acne…
You need to be careful. Many acne treatment products can be quite drying on the skin, stripping it of its natural oils in order to clear breakouts. However, since cold weather acne is caused by a damaged skin barrier, these drying ingredients will only result in even more damage, increasing the frequency and severity of your breakouts.
So, what should you do?
Opt for something gentler, such as salicylic acid. This ingredient will exfoliate the inside of your pores and clear out any debris, without drying your skin out in the same way that other popular anti-acne ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide, do.
Using some of the ingredients mentioned above to strengthen your skin’s natural barrier, such as the ceramides and hyaluronic acid, can also help. However, you may be best off staying away from the heavier ingredients, such as shea butter and oils, if your skin type is oily.
A Rough and Dull Complexion
Many people find that their skin takes on quite a rough and dull appearance in cold weather, and there is a simple reason as to why this happens.
The way in which the cold strips your skin of its natural oils has an effect on the rate at which it naturally sheds its dead skin cells, slowing this down. This means that all of the extra dead skin cells end up settling on the surface of your skin. In some cases, this can cause acne, but in others, it ends up contributing to roughness and dullness.
Again, there is an easy fix to this…
The answer here lies with exfoliating.
Exfoliation will clear away the dead skin cells that are sitting on the surface of your skin, while also giving your pores a deep clean too. Not only that, but exfoliation stimulates the rate at which your body naturally sheds its dead skin cells, speeding this back up, despite the cold.
When it comes to exfoliating, you have two main options:
- Physical Exfoliation: this makes use of an abrasive material, such as a scrub or a sponge, which is rubbed across the skin to physically dislodge dead skin cells
- Chemical Exfoliation: this makes use of specific chemicals that dissolve the glue-like substance that holds dead skin cells to the surface of the skin, allowing them to be removed and washed away
Which one is better?
They both have their pros and cons, but chemical exfoliation tends to be the best option during cold weather.
Because, as mentioned above, your skin’s protective barrier is extremely fragile in the cold. Scrubbing at it, even with a gentle scrub, will only end up damaging it more.
Although chemical exfoliation sounds harsher, due to the fact that the word “chemical” is used, this is actually a much milder and gentler way to exfoliate your skin.
There are two main types of chemical exfoliants out there – AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids).
The main difference between the two is that AHAs target the surface of the skin, while BHAs work deeper in the pores. AHAs tend to be much more gentle, making them the ideal choice for cold weather.
Which AHA should you use?
Lactic acid and mandelic acid tend to be the best for dry and sensitive skin, due to the fact that they are extremely gentle, while glycolic acid is the most effective for all skin types.
Increased Air Pollution
Many people assume that air pollution is a much bigger problem in the summer than in the winter, but the opposite is actually true…
Due to the way in which cold and warm air end up layered together in cold weather, this actually ends up trapping air pollution much closer to the surface of the planet than usual.
Not only that, but fossil fuels tend to be burnt more during the winter months, increasing the number of toxins in the air.
How does this make a difference to your skin?
Well, pollution is actually extremely detrimental to your skin, causing a number of issues such as:
- Premature aging
- Increased risk of skin cancer
- Skin sensitivities
- Discoloration and hyperpigmentation
- Dryness, dullness and roughness
Wondering what you can do about this?
The best way to tackle the skin-damaging effects of pollution is by using plenty of antioxidants in your skin care routine.
What do these do?
Well, when pollutants come into contact with your skin, they trigger the creation and growth of free radicals. These are essentially damaged molecules that end up attacking healthy cells in order to try to heal themselves. Unfortunately, this then turns the healthy cells into free radicals too, resulting in an endless cycle of damage.
Antioxidants put a stop to all of this by healing free radicals, providing them with the parts that they are missing and therefore preventing them from attacking healthy cells.
Of course, with hundreds of different antioxidants out there, how do you know which ones to go for?
Well, just about every one will help, but the very best antioxidants for pollution tend to be the following:
- Vitamins C and E – work together to protect, heal and rejuvenate skin cells
- Peptides – help to increase the production of collagen in the skin, which is broken down by pollution
- Green Tea – repairs the DNA within skin cells while protecting them from further damage
- Resveratrol – not only neutralizes existing free radicals, but also prevents more from forming
- Lycopene – reduces skin damage while also having other anti-aging benefits
How Cold Weather Benefits Your Skin
After reading all of the above, you are probably convinced that the cold does nothing but damage your skin, but this isn’t true…
It may be hard to believe, but the cold weather can actually bring with it a few skin-boosting benefits…
While the size of your pores can’t actually change, they can still look larger or smaller depending on how stretched out they are.
What stretches them out?
Usually oil, dirt and anything else that ends up settling within them, causing their opening to expand in order to accommodate all of these substances.
However, the cold weather can actually help with this…
As mentioned above, the cold strips away some of your skin’s natural oils, while also slowing down the rate at which your sebaceous glands produce sebum.
For some, this can lead to the dry skin problems mentioned above, but for those who naturally have oily skin, the cold weather can be a blessing…
By keeping oil production to a minimum, and also acting as an astringent, the cold weather helps to keep pores looking invisible while reducing the shine that you experience in the warmer months. In this way, cold weather can have the same effect as cleansing, in that pores tend to look smaller and tighter.
Increased Blood Circulation
There are many products and devices out there that are designed to increase blood circulation.
Because this benefits the skin in a number of ways, such as:
- Provides skin cells with a greater amount of oxygen and nutrients, allowing them to thrive
- Increases natural detoxification, enabling your body to remove toxins that would have otherwise contributed to skin problems
- Reduces inflammation, minimizing any puffiness or swelling, especially around the eyes
- Tightens the pores and cuticles, giving the skin a vibrant and rejuvenated appearance, while adding plenty of natural color to the cheeks
What does this have to do with cold weather?
Because cold weather increases your blood circulation, enabling your skin to enjoy all of the benefits mentioned above.
In order for your body to properly fall asleep, your body temperature drops, and this is something that usually happens about two hours after you go to bed. This is why many scientists advise people to keep their bedrooms at a cool temperature in order to improve sleep quality.
It goes without saying that cold weather will automatically drop the temperature of your bedroom, so long as you aren’t using too much indoor heating.
This will help to induce sleep, giving you a much deeper sleep than you otherwise would have had.
This really benefits your skin.
Because while you are asleep, your skin works hard to heal and regenerate itself, doing this at a much greater rate at night than during the day. It produces the majority of its collagen and elastin at night too, both of which are key proteins when it comes to keeping the skin smooth and firm.
In order for your skin to do all of that, it needs your body to be in the deep stage of sleep, which can only really happen when your body temperature has lowered to the optimum level.
As you can see, the cold weather brings both advantages and disadvantages to the skin. In order to cope with the negatives, you will likely need to adjust your skin care routine a bit, so that your skin can make the most of the benefits that the cold weather brings.