5 simple ways to winter-proof your skin

5 simple ways to winter-proof your skin

Dry skin in winter: 5 ways to protect your skin

Rid yourself of the winter ‘scale’.

Photos: Instagram @emrata

None of us are immune to the effects of ageing on our skin. We dread the wrinkling, the random appearance of strange lumps and bumps and then the winter-related scaly bits on our legs!

Ageing is not always pretty, but thanks to modern medicine there are medical-grade solutions at hand. The ones that really work contain active ingredients and are known as cosmeceuticals. There is now unequivocal scientific evidence that the regular application of cosmeceuticals, including retinoids, antioxidants, emollients, peptides, vitamins, hormones, phytochemicals and many other active agents, improve the skin’s appearance and/or prevent its deterioration.

Here's how to winter-proof your skin.

Continue to use sunscreen

Don’t be fooled into thinking that because we get more sunshine and overcast days we don’t need to protect our skin. UV radiation is not related to temperature and clouds only modestly reduce the intensity of harmful UVB rays and have little effect on UVA.

Use an exfoliant

As we age, the speed at which we shed our outermost layer of skin slows down. Certain treatments that have an exfoliation effect can help these dead skin cells detach and fall off more rapidly than if left alone. By removing the old dead cells we can achieve a ‘lustre’ or ‘gloss’ effect on our skin, as the underlying cells revealed after exfoliation are moisture rich, more reflective and more uniform. This drives younger, plumper cells to the surface and their greater moisture content makes the skin look and feel younger.

Look for cleansing and exfoliation products that include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic acid. AHAs work to remove excess dead cells from the skin’s surface, stimulate healing and turnover, and allow new skin cells to emerge by replacing the old and damaged skin, thus improving skin texture, colour and appearance.

Religiously apply moisturiser

The heating of cold outdoor air during winter months can decrease indoor humidity levels to below 30 percent, which is not much different from the level found in the Sahara Desert. This is one of the reasons we may suffer from dry itchy skin in the colder months (‘winter-itch’) especially as we get older.

Use of a good moisturiser is mission-critical. Luckily the most expensive moisturisers are not necessarily the best. There are lots of well-crafted moisturisers that contain old-fashioned ingredients that outperform many of the newer hyped-up products. Also just because a product contains a particular active ingredient doesn’t mean it will work, so look for moisturisers that also deliver the right amounts of active components such as sunscreen (SPF), antioxidants, vitamins, botanicals, cell-communicators and other restorative agents.

Look for cosmeceutical products with proven ingredients

Damage to our skin is partly driven by the generation of highly reactive and toxic free radicals. Damage caused by free radicals is a key trigger for inflammation and cell breakdown and the cause of wrinkles. Antioxidants will not undo this damage but may boost our natural protection against further damage. Look for products that include certain vitamins and other active ingredients, but keep in mind that regardless of the hype, it is not exactly known which antioxidant or combination is the most effective. As a rule, look for products containing a number of different antioxidants to maximise the potential benefits.

There are thousands of different antioxidants and here are some of the common ones:

Vitamin C (ascorbate, l-ascorbic acid)

There is only one true form of vitamin C and many derivatives. The derivatives include magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate and ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate. It is important when selecting a product to make sure that it contains L-ascorbic acid, as this form of vitamin C has proven results when it comes to rebuilding and maintaining the dermal network. The effects of vitamin C are greatest when used in combination with other antioxidants such as vitamin E and ferulic acid.

Vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols)

Vitamin E is widely used to decrease skin roughness and the appearance of lines. At best, it is modestly effective on its own, and only in high doses. It is more effective in preventing damage from sunlight and smoking.

Vitamin B3 (niacin, nicotinic acid, nicotinamide or niacinamide)

Many cosmeceuticals contain vitamin B3 as a key antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. B3 has been reported to improve the skin’s barrier function, increase collagen production, and reduce pore size and skin blotchiness. However, these effects are modest on their own and only seen with fairly high doses (two percent to five percent).

Polyphenols, flavonoids and carotenoids

Popular cosmeceuticals include extracts from polyphenol-rich plants including white and green tea, rooibos, milk thistle, turmeric, soybean, chocolate, coffee berry, wild yam, dill seed, cinnamon, rosemary, camomile, evening primrose, passion flower, aloe, ginger, gingko, olive oil, acai berry, ginkgo and pine bark to name a few. It is not only one ingredient but usually a combination of chemicals that orchestrates the antioxidant effects of polyphenols.


Retinoids are a family of chemicals that are relatives of vitamin A. The most well-known retinoid is tretinoin (also known as trans-retinoic acid) and there are other forms include retinol, retinal, retinoic acid and retinol palmitate.

Retinoids can significantly reverse the signs of ageing skin and restore a more youthful appearance. Retinoids are still the only topical agents for which there are large controlled clinical trials that support their use in the repair of damage associated with ageing and sun exposure.

Putting it together

The causes of skin ageing are many and varied and skincare alone won’t slow it down. It is important to bolster all systems and focus on internal health. Simple things such as drinking lots of water, getting good sleep, removing sugar from your diet, eating lots of colourful vegetables and getting daily exercise (where you huff and puff) will also give your skin a boost.

Kate is a co-author of the best-selling book Fast Living, Slow Ageing and the Slow Ageing Guide to Skin Rejuvenation.


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