The Face of Winter

Winter, fluctuating from the extremes of cold, dry outside weather to warm indoor air, is damaging to our skin, causing it to be dry, scaly, cracked, and chapped.  Just as we make a transition in our clothing – from lighter layers to thicker warmer layers – we need to do the same for our skin.

If your skin is feeling dry and chapped in the winter, then you might need to change from your usual summer soap and cleanser routine.  The sweaty, oily skin from summer is gone!  It’s time to use a gentle, non-irritating or hypoallergenic soap.  Limit fragrances that might irritate.

Thicker, cream or oil based moisturizers provide the best protection from the dry winter air.  The most susceptible areas are the cheeks, lips and eye regions.  The type you choose largely depends on the dryness of your skin and your tolerance for the greasy feel of the moisturizer.  Oils are definitely greasy, but they seal in moisture well, and block against windburn.  Creams aren’t as greasy, soak in well when you rub them in, and they also trap moisture well.  Lotions tend to add the least moisture, but they soak in to skin quickly so they don’t feel as greasy.  However, many lotions contain alcohol, which helps quicken their absorption, but can also dry the skin.

Be sure to keep all of your skin protected with a sunscreen.  Don’t be fooled by cold weather – the sun reflects off the snow and can cause damage to the deeper layers of your skin.  Use only sunscreens that block both the ultra-violet (UV) type A and B rays.  UVA is present year round and causes skin aging and cancer.  UVB is around mostly in summer and causes sunburn – although with altitude and reflection off of snow, UVB is still present enough to cause horrible sunburn even in winter.

The only sunscreen ingredients that truly block both UV rays are the physical sun blocks, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.  The numerous chemical sunscreens not only don’t block both UV rays but are also linked to hormone disruption, cancer and other health issues.  Finding the correct moisturizers and sunscreens can be daunting, so be sure to ask a licensed skin care professional for the appropriate protection for you and your skin.

Another important factor in keeping skin protected is hydration.  Water seems to be the forgotten factor in the colder months, but it is just as important during winter months as in summer.  Hydration is an important factor to helping our skin stay supple and plays a key roll in the absorption of our skin care products.

Using anti-aging products at home, such as retinol or retinoic acid, may require a shift to a lower strength or even a temporary halt in your program during winter months.  The anti-aging effects of retinol creams are due to the stimulation of skin to exfoliate or clear the skin surface of dirt and dead skin cells.  This is excellent for promoting a youthful healthy glow but can make the skin more tender and susceptible to drying.

Professional Skin Care

It’s also key to remember that in the colder months our blood circulation slows, resulting in a dry, and dull skin tone making it important to keep up with your facials, which increase blood flow rejuvenating your skin and returning a healthy youthful glow.

Professional facials, often thought to be a luxury, should be done routinely to help prevent damage to skin, remove signs of aging, improve skin tone, and prevent acne.  By having a licensed Esthetician monitor your skin monthly, they can spot changes before bigger problems arise.  And as part of their services they can recommend specific products for your home skin care regimen that will help you maintain optimal skin health between facials.

Microdermabrasion is a wonderful procedure that gently exfoliates or removes the dead outer layers of the skin.  Using a diamond tipped wand the skin is gently scrubbed while a vacuum pulls away the surface debris and dead skin cells.  The procedure is painless and simply feels like someone is rubbing a finger across the face.  Microdermabrasion promotes a smooth and healthy skin surface.  Doing a few treatments during winter can help promote skin turnover without the more drying effects of exfoliating creams.

Chemical peels are similar to microdermabrasion but instead of using a physical technique a chemical is used to stimulate skin shedding and turnover.  Numerous chemicals are used to stimulate healthy new skin cells.  We offer a variety of chemical peels, varying from gentle all natural peels, to popular standard chemicals, and even the most aggressive such as Levulan that require special light to “photo-activate” the peel.

Fall and winter is a perfect time to get your laser skin care treatments.  Surface imperfections such as fine lines, dark spots, or surface blood vessels are all treated easily in a 30-minute rejuvenation treatment.  With no downtime at all the rejuvenation procedure is a quick and easy treat for your skin.

Deeper wrinkles and sagging skin are targeted with more aggressive skin tightening treatments such as Pixel or the state-of-the-art CO2 iPixel from Alma Lasers.  These treatments have a bit of social downtime in which it is preferable to be able to stay home and indoors for a few days to begin the healing phase.  Usually within 2-3 days after Pixel, and 4-6 days after iPixel, patients are ready to go back to work or resume regular activities.  I would avoid extreme outdoor activities such as skiing for several weeks after these procedures.

Don’t let the long cold winter months keep you hibernating.  Hydrate, use a quality moisturizer and sunscreen, and see your licensed skin care professional for the proper skin care products and services that will protect you and improve your skin.  Then, get out and enjoy our many Colorado winter activities!


Author

Scott Rollins, MD, is Board Certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.  He specializes in Bioidentical Hormone Replacement for men and women, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia, weight loss and other complex medical conditions.  He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (bellezzalaser.com).  Call (970) 245-6911 for an appointment or more information.

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