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The following article was published in Your Health Magazine. Our mission is to empower people to live healthier.
Marie Bowling, Licensed Esthetician
Winter Skin Solutions
Healthy Aging: Face, Body, and Hair

Winter Skin Solutions

Winter weather can stir up all kinds of trouble for the skin, often bringing with it a slew of seasonal villains that can leave skin feeling beat up. Between November and March, one of the most common questions faced by skin care professionals relates to the treatment of dry winter skin. After all it's a condition to which few who live in northern climates are immune. In fact, according to a report from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a whopping 81 million Americans claim to experience dry, itchy or scaly skin during the winter months.

Given the fact that dry skin ages faster and the frequency of the condition also known as “winter itch”, the hope is once you understand the reasons why you are enduring the discomfort of winter itch, you will diligently follow the recommendations for how to remedy it.

To understand skin hydration, it's necessary to look at key components of the stratum corneum (outer most layer of skin) that makes skin impermeable, and protects deeper skin tissue and the body at large from bacterial invasion and other environmental aggressors. The outer most layer of the skin (stratum corneum) is comprised of corneocytes (flattened dead skin cells), proteins, and lipids (skin lubricant and a major factor in ensuring smooth texture). Collectively these components create a physical wall intended to prevent moisture loss.

Flattened dead skin cells (corneocytes) hold water and give skin its strength, along with various other compounds called natural moisturizing factors (NMFs). NMFs attract water. They are essential to skin's flexibility and its ability to hold water. However, they are water soluble, which is why skin dries out from showering, bathing, swimming, and hand-washing.

For the skin to properly protect the body, it must be elastic and flexible, which is only possible when it is properly hydrated. Normal, healthy skin is 20-35percent water. Each day it loses approximately one pint of water through transepidermal water loss (TEWL), the continuous process by which water leaves the body and enters the atmosphere via evaporation and diffusion. However, when humidity drops, as it does in cold-weather months, there's a dramatic increase in TEWL as the dry air pulls moisture from the skin. When the skin's water content drops below ten percent, it begins drying and brings discomfort characterized by redness, itchiness, and flakiness. Add to the mix ongoing or prolonged exposure to irritants, such as soap and even water, and you have a far worse situation.

The result is even drier skin that may crack and even become infected. The skin also no longer exfoliates properly. This is what results in the excessive buildup of dead skin cells on the skin's surface, giving it an ashy appearance. It also results in an overall degradation of skin health; skin can no longer properly heal itself. Solutions to these winter skin problems will be covered in the December edition.

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