January is traditionally the coldest month in Canada with temperatures hovering around -30 degrees in many parts of the country. This month, we ask out resident dermatologist, Dr. Lisa Kellett for practical advice on soothing winter-ravaged skin.
Cosmetics: How does cold weather affect skin?
Dr. Lisa Kellett: In northern climates such as Canada, a drop in the temperature results in a drop in humidity levels. This means your homes and offices are much drier than in Spring or Summer. Because of the lower humidity levels, I see more patients complaining of “dry skin.”
C: Do most people need to change their skincare regime in the winter?
Dr. LK: Many patients want to switch to a thicker moisturizer in winder and avoid products which might be drying.
C: What is windburn?
Dr. LK: Windburn occurs with environmental exposure and subsequent transepidermal water loss resulting in flaky, irritated skin.
C: Should we switch to a lower SPF product in winter since the sun is less strong?
Dr. LK: Patients should always use an SPF of 30 or higher daily year round as it can still be quite sunny in winter. Don’t judge the strength of the sun by the temperature outside. Always wear broad spectrum block.
C: What causes those little red dry patches on skin in winter?
Dr. LK: There are a number of different skin eruptions that can occur during the winter. The most common is called asteatotic dermatitis which is scaly, red, irritated patches. Once again the best treatment is prevention using baths with bath oil instead of showers and soap. Prescription medication can be prescribed to quickly treat the dermatitis.
C: What advice do you give patients regarding caring for their skin in winter?
Dr. LK: Avoid drying deodorant soaps, apply a protective barrier cream after bathing, take warm baths, and use an SPF of 30 or higher daily. These simple steps can make a big difference in how the skin feels and looks.
C: Does the scalp need to be protected in winter as well?
Dr. LK: Yes, I recommend wearing a hat and using a gentler shampoo.
C: What advice do you have for protecting young children’s skin?
Dr. LK: Remember to use sun protection on children in winter. Keep young children covered at all times and don’t forget that little finger, toes, ears and noses are more susceptible than ours to frostbite. So don’t over expose.
C: Is there anything else our readers should know about how skin reacts to winter weather?
Dr. LK: No matter how cold it is, skin can still burn from sun exposure in winter.