07 Dec 12 Reasons You Age Faster in Winter
We often associate winter with dry, flaky and pale skin, but neglect to realize just how the cold weather might be enhancing signs of aging.
There’s significantly less moisture in the air
Perhaps the most obvious aspect of wintertime is the fact that it’s cold and dry—two characteristics that don’t bode well for youthful-looking skin. “The dry, harsh environmental conditions in wintertime often disrupts the skin’s equilibrium, causing redness and sensitivity,” says Ted Lain, MD, Austin-based dermatologist. “This sensitivity can make us susceptible skin conditions like rosacea, which tend to worsen in the winter and, over time, can lead to premature aging.”
You’re more stressed out
“Unfortunately the holidays and all the expectations surrounding them increase our stress level,” says Dr. Lain. “An increase in the stress hormone, cortisol, can have deleterious effects on the skin, again causing premature aging and poor tone and texture.” He recommends incorporating some rest and relaxation time now and then, whether it’s watching a movie at home or having a spa day; that will give you (and your skin) a chance to recoup.
You don’t regularly apply sunscreen
Sunscreen is important year-round, even in the wintertime on the cloudiest or snowiest of days. “While UVB rays decline in intensity during the winter months, UVA rays do not, and these are the ones responsible for most of the DNA damage that leads to skin cancer and premature aging,” warns Dr. Lain. For this reason, he recommends that all his patients wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 year-round.
You’re using the same skin care products as you did in the summer
The wintertime, with its dry, harsh environmental conditions, calls for its own set of skin care products that contain different ingredients than the ones you rely on to combat summer’s heat and humidity. It’s best to incorporate ultra-hydrating ingredients such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid, which holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water.
Your showers are way too hot
Especially in the wintertime, when the weather outside is freezing cold, it feels amazing to warm up in a super hot shower. But doing so only dries out your skin more. “Hot water strips the natural oils from your skin, leaving it dry and vulnerable to cracking, especially in the winter,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York City. “I believe that it’s important to ‘soak and grease,’ which means spend at least 20 minutes in a lukewarm shower or bath and then immediately apply moisturizer to the skin after bathing.”
You’re using cleansers that are too harsh
“Dry skin can no longer protect nerve endings, leaving the skin more vulnerable and susceptible to irritants, such as cleansers with chemicals that can burn the overexposed, cracked skin,” explains Dr. Engelman. For this reason, she recommends using oil-based cleansers during winter, which eliminate impurities without drying out the skin. “Essentially the oil binds to the oils on your face and the cleanser rinses them away, without stripping your skin of its good natural oils,” she adds.
You rely more on comfort foods
As the saying goes, “you are what you eat,” and that goes for your skin, too. Although it can be tempting to reach for more hearty and caloric foods when the temperatures are so low, healthy skin requires a blend of fresh fruits and vegetables. Karin L. Hermoni, PhD, Head of Science and Nutrition at Lycored recommends eating a combination of different natural phytonutrients from fruits, vegetables, and spices, which can work synergistically to provide better benefits for your body and its largest organ: Your skin.
You’re exposed to less sunlight
“Vitamin D and vitamin K levels drop in the winter, and are associated with darker circles under the eyes, giving the appearance of significant aging due to paler, more transparent skin,” explains Patricia Wexler, MD, New York City dermatologist and founder of Wexler Dermatology. Instead of sneaking into a tanning booth, try applying a tan bronzer to help add youthfulness and color back into pale, tired-looking skin.
You’re more sedentary
It’s only natural that you’re less active in the winter time when the freezing-cold weather has you bundled up indoors. However, it’s still important to incorporate physical activity at least a few times a week. Neglecting your fitness will ruin your mood, raise your weight, and it could increase inflammation in your body—which is the source of heart troubles and numerous other age-related illnesses, warns Dr. Wexler.
You’re cranking up the heat indoors
Indoor heat is a godsend in the wintertime, but couple it with the low-humidity of most modern heating systems and you’re left with dry skin and frizzy hair that’s less youthful in appearance. A simple fix is to use a humidifier, which will allow your skin to remain with more moisture.
You’re still exfoliating several times a week
Even if you enjoy a nice skin exfoliant during the rest of the year, Jerome Garden, MD, dermatologist and director of the Physicians Laser and Dermatology Institute in Chicago, recommends skipping it during the winter. “Our skin is usually drier due to the weather and dry air, so further drying it out with washes or scrubs will cause more damage,” he says. “Wash your face in the winter only once a day (unless very sweaty or dirty) and use a gentle soap, such as Cerave, Cetaphil or Vanicream.”
You’re over-washing your hands
It’s certainly better to over-wash your hands than under-wash them in the winter when the flu is spreading like wildfire—but the combination of water and soap can dry out your skin even more. For this reason, Dr. Garden recommends limiting hand washing to only when it’s needed, using lukewarm water, wearing gloves while washing the dishes, and, most importantly, using a thick cream or ointment (such as petroleum jelly) after every hand washing.