As we all now know from all this snow we have been having, when cold weather bumps up against a warm front, a storm ensues. This is a pretty great analogy when thinking about what happens to our skin in a moderately extreme winter climate. When the less-moist temperatures drop outside and the dry heat goes up inside, a storm of conflicting conditions arise resulting in unbalanced, dry and irritated skin.
The skin is part of our immune system and as such it “reads” our environment adjusting itself to protect the body. When external temperatures drop to the point when our natural “shiver factor” sets in and goosebumps occur on the skin from the activated erector pili muscle, an internal alarm is sounded to protect the bodies core. The skin then willingly gives up its supply of naturally protective water, nutrients and oils to send to the home front recognizing that our fashionably slim, reduced-fat bodies need help. (visualize Eskimos)
Then we walk inside – wearing our layers and wraps and coverings – into a blast furnace with all moisture and oxygen sucked out of the air. Our poor skin doesn’t stand a chance. If you add to the mix that perhaps hormone shifts have caused a natural loss of skin oils or you are super-exfoliating the skin with retinoid or acid preparations or skin scrubbing, dermatitis is sure to set in.
“Dermatitis” is a name for any irritated skin condition. Whether it is caused from exposure to sensitizing allergens or just winter weather, the skin reaction is the same. The skin as part of the immune system reacts against the sensitizer and releases histamines (causing redness, itchiness, rashes) and in advanced cases, lymphatic white blood cells crash the skin site creating pimple-like bumps.
Like most things in life there are two strategies for dealing with this problem; #1 prevention and #2 remedies.
Prevention tips: With dramatic weather shifts, what works to care for the skin at one part of the year, fails in another. So to prevent any immune system reaction resulting in dermatitis, you must coat the skin with extra layers of breathable product on a daily basis; products with extra *skin-friendly oils and heavy dozes of vitamins plus hydration serums and soothing herbal blends. This extra coating is simulating what your skin would normally produce on its own if we took away the triggers that cause it to diminish (temperature shifts, hormones). Lessen the aggressive scrubbing and replace with gentle enzyme exfoliation only. If you are spending lots of time outdoors with winter sports, consider applying a layer of non-comedogenic oil or unpetroleum jelly to your face to protect your skin and blood vessels.
Remedies: Once your skin is in a reactive state with irritated dry redness, what works in a normal skin renewal routine may not work. Skin renewal products such as what I might give someone, or what you might buy over the counter, are aimed at getting the skin to turn over cells faster and slough itself, exactly NOT what you want to do with irritation present. So if your skin is in this state, stop all retinoid or acid products, stop all scrubs and exfoliants and do the opposite; de-stimulate. Apply cold compresses, splash skin with colloidal oatmeal infused water, apply salves with *skin-friendly oils & herbs, coat the skin with vitamin E and if the reaction will not stop then try a thin layer of cortisone jelly (not the creme form which can clog the skin). Once the skin has balanced then consider adjusting your basic skin routine to prevent further reactions.
These tips form a great guideline but if you want some specific direction or some products customized just for you, please consider a consultation with me. Click here for more information. If you are having an acute reaction and are not working with a physician, consider this skin treatment I can provide. Please share this article with anyone you think might find it helpful – thank you!
12/12/13 “Hi Jane,
You were so nice to take the time to notice and ask about the 2 rashy spots on my hand at my facial the other day. You suggested your hand and body lotion and whipped up a bottle with a few extra ingredients for me before I left. It has been 3 days that I have been applying the lotion to the breakout of rashes on my hand, back, arms and legs. I had tried cortizone and prescribed steroid creams and Eucerin lotion for the last 6 weeks without luck — still itchy (keeping me up at night), red and not resolving. Well, I am seeing results with your hand and body lotion! The bumpiness has relaxed, not itchy last night = SLEEP, redness diminishing and I think I may just be on the road to recovery, thank goodness!
Two Lessons Learned: Always consult with Jane with skin issues immediately as she always has a solution. And never be shy to tactfully use your expertise to help others. If you had not inquired of my rash on my hand I would still be itching!
Thanks so much for what I refer to as ‘your magic’! And please feel free to share this story with others as I am sure I am not the only one that gets these lovely rashy breakouts – especially in this weather!