For dry skin, that is! Can you tell? Chapped lips, dry elbows and knees, and cracked heels seem to be just part of the winter season. Whether you have oily, combination, or dry skin, winter takes a toll on any skin type. Dry skin starts with the change of the season due to; less humidity in the air, turning on indoor heat, and the exposure to the cold wind that seem to suck the hydration right out of us. And of course, those steamy hot showers that feel so good when it’s cold outside aren’t helping either. But what really is dry skin? The outer layer of skin, the stratum corneum, is a mixture of mostly dead skin cells, water and lipids that create a cohesion of protection. One of the skin’s main jobs is to be the first line of defense against bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms entering the body. It does this by creating an invisible barrier comprised of oil and water, which normally doesn’t mix, but in the skin, oil and water work synergistically. This lipid barrier keeps water and hydration in and invaders and environmental assaults out. So how can we combat it? Most of us use lotions and creams to treat our dry skin issues. But that’s just treating the outside. There are many things that contribute to dry skin. Yes, the environment does affect it, but also, hormonal changes can impact the skin’s ability to hold water, which can be from thyroid issues or even just aging in general. Stress, poor nutrition, and less water consumption play a role as well. Our skin is a reflection of internal factors as well, so the solution to dry skin isn’t just topical. We need to treat the skin from the inside out. First, supporting the body’s natural hydration should begin by giving it the nutrition it needs. Our skin’s cells can’t have a healthy amount of water and oil without having it first internally. Healthy oil consists of fatty acids, linoleic acid, and lecithin, found in nuts, egg yolks, and fish. Good fats and good oils help our cells hold onto hydration, not letting water escape out of the cell or out of the skin. Contrary to popular belief, oil isn’t always bad. Most companies boast that their products are “oil-free”, but oil is healthy when you need it to seal in some water! That’s what our skin does naturally! It produces oil on the surface of the skin to seal in the hydration and water underneath. Applying an oil high in omega 3, like jojoba oil or a ceramide, on top of a hydrator mimics the skin’s natural moisturizing process. Since oil and water don’t mix and hydrophobic ingredients like ceramides are water repelling, they push the water back into the skin and prevent evaporation. I know it’s a “new” concept to suggest applying oil on the skin, but it really isn’t a new idea. The practice of using oil for the skin can be dated back thousands of years ago. Only in the last century have we forgotten about its beneficial effect on the skin. Where can we get water? Water can be found, not just in a plastic bottle, but in high water content foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables that not only hydrate, but provide vitamins and minerals necessary for absorption. How many of us drink water all day long, but don’t feel any more hydrated? It’s because if we don’t have a balanced diet we can’t hold onto the water we take in. Water from food sources hydrate the cell with a type of structured water, or water that our cells readily can use. So don’t just drink your water, eat it, as well. Topically, one of the best ingredients that can hold water in the skin is hyaluronic acid because it can actually attracts up to 1000 times its weight in water. It is naturally found in the body, especially in connective tissue, because it is a building block to glucosamine. You can also take hyaluronic acid as a supplement to boost hydration internally. Serums that are high in hyaluronic acid are beneficial for dry skin because they act like a water replacement and help the barrier function of the skin. But they can evaporate quickly if there aren’t enough lipids on the surface to keep it there. That’s why I recommend applying hyaluronic acid first, and then applying an oil based product that contains ingredients such as; squalane, avocado, jojoba, evening primrose oil, or ceramides that will help seal the water in the skin. And what do you do about flakes? Unfortunately, dead skin cells are unable to hold on to water, so keeping the skin exfoliated during the winter months is important. You could be giving your skin great hydration but if there is dead cell accumulation, it won’t be able to absorb it. Applying lotion on top of dead dry skin isn’t going to repair it. Basically, “You have to rake the leaves before you water the grass.” Using an “at home” exfoliator like a scrub is helpful, but a facial, chemical peel, lotions with glycolic acid, or even a retinol product will help remodel and stimulate new cell growth. Your skin type will determine what type of exfoliation is best for you, but every skin type needs exfoliation to keep it hydrated. Finally, if you struggle with dry skin year around, or it’s also accompanied with irritation, see a dermatologist. They will be able to determine if there is an underlying cause that may be the culprit for your dry skin. They can also prescribe strong hydrators or anti-inflammatory topicals if needed. And if you need just some skin care advice or help with the seasonal dry skin, we offer skin care consults and our most popular facial, the Hydra Facial which bathes the skin in hydration. Because a healthy lifestyle produces healthy skin, and healthy skin is beautiful skin!