How Do Cold Temperatures Affect Skin?
As we slowly creep into the season of snowfall, winter scarves, and hot cocoa, the arrival of cooler temperatures may encourage us to make some adjustments to our skincare regimen. The environment we’re surrounded by plays a vital role in the health and function of our skin and dry complexions, rough textures, and ashiness are just some of the common winter woes our skin deals with year after year. While our instincts may tell us to simply up the moisture and consider a move to the tropics, there are some unexpected benefits to colder temperatures when it comes to your skin’s health. Read on as we talk to the experts about how to deal with cold-triggered skincare concerns while still taking advantage of its benefits.
How Cold Weather Can Disrupt Skin HealthDuring the wintertime (or any time of the year where temperatures plummet), there is a loss of humidity and an increase in dryness. Fact: Air at 86 degrees Fahrenheit can hold three times more moisture than air at 50 degrees. As a result, skin’s ability to keep itself hydrated is compromised. “Cold weather can strip the skin’s protective barrier which is the outer layer responsible for keeping moisture in and irritants out,” explains clinical dermatologist Dr. Hope Mitchell. “It’s not just about the changes on the skin that you can see (dull, dry, flaky, cracked skin) but also the discomfort you may feel (burning, itching, and tingling).”
Megan Felton, advanced skincare consultant and co-founder of Lionne adds that while the effects of winter will vary based on location, one thing that we all have in common is that our skin is likely to become drier (due to lack of oil) and dehydrated (due to lack of water) in the colder months. Our skin has an internal mechanism, called the natural moisturizing factor (NMF), whose job is to produce humectants (which pull water from the atmosphere to hydrate skin) and keep skin’s barrier intact. But when there isn’t a ton of moisture in the air to pull from, the NMF’s job is inhibited. “The natural moisturizing factor of the skin is unable to pull moisture from the air to help our skin out. In locations that are dry and cold, the water movement on our skin will speed up, and we are more likely to experience transepidermal water loss which causes dehydration.” Here are some of the ways your skin may react to cold weather and how to remedy it:
Skin becomes more easily dehydrated in the winter (remember, dryness is a skin type and dehydration is a temporary condition) due to the reasons stated above. “During the colder seasons, we often have a reduced thirst and drink less water which compounds the effects of colder temperatures and leads to reduced cellular hydration”, says Dr. Mitchell. While it feels good at the moment, turning up the heat and taking hot showers only add to the problem. Drinking enough H2O isn’t the most effective way to hydrate skin though (although it is important!). Quench skin’s thirst with a squalene-rich cream instead, such as Skin Soak, which replenishes skin’s moisture levels without feeling greasy. Laying off the thermostat and washing up with warm (not piping hot!) water can also help.
Dry skin tends to foster inflammation and irritation, resulting in redness, flaking, itchiness, stinging, roughness, cracked texture, and more. That’s one of the reasons why inflammatory skin conditions often worsen during the cold weather months, too. “Rosacea, psoriasis or eczema may get worse, so avoid products that leave skin squeaky clean which leads to further dryness,” explains Felton. Swap out harsh cleansers that can often strip too much oil and use a lightweight, ph-balanced wash (like our Gentle Cycle Milky Cleanser) instead, which will get rid of dirt and makeup without leaving the skin parched.
This inflammation can extend to every part of the body, too. Dry eyelids, cracked lips, stinging hands, and ashy elbows and knees are some other common pain points experienced during the cooler months (and are only exacerbated by the frequent handwashing we’re all doing these days). Jojoba oil, found in our Silk Slip Conditioning Lip Oil, is an ideal skincare ingredient to use as it mimics the sebum our bodies naturally produce and keeps skin smooth and supple.
Dullness and Uneven Texture
Dehydrated skin cells dry out faster and, without proper exfoliation, sit on top of the skin. Besides clogging pores (we’ll get to that in a minute), a combination of moisture loss and dead skin equals a lackluster complexion. Use a physical exfoliator like Day Maker to brush away those dead skin cells and simultaneously improve skin’s tone and texture. Just don’t forget to protect your renewed complexion by wearing sunscreen daily—yes, even during the wintertime.
There are two major reasons why acne-prone skin will see more breakouts during the winter: Clogged pores from lack of ample exfoliation (see above) and an increase in oil production. With skin’s moisture levels out of whack during the cold months, sometimes oil glands will kick into overdrive to compensate for all that dryness. While this keeps skin’s equilibrium in balance, too much oil can lead to breakouts. Consider adding a water-gel Clarifying Serum to your regimen that’ll control oil while keeping skin hydrated and calm.
This doesn’t apply to everyone, however. Some problem skin types may actually see a decrease in breakouts during the winter season. Cold weather can help keep pores clear even with maskne on the rise, Dr. Mitchell adds. “Most people produce less oil or sebum during colder temperatures and therefore have less acne or breakouts.”
The Benefits of “Cooling” Skincare
Winter woes aside, there are benefits to colder temperatures when it comes to skincare. Unlike cold weather (which encompasses not just lower temperatures, but wind, snow, hail, and more) cold temperatures can actually be extremely helpful at keeping skin, well, chill. Applying cold products to the skin is a form of cryotherapy, or ‘cold therapy’, which helps to improve blood circulation, reducing puffiness, redness and swelling—plus, it just feels really, really good. For the face, that results in a refreshed and plumped complexion without having to shower with cold water or suffer in a cryotherapy booth.
Our limited edition Frozen Cooling Globe is a skin-soothing way to reap all these benefits while giving yourself a nice little ‘cryo-facial’—ideal for combatting stress. It’s glass, so you can let it chill out in the fridge (or freezer if you want an extra dose of cool), then use gentle, downward strokes to massage in any serum, oil, moisturizer, or mask.
Should I Put All My Skincare in the Fridge?Refrigerating skincare is an easy hack to experience the benefits of cold temperatures year round, but no, you shouldn’t clear space on your shelves or invest in a skincare fridge just yet. Most products should be stored at room temperature; keeping skincare in your hot, steamy bathroom or somewhere too cool can actually disrupt the formula inside. Some swear by keeping unstable ingredients, like vitamin C, fresh by storing in the fridge, but only do so if it’s a-okayed by its manufacturer. Our Emergency Eye Mask is one of our favorite fridge-approved items: the coldness of the fridge only amplifies the cooling effect of its cucumber juice, which de-puffs and replenishes tired eyes.