By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
January 9, 2017
- Does dry skin have you itching and scratching?
- How to moisturize from the inside out
- Winter skin begs for more of the sunshine vitamin
If you live in a cold or dry climate, you know how harsh it can be on your skin. This kind of weather can give you skin that’s dry, itchy, flaking, cracking, bumpy and downright annoying.
The problem begins when you start losing the natural oils your skin cells make to keep water trapped inside your body. These oils are what keep your skin feeling soft and supple.
But during the winter months, indoor heat sucks the moisture right out of your skin. And if you’re like most people, you probably start overcompensating to correct the problem.
Maybe you take longer showers, thinking you can scrub off all of those dead cells or that the water will re-moisturize your skin. What you may not realize is that the hot water and soap strip even more of the natural oil from your skin. Showers should always be kept short in the winter months.
You might also try to slough off that dead skin by exfoliating. But that reduces your natural oil barrier even further. Plus, it can aggravate skin that’s already irritated.
And then there are all of those lotions that are loaded with skin irritants. (Hint: If you can’t pronounce the ingredients in your moisturizer, ditch it. It’s especially important to watch out for sulfates, parabens, sodium benzoate, alcohol and FD&C colorings.)
Moisturize from the Inside Out
One of the best things you can do to soothe dry, winter skin is to make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fats. The older you get, the more important these fatty acids are to your skin health.
That’s because your skin cells become thinner as you age. So you’re probably already losing moisture from your skin year-round. When you add the cold, dry weather that comes with the winter months, it becomes almost impossible to keep your skin moist.
However, omega-3 fatty acids boost the function of your skin cells. They work by penetrating skin cell membranes in the outer layer of your skin. This, in turn, helps your skin cells hold onto more water, which keeps your skin more moist and supple.
If you already take an omega-3 supplement, you may have to increase your dose during the winter months to maintain a smooth, moist skin texture.
Your best bet is to look for a fish oil supplement that contains oil from fresh, wild-caught, deep sea fish. And make sure it’s been molecularly distilled and tested for purity (i.e., no mercury.) For the biggest benefit, I suggest taking 4,000 mg daily.
Another way to boost your body’s ability to hold water is to kick up your levels of hyaluronic acid (HA). This is something your body naturally produces, and about half of all the HA in your body is found in your skin.
This is important, because HA is the key molecule involved in skin moisture. It works by binding with water. In fact, it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water!
This HA-bound water then enters both the inner and outer layers of your skin cells and tissue to plump them up and keep them hydrated.
In fact, taking just 120 mg of hyaluronic acid daily can significantly improve dry skin conditions by boosting moisture content by around 45% to 50%. Drinking plenty of water can enhance its effectiveness by giving it more water to bind with.
Winter Skin Begs for more of the Sunshine Vitamin
There’s no doubt that dry, cold weather wreaks havoc on your skin. But there’s another problem associated with winter that you may not be aware of. It’s the role that vitamin D plays in your skin health.
If you live north of Atlanta, it’s impossible to get enough vitamin D from the sun between October and March. This makes it very easy to run low on this nutrient during the winter months.
Well, guess what? If you’re running short on vitamin D, you probably have lower than average levels of skin moisture, particularly in the outer layer of your skin. The reason for this is simple: Vitamin D regulates the barrier of your skin that prevents water loss.
Taking into consideration that vitamin D from the sun is synthesized by your skin, it makes a lot of sense that it plays a major role in your skin health.
I recommend taking a minimum of 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day. If you’re diagnosed as deficient, you’ll want to want to increase that to 5,000 IU. Look for the most bioavailable form, which is called cholecalciferol.
And one last thing…
When it comes to a daily moisturizer, don’t pick up just any brand. Buy one that contains skin-healthy ingredients like the ones above – all of them work just as well topically to keep your skin moist and glowing.
Other ingredients that work well to protect your skin from dryness include collagen, elastin, vitamin C, aloe vera and CoQ10.
Then, lavish it on regularly and let it do its job.
Miller CC, et al. Dietary supplementation with ethyl ester concentrates of fish oil (n-3) and borage oil (n-6) polyunsaturated fatty acids induces epidermal generation of local putative anti-inflammatory metabolites. J Invest Dermatol. 1991 Jan;96(1):98-103.
Russell M. Assessing the Relationship between Vitamin D3 and Stratum Corneum Hydration for the Treatment of Xerotic Skin. Nutrients. 2012 Sep; 4(9): 1213–1218.
Papakonstantinou E, et al. Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 253–258.
Kawada C, et al. Ingestion of hyaluronans (molecular weights 800 k and 300 k) improves dry skin conditions: a randomized, double blind, controlled study. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2015 Jan;56(1):66-73.