Weathering The Winter
Weathering The Winter

weathering the winter

According to theNational Institute on Aging, “Our skin changes with age. It becomes thinner, loses fat, and no longer looks as plump and smooth as it once did.” As we get older, bones and veins are often more visible, the Institute points out, while cuts, scratches and bruises can also heal more slowly. If you’ve spent long periods of time out in the sun throughout your life, whether working, sun tanning or because of an active lifestyle, there’s also a higher likelihood that you could develop wrinkles, age spots, dryness and potentially cancer. All of this can be exacerbated by the extremes of winter, and seniors need to take extra care of their vulnerable skin during the coldest months.

Remember The '3 H's'

remember the '3 h's'

Stephanie Chappell, chief gerontologist at Freedom Village in Lake Forest, California, sums up much of senior skin care necessities with what she calls “the three H’s”:
● Hydrate your body with plenty of fluids.
● Hydrate your skin with a good moisturizer.

Humidify the rooms where you spend the most time since home heating systems dry out the air.

Layer Up When You Venture Outdoors

layer up when you venture outdoors

According to Chappell, older adults are more sensitive to cold weather, but they're also less likely to notice when their body temperature drops, which can be harmful to vulnerable skin.

“Dress in layers that you can easily put on and take off as you’re out and about,” she said. “And make sure to cover your skin when outdoors to protect from the elements.”

Exfoliate Dead Cells

exfoliate like your skin depends on it

Roberta Perry is the founder of ScrubzBody, a business based in Farmingdale, New York, that uses all-natural ingredients in its skin care products. She wants seniors to exfoliate their skin at least once or twice a week with a good, gentle exfoliant.

“This is a big one, and truly the single best thing to do,” she said. “Why? Well, the reason is simple. When you regularly polish off the dead, dry, flaky top layer of skin, the healthier layers come forward. To further that thought, think of your skin as a canvas. The smoother the surface the easier everything will go on it. When you moisturize, you are putting it on the better skin cells and therefore the product will work better and give you better results. You'll never be itchy and dry if you do this simple thing. Also, the older we get, the less skin turns over itself, so it needs a little push.”

Drink Plenty Of Water

drink plenty of water

According to Perry, one of the best and easiest ways to protect aging skin is through hydration.

“Older people tend to drink less water, which is a real problem not only for skin, but for overall alertness and health,” she said. “You don't want to look tired or sallow, do you? That is what dehydration can do to your skin. If you are feeling thirsty, you are already there. Drink, drink, drink. I recommend, after reading tons of literature on the subject, drinking about half your weight in ounces — i.e.: if you weigh 140 pounds, you should drink 70 ounces a day. The more you are hydrated from the inside, the better for you and your skin.”

Moisturize Skin With A Balm Over A Lotion

moisturize skin with a balm over a lotion

Moisturizing your skin in the cold, dry winter months might seem like a no-brainer, but technique is everything.

“Moisturizers come in different formats and recipe ratios,” Perry said. “Because there is less water and more active ingredient in a balm, it will be more nourishing and last longer on your skin. Believe it or not, lotions can be up to 80 percent water, creams are about 50 percent, and balms are usually about 20 percent water or less. So they're perfect for older, drier skin.”

Eat Good Oils

eat good oils

Healthy, moisturized skin can be achieved not only by the products you put on your body, but also by the naturally moisturizing oils you put in it throughout the day.

“Foods like avocados are brilliant in both taste, satiety and good-for-your-skin omega oils,” Perry said. “Other foods high in omega oils include flax seed, olives and nuts of all kinds. Try the dry roasted, unsalted versions.”

Take Extra Care If You Have Pre-existing Skin Conditions

take extra care if you have pre-existing skin conditions

René Serbon is a skin-care expert, industry educator, speaker, and founder of Dermal Systems. She's noticed a direct correlation between common skin conditions and winter weather.

“Protecting your skin from excessive dryness is extremely important to maintain skin barrier defenses,” she said. “And it is even truer if you also suffer from skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and xerosis. These skin conditions flare up with low-humidity and low-temperature conditions, so it is necessary to step up efforts to maintain stronger skin. The truth is that any trauma to the skin, such as cracking, causes an inflammatory response, which can make the skin more susceptible to flare-ups of these conditions.”

Neutrogena Sunscreen
Courtesy of

sunscreen is not just for summer

According to Serbon, the reflection of UV rays from snow and ice can be just as harmful as the sun's raysduring the warmer months.

“While you might not feel hot, the UV rays are still harmful to the skin, so cover and protect exposed skin,” she said. “Note that as we age, our natural UV defenses slow down because the melanocyte that makes the pigment to protect us does not function so well in later years.”

Monitor Water Temperatures When You Shower Or Bathe
Tero Vesalainen/istockphoto

monitor water temperatures when you shower or bathe

Few things feel better than a hot shower in the winter, but that comfort might not be worth the overall effect hot water has on the skin in the coldest months.

“Even though your toes might be freezing, don’t submerge yourself in overly hot showers and baths,” Serbon said. “Your skin contains lipids, which are oils that are essential to the skin's performance. Lipids are necessary to form the skin barrier. This barrier is your first line of defense. Pat your skin dry after your shower or bath and moisturize. Think about what you are using to cleanse your skin, as this can ‘wash out’ the critical lipids necessary for the skin barrier to function.”

Feed Your Skin With A Biocompatible Moisturizer

feed your skin with a biocompatible moisturizer

Not all moisturizers are created equal, and so-called biocompatible moisturizes do more than just hydrate — they actually feed weak skin.

“One idea behind a rich, biocompatible moisturizer is that the lack of lipids in the skin speeds up transepidermal water loss,” (TEWL) Serbon said. “As lipids sit on water, it helps to retain moisture in your skin, which amongst other functions is necessary for enzyme activity within the skin. In effect, the use of moisturizers based on the science of corneotherapy effectively means you are applying a skin barrier while your skin is given the opportunity to repair its natural barrier."

Best Humidifiers

invest in a humidifier

While it's critical to add moisture to your skin, it can also help to add moisture to the air.

“If you live in areas of low humidity, consideradding a humidifierto your home or space you live in the most,” Serbon said. “It will help retain moisture in your skin as low humidity increases TEWL, which leaves your skin dry.”

Look To Products With Vitamin A

look to products with vitamin a

Just as the weather changes with each season, so, too, should your skin care routine.

“It is typical that skin requires more lipids in the winter,” Serbon said. “Your active ingredients should also be adjusted. Winter is a great time to focus on actives such as vitamin A, as an example, because sun exposure is lower and vitamin A can be better utilized.”