We ask four experts to answer your most common winter skin complaints by Sian Ranscombe
According to the National Eczema Society, one in 12 adults suffer from the itchy, sore, dry skin condition eczema. Those who suffer from eczema tend to have an overreactive immune system, and when a trigger – such as stress, dietary factors, or just a change of washing powder – hits, the body responds by producing inflammation. For lots of sufferers at this time of year, the temperature changes between cold outside and overheated houses, also contributes to flare-ups.
“Autumn and winter is time to start reintroducing thicker products to treat our skin,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Jennifer Crawley. “For dry and eczema-prone skin, the thicker the product the better – gently exfoliate dry areas of the skin before nourishing and hydrating with a moisturiser. Pay special attention to the hands, as well as the lips and feet.”
Psoriasis affects around two per cent of the population and has made headlines in recent months thanks to celebrity sufferers including Cara Delevingne and Kim Kardashian speaking out about their troubles. The cause is the skin’s cell replacement cycle being sped up – a healthy cycle takes between 21 and 28 days but for a person with psoriasis, the process will take just a few days. The result is flaky, scaly patches, or darker, itchy patches on those with darker skin.
Psoriasis is triggered by a number of factors, including stress, diet and alcohol, but many sufferers find their symptoms worsen in winter. “Patients with psoriasis need to ensure they are moisturising more frequently in winter as cold air and central heating will whip moisture away from the skin’s surface,” says Dr Anjali Mahto, a consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation. “Emollient washes will help keep the skin barrier as healthy as possible. Depending on the extent and severity of the condition, it can be managed with topical creams, light therapy or even injections to modulate the immune system.”
Not quite as troublesome as psoriasis and eczema, but having shins that resemble tree trunks is not a sign of healthy skin. “The shins are a good place to judge your skin type,’ says dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth. “Being in the lower leg, the blood doesn’t drain quite so well and it’s an area that for some reason does get overly dry. When this happens, the outer layer tends not to shed as much, which is why we get flaking or scaly-looking shins. For a body moisturiser, look for the ingredient urea, which is really good for dry skin, as is coriander oil and allantoin.”
Party season spots
Even those of us fortunate enough to have avoided the woes of regular skin issues can fall foul of the party season pimple. “A change in season can herald increased breakouts for some for a few reasons,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk. “Disrupted skin barrier function as a result of the change in weather may affect immune functioning of the skin, while end-of-year deadlines, late nights and disrupted sleeping hours can all increase stress levels, lowering our threshold for stress-induced acne.”
Dr Kluk warns against changing your routine unless (as with eczema sufferers) your skin tells you otherwise. ‘If your skin is not dry, red or irritable, there is no need for an upgrade of skincare products when winter arrives. Consider sticking with your current product and layering a hydrating serum underneath it, or find a more balm-like, nourishing moisturiser – but confirm that it is ‘non-comedogenic’, meaning it will be unlikely to clog pores.”