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9 Common Winter Problems & What You Can Do To Stay Protected

Updated on December 26, 2017

For all intents and purposes, winter is here. Some of you are freezing and taking cover under your blankets, while others are enjoying this turn of weather and planning walks and picnics because, let’s face it, Delhi is no fun in the summers!

But, whether you love or hate Dilli ki sardi, you can’t escape its onslaught. The weather can be pretty brutal and the side effects on our skin aren’t too pretty.

Some may argue that it all depends on the skin type and not everyone is affected the same way. You’re probably right, but very few can claim to escape winter’s onslaught unscathed. Crisp, whipping winds, dipping temperatures, decreased humidity, dry air - all of this can impact your hair, skin, and nails adversely.

I can see many of you reaching subconsciously for that of Vaseline. Nice effort, but there’s more to winter skin care than that. And before we dole out advice on what to do, let’s first understand why you need to do anything at all.

Your Skin during the Winter

The outermost layer of your skin is known as the stratum corneum, and it’s made of keratinized cells. The function of this layer is to act as a barrier. It protects the tissues underneath from infection, stress, and dehydration. This layer is constantly being replaced, causing you to ‘shed’ dead cells every cycle.

For this layer to function properly, it needs moisture, and winters are notorious for being ‘moisture-less’. If decreased humidity outside wasn’t bad enough, central heating systems inside our homes sap moisture from the environment. This diminishes and dulls the stratum corneum, thinning it and leading to dry skin.

The Remedy

The winter chill doesn’t just target your skin. It harms other areas of the body, too, such as the nails, hair, feet, and the scalp. And there’s no one size fits all solution for them. So, let’s examine each area individually.

1. Dry Skin & Face: If you want to indulge yourself and fix your entire body, then add grapeseed, olive oil, or even a little milk to your bath. This boosts the body’s moisture absorption rate. Alternatively, apply oil post your shower and a moisturizing lotion a little later. Use organic coconut oil, which won’t block pores to get that soft and supple skin you love so much.

For the face, avoid anything soapy. Choose a cleanser with ceramides or glycerin, since they are mild and anti-inflammatory. Face balms are a great option, especially if they contain beeswax, avocado fats, or essential oils like rose and immortelle. Honey, avocado and yoghurt can make a great face mask that gives you one of the gentlest exfoliating experiences suitable for winter.

2. Red Nose: When outside in the chilly wind the nose gets red. Petroleum jelly, or a warm compress, can help reduce this. Additionally, consider getting a humidifier if your skin is too dry and sensitive.

3. Dry Hands: Nobody enjoys that scaly feeling in their dry hands. And when the skin around your fingers start peeling off, it can be extremely painful too. If your hands are prone to dryness, use a hand cream that has a higher oil-to-water ratio instead of using a lotion. Wear gloves whenever you step outside to keep your hands protected. Before you sleep, apply hand cream liberally, and wear cotton gloves to lock the moisture in.

4. Chapped Lips: You know winters are round the corner when your lips start chapping. And no matter what you do, you can’t make them as luscious and pucker-worthy as they used to be during the summers. Let’s fix that, shall we?

Choose a lip balm/ointment that has petroleum and dimethicone. They help lock in moisture and heal cracked and split lips. You could also look for lip balms with beeswax and lanolin (wax from sheep wool).

If your lips are severely chapped, use a mix of Vaseline and honey, and rub it off with a cotton swab dipped in warm water. For maximum effect, apply a little lip ointment, massage gently, and wash it off with warm water.

5. Cracked, Callused Feet: While getting a pedicure may be tempting, you can remedy those cracked feet at home with pumice stone. It’s highly effective against tough calluses and dead skin buildups. But, don’t forget to be gentle while scrubbing and slather on generous amounts of an oil-based cream or lotion once you’re done, to soothe the skin.

6. Dry Scalp: Ugh! Perhaps the worst thing about winters is that you can’t wear dark colors with confidence. At the slightest shake of your head, all that dryness comes raining down on your shoulders, causing an embarrassment you could live without.

Massage your scalp with olive oil or organic coconut oil. If you’re going for over-the-counter dandruff shampoos, look for zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, or selenium oxide in their list of ingredients list. Hot oil massages that grandmothers are so fond of are extremely helpful, especially when followed up with moisturizing shampoos to get the blood circulation going.

7. Brittle Nails: Nails are also made of keratin – which means that when the moisture is sapped from them, they become rough and more prone to breakage. You should consider a thin coat of nail-polish, because it’s effective at protecting nails. You can also apply some oil (olive will do) overnight and wear gloves while sleeping.

However, if your cuticles are damaged, that’s a sign of a deeper problem. So get yourself some intense hydrating cuticle creams and salves and seek out some professional help.

8. Scaly Joints: High-pressure areas like elbows, knees, and heels, have a thicker deposit of skin. When exposed to the cold, these areas can turn scaly and leathery. Use exfoliants to keep them soft.

A great homemade scrub can be made by combining lemon, salt, sugar, and olive oil. Apply to the affected area, massage gently and wash off with lukewarm water. Then, slather on the petroleum jelly to keep your joints soft and supple.

9. Windburn/Winter Sunburn: For those who love the great outdoors, winters are a great time to plan all your trips and getaways. But be warned, chilly wind can burn intensely. And then we have winter sunburns that just make matters worse.

So, layer up properly and keep your face shielded from the winter wind. Apart from protective clothing, consider a high SPF face cream. If your skin is already inflamed, use one-percent hydrocortisone cream with steroids to help ease the itching. And, consult a dermatologist for the right prescription.

Winters are undoubtedly the best time of the year. Sure, it brings a few problems in its wake, but when you’ve got science on your side, why worry at all? Go out, have fun, make merry - just make sure you take all the right precautions when doing so.

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