A guide to the best bathing and care habits to keep your skin soft, smooth, and radiant in winter.
In winter, in particular, our skin is subject to additional stress - the shower, in particular, has a major influence on our skin feeling
Like many people over the past year and a half, I have found a long, hot shower to be a calming and relaxing escape from everyday reality: slip into it. Lathering. Let the minutes (or hours) pass. Get out of the shower with a new feeling.
In fact, the feeling after the hot shower was so euphoric that I ignored the clear signs of my subsequently unhappy skin - reddening, feeling of tension, and itching from head to toe. However, as the cold months begin, my dry, sensitive skin becomes more fragile (and the temptation to turn the temperature up to the max) and I am determined to find a better balance between a soothing shower and keeping my skin healthy. Ask a dermatologist and he will tell you: this task starts with the right shower temperature - especially at this time of the year. Here, New York dermatologist Robert Anolik explains the best bathing and care habits to keep your skin soft, smooth, and radiant in winter.
"Lukewarm," says Anolik. Many experts agree that the lukewarm temperature feels slightly warm compared to your body temperature and is somewhere between 36 and 40 ºC.
It's important to avoid scorching temperatures as they can affect the skin's moisture barrier, which affects how it looks, feels, and overall health. "The skin barrier is made up of skin proteins and oils that prevent water from evaporating from the skin and protect the skin from the outside world," explains Anolik. "It is one of our first protective mechanisms against infection and pollution."
Hot water irritates the skin surface in several ways: "It causes inflammation, which can lead to a disruption of the normal skin barrier," says Anolik. "In addition, such high water temperatures can also wash away the natural skin oils, which are very important for moisture retention."
"When it gets colder outside, the moisture evaporates from the air, which encourages the evaporation of moisture from the surface of the skin," explains Anolik, adding that cold wind dries the skin even further. This naturally results in a dilemma: the colder it is outside, the warmer the shower should feel. "But when you combine the dry, cold air outside with hot water in the shower, the skin barrier becomes doubly weakened and the skin becomes drier and more uncomfortable," he says.
The right cleansing routine is just as important as shower temperature when it comes to healthy, hydrated skin. The most important thing to know? Cleansing with a strong soap can dry out the skin and deprive it of natural oils and healthy bacteria. "Chemically speaking, real soaps are salts of fatty acids," explains Anolik. “They wash off sebum and dirt effectively but have a high pH between 9 and 10, which is much higher than the skin's natural pH, which is around 5.4. Real soaps play a big role in that Cleansing really dirty, contaminated skin, but are generally not required for everyday use. " Because of this pH difference, the skin barrier is disrupted. Instead, you should resort to gentle, pH-balanced detergents. "These have a pH value that is much closer to the skin (5.5–7) and are therefore much more tolerable in the shower", explains Anolik.
After showering, it is important to dry the skin off to avoid irritation. A moisturizer should be applied within a minute of drying, advises Anolik. When choosing the right moisturizer for your body, there are two main categories: humectants and emollients (also known as occlusive agents). "Humectants draw water to the surface of the skin and contain wonderful ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin," he explains. "These are more breathable and are unlikely to cause acne breakouts." As a rule of thumb, lotions are lighter and creams are heavier, and that the former should be used on particularly dry skin unless you switch to an emollient. "An emollient that traps water in the skin can be used if necessary," says Anolik, pointing out that these creams are usually relatively greasy and often petroleum jelly-based. "They are great for arms and legs in the colder months with very dry skin.
Another important aspect of skin cleansing and hydration is age. "The ability to retain moisture and maintain healthy-looking skin decreases [with age] and this is often only noticed when it becomes more difficult to maintain your skin in the fall/winter," explains Anolik. "This is mainly due to the fact that on a biological level our skin's ability to form the so-called 'natural moisturizing factor' or 'NMF' decreases. As a result, the outer layer of our skin dries out, loses its elasticity, and forms small cracks that close result in a rough, dull, and flaky surface. " All of this means that building a healthier bathing and cleansing routine becomes increasingly important over time and can pay off for healthy skin in the long run.