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Sensitive subject

With the return of autumn and winter comes dried-out skin, blotchy complexions and covering up with heavy make-up. But it doesn’t have to be this way

Autumn issues

Sian Morgan of Healing Harvest in Kinvara, Co Galway: “Dryness and chapped skin can always be an issue as both the weather gets colder and people turn on the central heating.”

Ian Taylor, cosmetic scientist at Green People: “As the weather gets colder it causes changes in our skin that can lead to several different skin problems. Colder temperatures together with stronger winds lead to increased moisture loss which in turn adversely affects the skin’s barrier properties. This can lead to infections as microbes such as yeasts and viruses can breach the skin’s defence mechanisms resulting in conditions such as cold sores and rosacea. This dryness is also aggravated by going into and coming out of centrally-heated buildings.”

Rebecca Goodyear writes award-winning blog Biteable Beauty: “The most common skin complaints are dryness, redness, rawness and chafing. The colder weather makes our blood vessels dilate, causing redness of the skin. Cold winds and central heating dry out skin and hair, leaving them in need of some extra nourishment and moisturisation.”

Skin boosting

“Prevention is better than cure,” says Ian Taylor, “and it is important to take steps to minimise moisture loss and maintain the skin’s barrier function. Oil-rich moisturisers are generally better at protecting the skin in winter. In countries that have very cold winters such as Scandinavia, the preference is to use water-free facial oils rather than creams or lotions. It is also important to exfoliate at least once a week as the colder weather will lead to a buildup of dead cells on the surface of the skin and this can prevent protective oils from penetrating to nourish the living cells in the lower layers of the skin. This thickening of the skin also increases the risk of cracks and fissures forming, leading to further damage and inflammation.”

“There are many types of topical applications including creams, masks and oils,” according to Sian Morgan. “It is worth thinking, too, of the old adage ‘beauty comes from within’ as good nutrition, in particular nutritional oils can be hugely beneficial for skin health.”

Health store help

“Depending on the age, skin-type, or sensitivities, there are lots of natural creams on the market, many of which are organic,” says Sian Morgan. “A number of health stores also carry products which are made locally. For winter use, simple base oils such as sweet almond can be very beneficial when given time to penetrate the skin. More companies are using plant and nut oils to make intensive oil-based moisturisers.”

Rebecca Goodyear: “If your skin is drier than it should be, the chances are you are deficient in vitamins A, C, E, D, potassium or essential fatty acids. Broken capillaries can be caused by a lack of antioxidants, bioflavonoids, glucosamine, and calcium. There are several natural beauty complexes available and you might consider taking a supplement.

“Products that contain nutrient-dense oils such as olive and avocado, or butters such as shea and cocoa will hydrate, nourish and protect the skin,” says Rebecca, “and also deliver ingredients essential for healthy skin to the dermis. Always use an alcohol-free cleanser to prevent skin from drying out. At night, use a rich cream to help replenish moisture whilst you sleep.”

Inside out

“In terms of dietary support, there are several nutritional oil blends on the market, both in liquid or capsule form,” says Sian Morgan. “These are beneficial in terms of their moisturising qualities but also for the reduction of inflammation. Eating foods rich in good quality oils such as nuts, seed and oily fish can also be helpful. There are several tea blends which can support healthy skin, both by providing a gentle detoxifying effect and by providing structural components of skin such as silica. Nettle tea is particularly good for skin support. Traditionally called a ‘blood purifier’, it offers a gentle cleanse and, although it contains histamine, it seems to have an anti-histamine effect on the body, reducing itching and inflammation.”

Practical solutions

Sian Morgan: “Try putting a small bowl of water on the radiator while it is on – this will allow hydration of the air, reducing the dryness without limiting the warmth.”

Ian Taylor: “Dressing in warm clothing when outdoors, including covering the face when the wind is blowing or the temperature is very low, will help to protect the skin. Avoid high temperatures indoors – instead, turn the thermostat down a couple of degrees and put on another layer of clothing as this will reduce the moisture loss from the skin. Keep up your fluid intake to keep the skin hydrated and optimise its barrier functions. Use a rich moisturiser or facial oil at least twice a day, and remember to exfoliate at least once a week.”

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