Winter is a time of year where glowing summer skin tends to become dry, dull and lackluster. Usually, dry skin occurs when the skin tissue doesn’t retain enough moisture, which can be caused by various factors, including the use of harsh soap/body wash, frequent hot showers, nutrient deficiencies, health imbalances, and aging. However, the wintertime poses unique problems for the skin.
Fortunately, there are a handful of simple things you can do to revive dry winter skin, but first, let’s discuss in greater detail exactly how winter leads to dry skin.
How Winter Causes Dry Skin
One of the more basic reasons wintertime dries out the skin is due to low humidity. The epidermis, which is the outermost layer of skin, is directly affected by external forces and therefore tends to reflect the level of humidity in its environment. This is something that is noticed almost immediately for any person. If you drive into Southern Florida from the North in the winter, you’ll likely notice an instant shift in moisture and oiliness in your skin once you cross state lines.
Beyond this, the lack of Sun during winter plays a major role in the lack of skin moisture. On one hand, too much sun can damage the skin, making the epidermis thinning and less capable of retaining water. However, the right amount of sunlight is also essential for the proper production of thyroid hormone and progesterone, two key hormones that modulate the sebum glands (oil glands) in the skin. During the winter, there is significantly less light, which can downregulate the thyroid and progesterone production, which results in less sebum and more dry skin.
This leads us into the major cause of dry winter skin; low thyroid function.
Thyroid Function & Dry Skin
Low thyroid function is common during the winter months due to the lack of light and warmth. In fact, studies have found that serum free T3 levels are lower in February than in August (3.9 vs. 4.4 pmol/l, p < 0.05) and TSH levels higher in December than during other months, strongly indicating that the winter cold negatively affects thyroid hormones.
Beyond the direct, anti-thyroid effects of cold weather, the lack of sunlight during winter also contributes to low thyroid. The infrared light emitted by the sun is known to increase the production of thyroid hormones (t4 and t3) and lower TSH. This is likely due to the fact that sunlight activates an important enzyme known as cytochrome C oxidase, which stimulates mitochondrial energy production. 1, 2
As the thyroid becomes low during winter, skin dryness tends to set in. Dry skin is one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism and has been noticed in over 65% of patients. This results from decreased sweat and oil gland secretion. According to physiological research, the cause for decreased sweating and oil production in hypothyroid is due to the fact that low thyroid increases estrogen, which in turn causes the oil/sweat glands to atrophy. 3, 4
Tips For Keeping Supple Skin During Winter
In summary, winter weather dries out the skin in a couple of ways; by causing direct thermal stress (cold, dry air) and a lack of sunlight, which induces a low thyroid state that slows down our skin's natural oil production. As the saying goes, the cure is in the cause, so in terms of solutions, the best way to correct and prevent winter dry skin is to minimize stressors that dry the skin while supporting thyroid health.
That being said, here are some tips to consider:
Use a Humidifier
As discussed, winter air is dry and lacks moisture, which directly affects the skin's top layer. Using a humidifier is a simple way to add moisture back into the air and hydrate the top layer of the epidermis.
Ditch Conventional Soap
Commercial soaps contain a variety of endocrine disruptors that suppress thyroid function. They also tend to contain harsh ingredients that suppress the skin’s immune system and throw off its pH. Instead, try using a natural cleanser like the Pearl Cleanser, which is free of damaging, drying ingredients and rich in nourishing oils and botanicals that support the skin’s natural radiance.
This is probably a no-brainer; dry skin needs moisture and a topical moisturizing can help replenish the skin. However, like commercial soap, most conventional moisturizers contain toxic ingredients that can inflame and damage the skin in the long-term. Instead, try the Alitura Moisturizer or Gold Serum, which contains intensely therapeutic ingredients and hydrating oils for restoring skin suppleness. Be sure to apply moisturizer immediately after showering or washing your face to prevent dryness.
Vitamin A-Rich Foods
One of the basic causes of low thyroid (other than a lack of light) is a vitamin A deficiency. When vitamin A is low, the thyroid hormone is low and the skin produces less sebum. 10.000 IU of vitamin A (in retinol form) is enough for a person with a healthy thyroid function. As we learned though, wintertime can slow thyroid function and therefore increase the need for vitamin A, upwards to 5x (50.000 IU). Careful not to try and get all this vitamin A from plant sources, as it is poorly converted and the beta carotene can have anti-thyroid effects in high doses. Also, vitamin A is safest when applied topically, we suggest starting off with the Gold Serum for a safe and effective dose of topical vitamin A for restoring skin oil production.