Dr Julia Sen, Consultant Ophthalmic Plastic, Reconstructive & Cosmetic Surgeon
    Dr Julia Sen, Consultant Ophthalmic Plastic, Reconstructive & Cosmetic Surgeon

      Dry January? No thanks!

      11th January 2021

      Dry January? No thanks!

      Did you know that in a Harris poll published in 2011, 65% of people surveyed said that their skin was at its worst in January and 42% said it was the thing they disliked the most, worse even for many than doing their tax returns?! I can certainly identify with those sentiments.

      Skin is the largest organ in our bodies and it takes a hammering in the Winter. Winter Xerosis (yes, there’s actually a medical name for it) happens because of the drop in humidity of the colder air. We compound this effect with our central heating and let’s not forget air conditioning in shops and in our cars. This year has been particularly cruel to our hands because of the frequent hand washing and the alcohol-laden sanitisers we have all been diligently using (I’m not going to mention the C-word!).

      When skin is dry, it appears dull and lacklustre. In extreme cases it can become red, sore, itchy, scaly and in severe cases it can crack, exposing the deeper tissues to infection.

      But don’t worry - there are lots of things you can do to show your skin some love and protect it from the assaults of this season.

      1) Bathe with warm water, rather than hot water and don’t spend too long in the bath or under the shower.

      2) Avoid sulphates in your cleansing products. Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS) is my nemesis!! Second only to water in the list of ingredients in most shampoos, shower gels and even products for babies and sensitive skin, sulphates are responsible for the rich lather and the resulting squeaky feeling we have come to associate with thorough cleansing. In fact, sulphates strip the skin of its vital acid mantle, the barrier which keeps irritants out and moisture in. The good news is that a few household brands, such as Dove are now marketing sulphate free shower gels and shampoos. Check your products carefully.

      3) Exfoliate sparingly; only areas such as elbows, knees and feet where the skin is thicker; gently pat yourself dry (don’t rub!) then apply moisturiser. The more oil-rich the moisturiser, the more moisture it will lock in.

      4) Body moisturising daily may sound like a faff but I now do this every day and think of it as giving myself a healthy dose of self-love and to thank my skin for doing a really important job. It takes 2 minutes and having been quicker in the shower, it’s time neutral and my skin feels silky smooth all day!

      5) Apply sun screen every day come rain or shine because UV damage results in thinner, older-looking skin (photo ageing) which loses water more quickly and increases the risk of skin cancer. Our skin naturally thins with age and hormonal changes and whilst we can’t control the passage of time, we can absolutely prevent photo ageing!

      6) Avoid biological washing powders, scented fabric conditioners and rough fabrics directly against your skin. Try to resist the urge to scratch your skin or it can become a vicious itch-scratch cycle.

      7) Increase ambient humidity in your home by investing in a humidifier or simply placing damp towels over radiators.

      8) Feed your skin. Many of us will be attempting to detox and get into good habits for the brand new year to come. Thinking about what to eat to help your skin look and feel fabulous is a much more positive incentive than doing it because of the guilt we all feel having overindulged during the festive period.

      To give your skin all the building blocks it needs to glow, look out for foods rich in Vitamins A, C and E, Zinc, Omega-3, Lycopene and Selenium try to incorporate as many of the following into your diet:

      Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, etc.
      Nuts (especially walnuts) and seeds
      Leafy green vegetable such as spinach, kale, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and rocket (arugula).
      Tomatoes for lycopene - even better when cooked
      Brightly coloured fruit, especially berries and citrus

      Soy, dark chocolate, green tea and red wine (in moderation) are also beneficial.

      Let’s make 2021 the year of fabulous, glowing skin!

      Right. Time to tackle that tax return!

      Products to feed your skin


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