In the summer, the lack of humidity here feels like a sweet relief from sweatier climates. However, in the winter less moisture in the air can wreak havoc on your skin, causing it to be dry, flaky, or irritated. Unhealthy skin can be a year-round problem, but for many it typically gets worse during the snowy season.
"We have a natural skin barrier that helps retain the moisture within the skin," said Sarah Youngblood, physician assistant at Vail Dermatology. "Environmental conditions, including the climate, the weather, and too harsh soaps break down that skin barrier and therefore the moisture is no longer retained."
The combination of a dry climate, cold temperatures, and frosty winds can leave even the most naturally glowing person's skin looking dull and lifeless. Here are some tips to keep the dryness away and protect your skin from the outer elements this winter:
Turn that knob from hot to warm
While hot water might soothe the muscles, it can cause your skin to try out even faster.
"The heat causes the water to evaporate from the skin so it dries it out more, " said Dr. Jean Urquhart, dermatologist at Mountain Dermatology.
Switching from a hot shower to a warm one is easy, but soaking up the steam from a hot tub is an after-ski routine that's harder to let go of. If you can't quit the jacuzzi, try putting on moisturizer after you get out while your skin is still wet, which can help seal in the moisture.
Moisturizing on a regular basis is the key to preventing dry skin. Those of us who suffered through acne in our teens might fear that too much moisturizing will cause a breakout akin to the one we always seemed to get the morning of picture day.
While the word 'oil' might send our preteen selves into a panic, moisturizers containing oil aren't necessarily a bad thing.
"Moisturizing creams have a higher oil to water ratio than lotions," Urquhart said. "I think that moisturizing creams do a better job of hydrating the skin in a Colorado climate."
-Youngblood suggests moisturizing at least once per day. When selecting a moisturizer look for products with ceramide (a lipid molecule) or filaggrins (a protein), which Youngblood said research has shown to be good for the skin.-
Some think staying away from manufactured products is best for your skin. Kelly Perkins is the owner of Spinster Sisters, an all-natural bath product company based out of Golden. Perkins said much of what one finds in the beauty aisle can harm your skin rather than help it.
"Commercial products (can) have cetyl alcohol in them and (those) dry out your skin," Perkins said.
Many believe soap can cause dryness, but Perkins said it depends on what the soap is made out of and that soap isn't necessarily more drying than a body wash.
"I use rich oils like coconut oil and I add shea butter to all my soaps to get a rich, thick lather that doesn't dry your skin out," Perkins said. "Shea butter is one of the best moisturizers out there. It has naturally occurring vitamins and is really healing."
In addition to shea butter and coconut oil, Perkins said hemp oil, castor oil, and lavender are also great for either moisturizing or soothing the skin. Perkins thinks sticking to more natural products not only helps the environment, but can also heal your skin long-term.
"When you use natural moisturizers your body adjusts to it and you don't need as much," Perkins said. " (Also) I know it sounds basic but drink a lot of water. It's great for your whole body but it really helps with your skin as well."
Combat the burn
Summer is synonymous with sunburn, but here people compete to see who will have the best tan (goggle, that is) at the end of the season. A burn contrasted with the white around your eyes might prove just how hard you skied or rode this year, but it's also a sign of damaged skin.
"Once you have a sunburn, the skin is damaged and the goal is to help the skin heal," Urquhart said. "I usually recommend a mild, over-the-counter cortisone cream to help relieve the redness, itching, and pain."
While there's no 'quick fix' for sunburn, using aloe vera and staying out of the sun can help soothe the sting until you no longer look like a tomato. Youngblood said people often underestimate the amount of sunscreen they use.
"People aren't into the habit of applying sunscreen, that the first cause of under use," Youngblood said. "We get a sunburn here in six minutes at an altitude of 11,000 feet."
Youngblood suggests using a golf ball sized drop of sunscreen every two hours to protect your skin and prevent sunburn.
Get that glow
If your skin isn't dry but still tends to look sallow during the winter months, there are a few ways to go from gloomy to glowing. Youngbood suggests using products that contain antioxidants like vitamin E and vitamin C to improve the texture and vibrancy of the skin. Perkins said sloughing off dead skin by using an exfoliating sugar scrub can help your skin look fresh and younger. Urquhart said Mountain Dermatology's hydrating facials are very popular in the winter.
"We offer a Silkpeel, which is a microdermabrasion combined with a thermal infusion of hydraulic acids and antioxidants," Urquhart said. "It exfoliates the dry skin and (also) plumps the skin with hydration so people leave with a nice, healthy glow."
Urquhart reminds us that while topical methods for treating and improving skin can work wonders, a healthy diet will help your skin look radiant as well.
Not everyone can take a quick trip to the Caribbean or Hawaii during the winter season and come back with a complexion so bright and sunny it inspires jealousy. But that doesn't mean dull or dry skin has to be a fact of life during the winter. By taking the time to take care of your skin, you could go from looking lackluster to luminous in a matter of weeks, inspiring a little jealousy of your own.