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Seasonal Effects on Your Skin Type

Posted Jan 26 2009 4:50pm

Unless you live in the tropics where the climate remains relatively constant throughout the year, you will experience seasonal changes and so does your skin. Even the tropics experience a change, namely the wet season (summer) and the dry season (winter). So let's start with these two.


In Summer, the temperature is generally higher than in winter and we often resort to cooling the environment around us by the use of air conditioning or at least using fans to circulate air which helps to cool us off a little.


In the case of fans, the circulating air helps to evaporate water (perspiration) off our skin and in so during, the skin is cooled and this helps to cool the body. The loss of water through perspiration has a dehydrating effect on our skin unless we drink increased amounts of water and other re-hydrating fluids.


Similarly, air conditioning moves / circulates air, which has the same effect as the fans, but in addition, an air conditioner removes (some) water from the air and cools the air at the same time, creating a dryer, cooler environment in the air conditioned space.


An other factor of consideration is that heat tends to cause opening of the skin's pores. This in turn allows for increased sebum secretion (oil secretion) and thus our skin can get a little more oily than usual. As a consequence, the stale oil on the skin combined with environmental dust and other pollutants can lead to blocked pores and result in black heads or acne pimples.


So what does that mean to our skin?

Well, for starters the drying effect from fans and air conditioning needs to be addressed. Make sure you increase your hydrating fluid intake during summer. What I mean by 'hydrating fluid' is water, herbal teas which are not diuretic such as peppermint or other mint type herbs, fruit juices, and smoothies (ice blended with various fruit and a little yogurt).


In addition, your skin care regime needs to include facial/body masks as well as exfoliation using a good, natural exfoliant. This does two things.

  1. The exfoliant keeps the dead skin cell layer to a minimum, thus the heat exchange between your blood (body) and the surrounding air is efficient and cooling is more easily achieved.
  2. The masks will help to keep pores clean and help in their functions of secreting fluid which is then evaporated from your skin to keep you cool.

Keeping your skin clean is the first step. The second part to keeping your skin hydrated is to use your moisturiser a bit more often. Moisturising your skin 3 maybe even 4 or more times a day will help to keep it hydrated and in addition provide protection from the environment (at least to some extent).


If your skin type changes from normal to oily during summer, then you should also change your skin care system to treat oily skin, rather than using the system for normal skin. It is important to remember that with the changing of the seasons, your activity levels may change together with the types of foods you eat and the fluids you drink. They all contribute to your internal environment and this is reflected by your skin.


Remember your skin is a living, breathing organ that adapts to the environment and therefore you need to adapt your skin care approach accordingly.


The other seasonal extreme is Winter. In winter, the air is generally cooler - in some parts of the world it is freezing and thus our skin reacts just as it does in summer to the change in climate.


Unlike summer, during winter we tend to ad heat to our physical environment and like air conditioning, heating too dries the air reducing its moisture content. It is a principle of physics that if you are in a dry environment, your body will loose moisture to the dry environment. Hydration is therefore very important and necessary to stop your skin from becoming dry.


Dry and cracked lips are classic symptoms of dehydration that often appear during late Autumn and Winter. But the drying of the skin goes beyond the lips. Just like in Summer, your skin needs the right skin care regime to keep it moist and hydrated.


While in Summer normal skin may become slightly oily, in Winter normal skin will tend to become dry and in some people even increase in sensitivity. This is because the cold air will tend to close the pores rather than open them as happens during summer. So the bodies natural oils are not being secreted onto the skin and thus the natural oils that protect the skin are reduced and the skin will be more vulnerable.


Again it becomes necessary to increase the frequency of applying your moisturising cream and drink warming, hydrating fluids. You may want to consider using a nourishing night cream during this time, if you don't already use one.


People suffering from Eczema/Dermatitis, which gets worse in Winter, need to pay particular attention to their fluid intake. I know from personal experience, that if I do not drink enough water, my skin soon lets me know and becomes very dry, itchy and irritated.


It easy to forget to drink water and other hydrating fluids during winter, because the temperatures are lower and the heat of summer which tends to make one want to drink cooling drinks is not there to remind us.


For people with oily skin types, Winter is often a 'good time', because the cold climate causes the skin's pores to close and thus less sebum is secreted. Similarly, people with dry skin types tend to have a reprieve in summer when pores open and secrete more oils that lubricate the otherwise dry skin.


Again it is important for either scenario to adapt the skin care regime to the changes in the skin. So if you have 'normal' skin in winter (oily skin types), than use a skin care system suitable for normal skin. Conversely, if you have a normal skin type in Summer (dry skin types), than change the skin care system to suit. Your skin changes with the seasons and therefore so should your skin care system.


Often the 'normal skin type' or 'true skin type' is most obvious during the mid-Autumn/mid-Spring seasons. These seasons are usually mild, representing an 'average' of the seasonal extremes. It is then that your true skin type(s) is most easily determined.


I'll give you an example. Most of the year round, my skin type is generally normal to dry from the neck down. My face has a tendency to a slightly oily T-Zone, while the lower half of my face and cheeks are slightly on the dry side and my neck is normal.


In summer, my T-Zone gets oilier and the rest of my body's skin stays mostly normal, maybe with a slight tendency to dryness. In Winter, my oily T-Zone becomes normal, the rest of my face stays normal to dry, but my lower legs become very dry unless I stay on top of it and make sure I drink enough fluids and use plenty of moisturising cream.


Remember that most people have several skin types over their body and especially on their face. It is more common to see two skin types, as illustrated in the example above, than just one uniform skin type.


As I mentioned, mid-Spring and mid-Autumn are like the average of Summer and Winter and often during this time, your 'true' skin type is revealed. However you need to be aware that even during these two seasons your skin type may change as either Winter or Summer gets closer.


So get to know your skin and how it reacts to the changing seasons; adapt your skin care system and make sure you use natural skin care products to ensure you do not introduce potentially toxic chemicals into your body.


Danny Siegenthaler is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and together with his wife Susan, a medical herbalist and Aromatherapist, they have created Natural Skin Care Products by Wildcrafted Herbal Products to share their 40 years of combined expertise with you.

They practice Herbal and Chinese medicine at their Wildcrafted Cottage Clinic.

© Wildcrafted Herbal Products 2008


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