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The colder months can play havoc with our skin, so we’ve caught up with one of Birmingham’s top dermatologists, Dr. Christos Kasparis, to find out what his skincare rules are for beautiful skin this season.

1. Skip that long evening soak 

During the winter months the low humidity in the air can cause our skin to lose its all-important water content and hydration levels. Windy weather and central heating only exacerbates this problem, leading to dryness and sensitivity.

As tempting as they are, hot baths and soaps are to be avoided as they can strip the natural oils from our skin and leave us with poorly hydrated skin. Opting for cooler showers and gentle body cleansers will help to restore that missing moisture and prevent dry patches.

2. Hit the gym (but not too hard)

Every time we exercise the blood vessels under our skin open up providing a rich blood supply to the skin. This increased blood supply helps to flood the skin with nutrients and regenerates the skin cells giving it a nice healthy glow.

Vigorous exercise regimes however may have a negative effect as the prolonged dilation of blood vessels can cause more irritation. This can be particularly noticeable in people with acne and rosacea so sticking to gentle exercise is often best.

3. Water isn’t everything

Drinking 2litres of water a day is important for healthy, hydrated skin, however it doesn’t stop there. Foods high in vitamins A, C and E are particularly nutritious for our skin. Cod liver oil, dairy, eggs and fruit and vegetables like broccoli , carrots and spinach are all packed with vitamin A, which is proven to have an anti-ageing effect by regenerating skin cells more quickly.

Vitamin C is a strong anti-oxidant that reduces damaging free radicals and helps in the repair and regeneration of skin cells so make sure you pack in plenty of citrus fruits, kiwi, mango, watermelon and berries.

Vitamin E is found mainly in nuts like almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts and works closely with vitamin C to restore skin hydration. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and anti-pigment properties (skin discolouration).

4. Application is key

Moisturising creams are best applied in the direction of the hairs found on the body to aid better absorption, and anti-ageing products are best applied at night when the skin is focusing on its repair ‘uninterrupted’.

If you’re experiencing dry skin, then applying a second application immediately after the first is ideal, as our skin has natural ‘hills and valleys’ (or peaks and troughs).

5. Be gentle (especially after a big night out) 

Alcohol has a dehydrating effect on our skin and the best way to restore this is both from the inside and outside. Gentle cleansing will help to remove any debris left on the skin and restore the natural skin texture. Drinking plenty of water or fruit juices for the next day or two will help to provide the right hydration from the inside, and applying a good hydrating moisturiser to your face and body every 3-4 hours for the next couple of days will help too.

6. SPF (even in the winter!)

Absolutely! Sunshine is generally helpful for a number of skin complaints especially psoriasis, dermatitis and even acne problems, so heading outside for a walk to make the most of the winter sunshine can help to give skin a boost, but remembering your SPF is key.

A low SPF such as 15-20 will be fine for most people during winter, and regular application throughout the day to maintain the effect is more important than the actual SPF. In other words, it’s best to use a low SPF regularly rather than a high SPF sunscreen only once in the day.

7. Don’t overdo it

I often see patients who are over-hydrating or under-hydrating their skin. Over-hydrating with very greasy moisturising creams leads to heat ‘trapping’ in the skin and can cause more irritation and development of spots.  These are emollients with very high paraffin content such as paraffin ointments (clear greasy consistency). These may be essential for people with naturally very dry skin and eczema but would not be ideal in people with mild dryness or normal skin. If that is the case it is best to opt for light creams or moisturising lotions that absorb nicely into the skin and do not leave a residue.

8. Balanced diet = balanced skin

Despite the stories, there is no proven link between the cause of acne and diet, and avoiding certain foods does not cure acne.  Having a balanced diet with the right nutrients is important for maintaining healthy skin. Amongst the patients I see with acne there may be some who experience worsening of their acne when exposed to certain foods ,which may not be coincidental but in fact  an ‘intolerance’. In these cases those foods are best avoided or reduced until the skin problems resolve.

9. Get personal

We’ve heard of sleep diaries and food diaries, and the same principle can be applied to our skin. If you’re prone to skin flare ups such as dryness, acne and / or sensitivity, keeping a skincare diary is a good way to identify your triggers and any foods that could be causing these flare ups. Make notes on a daily basis of products you’ve used on your skin, foods you’ve eaten, and any positive or negative changes you’ve noticed. If you’re concerned about your skin, taking this skincare diary to a doctor’s appointment can be helpful.

10. Sleep your way to glowing skin

Not only is a good night’s sleep vital for our health and wellbeing, but not getting your full 8 hours can have a negative effect on your skin too. When we’re sleep deprived, our bodies produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, causing inflammation to rise in the body. This inflammation breaks down the body’s supply of collagen and hyaluronic acid, the molecules that give the skin its glow, bounce, and translucency. Getting to bed early and having a good 7-9 hours’ sleep is vital for healthy skin. Teaming this with a good night cream containing Retinol (vitamin A) will also help to restore and regenerate the skin overnight.

Dr Christos Kasparis