Skin is the human body’s number one defence against the world. It protects us from UV radiation, dehydration, and ageing pollution particles… from bacteria, viruses, and free-radicals. Skin performs every one of these defences daily.
However every day your skins job becomes a little different. Its working conditions change. Heat, humidity, sun exposure and the elements all wage a battle in different ways throughout the year. They can even cause a temporary change of skin type.
Are you changing your skincare routine to match?
There are 4 key weather changes that influence the skin – humidity, heat, sun exposure and wind speed. Understanding each of these factors will help you adjust your skincare routine to compensate before your skin becomes dry, oily or tired.
How seasonal humidity changes affect your skin
Although it’s unfelt, air is in constant contact with skin, day, noon and night. The air surrounding skin holds a portion of vaporised water. This is often referred to as its relative humidity and is defined as the percentage of water that’s contained within the air, dependant on its temperature.
When air is warmer, it’s able to hold a higher percentage of water. When air is colder, it’s unable to hold as much. Relative humidity ratings take this into account.
The health of skin relies significantly on its ability to retain water. Designed with an oily top layer, most of the time, skin performs this task very well. When under constant attack by low humidity levels, it can fail.
By nature and the scientific laws of diffusion, when one place or area contains a higher level of hydration than another, the 2 naturally want to meet in the middle. It’s similar to pouring a glass of orange squash – the orange portion will not remain segregated from the diluting water for long. When low humidity strikes, skins higher levels of hydration become borrowed by the surrounding air.
Low humidity levels effect skin hydration quickly. Within 6 hours of 10% relative humidity, the skin can become clinically dry[i]. Remaining in low humidity levels can decrease skin’s elasticity[ii] and increase the likelihood of developing skin conditions such as contact or allergic dermatitis[iii], [iv].
If your skin is being negatively affected by low humidity levels you may be experiencing one of the below symptoms;
Dryness/patches of dry skin.
Tight feeling skin.
Formation of new wrinkles.
Skin that looks dull and sallow.
Conversely, high humidity levels are much healthier for the skin. Even so, if you inherently have an oily skin type, high humidity levels will exaggerate oily skin characteristics.
Both high and low humidity levels need an adjusting skincare routine.
Seasonal skincare: changes for humidity
When humidity levels plummet, the hydrating ability of your skincare routine should accelerate. The best way to do this is in 2 steps;
Integrate a humectant full serum or spray – humectants are ingredients that lock onto water.
Use a richer, moisturising cream to help condition and seal.
Humectant serums can be based on many ingredients, the most popular of which are glycerin, hyaluronic acid, saccharide Isomerate and sorbitol. The griffin+row Hydrate contains both glycerin and sorbitol helping skin to boost and retain hydration.
Once a generous dose of humectants has been applied, it’s helpful to re-seal your skins natural oil-based barrier by applying a richly moisturising cream. Choosing a formula packed with natural vitamin rich oils will consistently help to improve skin condition.
If you have an oily skin type and find yourself in a high humidity environment, it’s best to replace both of these steps for a lightly hydrating lotion.
How seasonal temperature changes affect your skin
Dermatological studies show that cold weather significantly impedes skins ability to retain hydration. As temperature heads towards zero, skin hydration drops. This effect is significantly pronounced when cold air is paired with low relative humidity. In just 15 minutes exposure to these conditions has a measurably drying effect[v].
Low-temperature levels appear to hinder the creation of stratum corneum lipids. These are a collection of ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids that hold skin cells together tightly forming an efficient barrier. During seasons of low temperature, a specific kind of stratum corneum (SC) lipid referred to as ceramide I linoleate decreases. Scientists believe this important lipid act’s in a similar way to anti-freeze, preventing the SC lipids from crystallising and creating holes within the skins lipid barriers[vi]. If this occurs, tests show levels may be restored by applying creams containing ceramide I or replenishing essential fatty acids.
High temperatures have the opposite effect, they provide an optimal environment for skin repair[vii] while also acting to increase skins sebum production[viii]. Great news for dry/mature skin types that will be replenished and an action reminder for oily/combination skin types.
Seasonal skincare: changes for temperature
Prevention is better than treatment, therefore, avoiding dry skin effects from seasonal temperature changes is best achieved when you first begin to feel a chill in the air.
To avoid the previously described symptoms and vulnerabilities of a dry skin type, you should integrate a richly moisturising cream containing ceramide I or essential fatty acids.
While ceramide I can be found singularly, essential fatty acids are often found in natural plant oils such as rosehip oil, hemp seed oil, and evening primrose oil. If derived individually you may find the ingredient named as linoleic acid.
Alternatively, if you have an already oily skin type, it’s likely the naturally oily nature of your skin during summer time will become pronounced. To help re-balance this change switch out richly moisturising creams for lotions, or even for a hydrating spray such as the griffin+row skin Hydrate.
How seasonal sun exposure changes affect your skin
There are 2 kinds of UV light, UVA, and UVB. UVA light remains consistent all year round while UVB light is most prevalent during summer time. This is often overlooked because only UVB light is able to cause sunburn.
Higher levels of UVB light cause significant irritation as high intensity UVB rays off-load their energy into skin. This provokes irritation, inflammation and redness. The impeding sunburn is a warning sign to seek shade, however once skin is pink, skin damage has already occurred.
During summer months, skin defends against UVB light continually. Sunburn should be thought of as the highest intensity of UVB damage and it should be remembered even without sunburn, UVB light is able to cause un-seeable irritation and inflammation. The accumulation of which leads to poor skin health, hydration loss and premature ageing.
Seasonal skincare: changes for sun exposure
Sun protection should be worn all year round to help protect against the consistent presence of UVA light. During summer time, when UVB levels are at their highest your skincare routine is best serving when it includes a highly rated SPF sun cream.
The SPF rating of a sun cream helps you to decide how much longer you’d be able to remain in the sun before becoming sun burnt. An SPF level of 30, will prolong the time it would usually take you to burn by 30 times, an SPF of 50 by 50 times.
Alongside a highly protective sun cream, summertime skincare is also most effective when containing ingredients that re-hydrate and soothe.
How seasonal wind exposure changes affects your skin
Seasonal changes in wind speed are often overlooked as a cause of skin stress. Nonetheless they contribute significantly. Skin exposed to high wind velocities will be significantly dehydrated afterwards. The wind can literally blow away skin hydration.
When skin hydration levels fall, a biological process such as skin desquamation is hindered[ix]. Desquamation is the process skin must go through to effectively shed its outer most layers i.e. to exfoliate itself. Skin is always in a consistent state of renewal, new healthy skin cells are born within the deepest layer of skin and through maturation gradually rise to the stratum corneum. When reaching the stratum corneum skin cells become keratinized which is a scientific phrase used to describe their technically dead state of being. This dead state allows skin cells to pack together tightly, forming an effective skin barrier. Being dead, it’s important for the stratum corneum to shed regularly and when healthy this process is achieved fully through an average lifecycle of 30 days.
When this renewal process is slowed, skin becomes dry, dull and flaky. Therefore it’s important to avoid dehydration through seasonal weather changes such as wind velocity.
Seasonal skincare: changes for wind exposure
Adapting your skincare routine for wind exposure is best thought of in two distinct phases;
Protection against water loss – used before wind exposure.
Replenishment – used after wind exposure.
Unlike seasonal changes such as relative humidity, it’s fairly easy to tell when skin is about to be exposed to a high wind environment. Looking out the window at how quickly a tree sways is all that’s needed. When you know skin is going to be exposed to wind, you can help prevent it dehydrating your skin by using a richly conditioning moisturiser or a skin protecting balm. Either option provides an extra layer of defence against dehydration.
After wind exposure, it’s important to compensate for water loss by using a humectant rich serum or spray. If you’ve exposed skin to high winds over many days, it’s also helpful to add a gentle exfoliating product to your routine. Exfoliating works towards the prevention of dry, dull and flaky looking skin. This can be as simple as using a conditioning cream cleanser like griffin+row skin cleanser cream with a naturally exfoliating muslin cloth.
Have you ever felt like your skincare products have stopped working? Where they once made your skin glow, they now seem to have no effect?
This loss in effectiveness is most likely due to seasonal weather changes. Every skincare routine can be easily adapted to these by incorporating 2-3 seasonal switches. This could be as simple as integrating a hydrating facial spray or by switching a light lotion for a richly conditioning cream. Which 2 to 3 changes will you integrate to ensure your skin remains healthy all-year round?
References and Sources:
[i] Engebretsen, K.A., Johansen, J.D., Kezic, S., Linneberg, A. and Thyssen, J.P. (2016), The effect of environmental humidity and temperature on skin barrier function and dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol, 30: 223–249. doi:10.1111/jdv.13301
[ii] Tsukahara K, Hotta M, Fujimura T et al. Effect of room humidity on the formation of fine wrinkles in the facial skin of Japanese. Skin Res Technol 2007;13: 184–188.
[iii] Sato M, Fukayo S, Yano E. Adverse environmental health effects of ultra-low relative humidity indoor air. J Occup Health 2003;45: 133–136.
[iv] hou TC, Lin KH, Sheu HM et al.Alterations in health examination items and skin symptoms from exposure to ultra-low humidity. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 2007;80: 290–297.
[v] Roure R, Lanctin M, Nollent V et al. Methods to assess the protective efficacy of emollients against climatic and chemical aggressors. Dermatol Res Pract 2012; 2012: 864734.
[vi] Conti A, Rogers J, Verdejo P et al. Seasonal influences on stratum corneum ceramide 1 fatty acids and the influence of topical essential fatty acids. Int J Cosmet Sci 1996; 18 :1 – 12.
[vii] Denda M, Sokabe T, Fukumi-Tominaga T et al. Effects of skin surface temperature on epidermal permeability barrier homeostasis. J Invest Dermatol 2006; 127 : 654 – 659.
[viii] Youn SW, Na JI, Choi SY et al. Regional and seasonal variations in facial sebum secretions: a proposal for the definition of combination skin type. Skin Res Technol 2005; 11 : 189 – 195.
[ix] Verdier-Sévrain, S. and Bonté, F. (2007), Skin hydration: a review on its molecular mechanisms. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 6: 75–82. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2165.2007.00300.x