Coping with Winter Dryness

Moist skin is happy skin. Keep clients and staff educated on the best ways to deal with winter dryness and your spa can stay clear of the winter blues

For many people, the fall is foreshadowing. The temperature drops, leaves dry out and float to the ground, flaking apart as they fall and crumble to nothing. As the winter cold that was hinted of in the fall closes in, human skin can go the way of the leaves. It dries out, cracks and causes discomfort for millions of Canadians. The spa can be a client’s winter-dryness refuge during the frigid months by providing information and products to soothe parched skin.

“Winter is a very common time for dry skin,” says Dr. Benjamin Barankin, dermatologist and director of the Toronto Dermatology Centre.

In the summer months, environmental humidity does a nice job of helping the skin maintain a degree of moisture. As the winter closes in, ambient humidity drops significantly. Lines in the skin grow more visible, skin becomes irritable and itchy and redness becomes more pronounced. And inside the home we crank up the furnace, drying out the air further. “We are surrounded by this dry air for several months,” Barankin says.

In the worst case, skin can crack and bleed and, if ignored, develop an infection. To help clients deal with this seasonal affliction, the spa should be equipped with the latest products and knowledge out there.

“The most basic thing to know is that you should moisturize more than you would in the summer months,” Barankin says. During more humid months, lotions, which are typically more watery, can be used to effectively maintain skin moisture. The winter, according to Barankin, requires creams and ointments because they are typically thicker and richer than lotion.

Hands and feet are usually the first and most adversely affected by dryness. Barankin recommends a greasy ointment. “It’s very important to apply this immediately after washing the hands, while the skin is still moist, to lock that moisture in,” Barankin says.

This is particularly important for older clients. The elderly are more affected by dry skin—as the body ages, it loses the ability to produce natural moisturizers.

The rest of the body would be better served with a liberal application of a cream moisturizer.

“Something cream-based is more elegant than an ointment and works best for the entire body,” says Barankin. The best time to apply an all-over moisturizer is the same time as a hands and feet moisturizer. After a shower, after thirsty skin has drunk its fill, lather up to keep the skin happy all day long. Spa clients suffering from acne are presented with a challenging situation in the winter. Most medicated washes are formulated to draw the moisture out of the skin.

“You compound that with the drop in humidity and these people become extremely irritated,” Barankin says. Even hand soap during the day can negate moisturizers that were applied in the morning.

The spa can advise clients to use a mild cleanser when washing the hands during the day and provide soap free cleansers at the spa (for staff to use as well).

Individual sized tubes of ointment are a great product to offer clients in addition to full-sized products. This will allow repeat applications through the client’s day.

Barankin recommends products like Cetaphil Restoraderm or Impruv from Stiefel Laboratories Inc., which both contain ceramides, a family of lipid molecules known to increase moisture retention in the skin. “More and more, dermatologists are looking at ceramides as highly valuable moisturizers,” says Barankin.

He also recommends products containing shea butter, glycerin and dimethicone, found in products like Ole Henriksen’s Nurture Me. “These are all good ingredients for combating winter’s extreme drying effect,” Barankin says.

Spa clients can also help keep the skin moist by running a humidifier in the bedroom while they sleep. People spend around eight hours per day in the bedroom and this can be a great opportunity to hydrate the skin. It would also benefit both spa clients and spa staff to have humidifiers running throughout the spa.

by Jason Hagerman | Winter 2010/2011