Protecting your skin in the cold weather


Protecting your skin in the cold weather

18 Jan, 2021

When we go outside in the cold weather, to protect ourselves from the cold, we never forget to wear a warm coat and a soft scarf. Likewise, it is important not to forget to take care of our skin during the winter season, especially when we spend most of our day away from home. Because, you know, prevention is better than cure!

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Skin exposed to the cold: what consequences

Cold, wind and sudden changes in temperature are enemies of the skin not only of the face, but also of the hands. All these factors weaken and make the skin more vulnerable, favoring the onset of eczema and dry skin. In the long run, they also cause premature aging of the skin, reduction in elasticity and dulling of our skin tone.

Low temperatures also cause a narrowing of the blood vessels (vasoconstriction) of the peripheral tissues: the body sends a greater amount of blood to the internal organs, resulting in less blood supply and oxygenation of the skin. Furthermore, the production of collagen decreases, the skin appears drier and there is a slowdown in cell turnover.

These processes are natural: in fact, in winter the skin almost undergoes a “slowdown” in its functions, and for this reason it is frequently grey and dull.

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Face, nose, hands: attention to each area

With the cold, and even more so in the current pandemic situation, with frequent handwashing, the surface hydrolipidic film is altered, i.e. that veil of sebum (fat) and water that protects the epidermis by acting as a natural barrier against external aggressions.

The skin gets thinner, small cracks form in the hands and face (corners of the mouth). The wind then leads to dehydration, while the smog, which settles on the skin, clogs the pores and prevents it from breathing.

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Although it is an annual recurrence and a physiological process, it is necessary to take care of it every day to ensure its health and brightness even in winter.

Let us therefore remember to protect even those delicate areas that are more exposed such as lips (with high protection sticks and cocoa butter), ears and eyelids, always forgotten but extremely susceptible to temperature changes.

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Useful tips for a daily skincare

To better respond to external temperatures, wind and humidity, the skin must be “prepared” thanks to some precautions, such as correct cleansing, adequate massages and protection with soft and quality materials.

Hydration is essential: remember to drink a lot, at least 2 liters of water a day, and maybe pamper ourselves with some good hot herbal tea.

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It is also important to use an excellent quality emollient cream, which moisturizes the skin and creates a protective layer, especially after having cleansed and purified it with non-aggressive substances. Avoid home treatments with scrubs that make the skin too red – better let the specialist do them. Well-hydrated skin is more protected, less vulnerable and also ages much more slowly.

To curb the aggression of free radicals and prevent wrinkles, it is essential to use sunscreens never lower than 15 (in winter), which are also useful as a base for make-up. These substances are in fact able to protect against the action of UVB rays, but particularly of UVA rays, the main enemies of the skin. 

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All these “operations” should become habits: they should not be seen as one-off actions, rather they ought to be carried out daily.




  • Purnamawati, S. et al, (2017), The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review. Clin Med Res. Dec; 15(3-4): 75–87. doi: 10.3121/cmr.2017.1363
  • Sabzevari, N. et al, (2021), Sunscreens: UV filters to protect us: Part 1: Changing regulations and choices for optimal sun protection. International Journal of Women's Dermatology, Women's Health Highlight. Volume 7, Issue 1, January 2021, Pages 28-44.

Written by

Santo Raffaele Mercuri
Santo Raffaele Mercuri

Dr. Santo Raffaele Mercuri is head of the Dermatology Unit of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, as well as teacher in the Master’s Degree in Dentistry and Dental Implantology at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan. Author and co-author of over 40 articles published in national and international journals and of numerous book chapters, since 2011 he has held the position of Expert of the Superior Health Council on issues related to dermatology.

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