Winter is coming. Winter is here and it’s definitely ‘big coat’ weather!
Recently, we had a customer get in touch looking for some advice as to why she might be experiencing very dry skin on her legs and what she can do about it – an issue faced by many of us as this time of year plays havoc on our skin. While the colder temperatures contribute, there are other factors which play their part too. Below, we’ll be looking at the causes of dry skin on legs and the preventative measures/treatment options which can help…
Why might you have dry skin on your legs and what can you do to improve it?
Age – As we get older – especially when we reach perimenopause and menopause – our skin hydration levels drop as a result of oestrogen decline. This also affects blood flow, preventing nutrients and oxygen from reaching where they need to, causing dry skin. We talk more about this in our post, Could Your Dry Skin Be Caused By Hormonal Changes? but did you know that the cell turnover on our legs is already slower because there is less lipid content and a reduced blood supply? This means it is incredibly important to keep skin there hydrated, particularly as we age.
Genetics, Skin & Health Conditions, Medications – Maybe you’re born with it. Dryness is a common symptom of skin conditions such as Eczema and Psoriasis, however, it is also associated with Diabetes, Kidney or Liver Disease, and Thyroid problems. If you are taking medication or applying prescribed products for any of these (and many more conditions), this may be partly responsible for the dry skin on your legs. It may be worth talking to your GP about this as a side effect.
Weather, Heating & Air Con – Both a cooler climate and hot weather can have an impact on our skin. In the latter, the moisture already in our skin can evaporate and leave it dry. In the former, there is reduced moisture in the air due to lower humidity meaning we require additional hydration – both topically and from within. We always advise using an SPF to protect the skin, no matter what the weather is and limit time spent outside in harsher/hotter conditions. Central heating or air conditioning in homes can also lower air humidity. Set your central heating in your home to a lower setting and invest in purchasing a dehumidifier which will add moisture to the air to prevent dryness that can cause irritation.
Clothing – We find that wearing clothing which are made from natural fibres rather than synthetic helps to retain some of the moisture on our legs (and of course is better for our planet). Wearing tights can also aggravate dry skin on your legs so look out for ones which are suitable for sensitive skin if this is a concern for you.
Hot Baths, Showers & Saunas – As much as it feels incredible stepping into a steaming hot bath/shower when it’s freezing out, doing so can strip skin of its essential oils. Instead, we recommend having a warm bath/shower and restricting this to 10 minutes or less, no more than once a day. At the end of your bath/shower, splash your skin with cold water. This is great for boosting blood circulation and will improve the appearance of your skin all over your body.
Products – One of the first things we would encourage you to check if you are experiencing dry skin (wherever on your face/body) is the ingredients in the products you are using. Many soaps and cleansers – particularly those that foam – are formulated to remove oils and dirt from your skin. A number of these contain SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) which can have a drying effect, stripping away not only excess oils and dirt, but the natural oils on the skin too (in the same way chlorine will in a swimming pool). As a result, the skin barrier is weakened, leaving it exposed and permeable, and ultimately dry/irritated so where possible, opt for SLS-free products. NB: SLS-free soap bars probably do not contain enough oils in them to stop skin from drying out so add some oil to your SLS-free shower gel in the winter months, then use a scrubbing mitt to slough off dry skin.
Infrequent Moisturising – How many times per week do you moisturise your body? We suspect not often enough! Try to get into the habit of applying some oil to legs before bed, and massage it in, then shower off in the morning, pat dry and apply moisturiser afterwards. Another tip is to dry body brush before a shower to get the circulation moving and to start the exfoliation process. It’s also important to note that when using oil/moisturiser on the body we need to leave a bit of dampness on the skin to trap in moisture, which is why moisturising straight after a shower is a good habit to get into.
You might also like: Winter Skin – Do We Need A Whole New Routine?
Diet & Dehydration – Are you including lots of essential fats into your diet and foods rich in antioxidants? These protect against free radicals which can damage your skin, making it more vulnerable to dryness and inflammation. You may also not feel like it during the cold months/feel like you don’t need to, but you must drink plenty of water. We tend to consume more hot drinks such as tea and coffee in the colder months, which can be dehydrating. The more water you drink, the more your skin will be better hydrated, softer and flexible. Remember, we lose water through our skin every day too!
You might also like: Our Top Tips For Autumn/Winter Wellbeing
HOW DO YOU PREVENT/TREAT DRY SKIN ON YOUR LEGS?
We’d love for you to tell us in a comment below!
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