It’s itchy and angry: How can you get rid of dry skin in the winter? This is how Stern, a German weekly, recently titled a report on the itching and tightness of the skin caused by dry cold and dehumidified indoor air. It was possible do something about these effects, the text said, but “many remedies only serve to make things worse”. So, what is good for the skin, and what isn’t?
The magazine’s advice is to “use moisturiser” against dry air and refers to the consumer TV show “Visite” on NDR. According to the show, one should take care “not to use skin care containing petroleum products. Additives such as paraffin will, in the long run, cause skin to become dry and flaky. And once your skin feels irritated, preservatives and fragrances should also be avoided.”
As a matter of fact, many moisturisers and so-called skin care products have ingredients which are not always good for your skin. Rather than simply covering your skin in fats and chemicals, it is fundamentally more important to activate the skin’s self-healing properties. The natural bacterial barrier on our skin plays a crucial role in protecting it, and even in the dry winter it is able air to provide a key contribution to helping your skin feel better.
Once this protective function is affected and the skin barrier deteriorates, we can observe what NDR “Visite” writes, e.g., about eczema: “The skin is not just dry, it is also reddish and scaly, itches and weeps […] through tiny cracks in the skin barrier, bacteria and fungi can enter and trigger diseases.” But not all bacteria cause diseases. Quite to the contrary: There are many good bacteria which play a major role in keeping your skin healthy, in particular with regard to skin diseases like atopic eczema. We have to boost these (positive) bacteria and keep (or restore) our skin flora’s healthy balance.
To keep your skin flora healthy, you should not only avoid excessive moisturising and frequent and healthy showers or baths. “Long baths” may be “especially popular during the cold season, they relax the body and appear to be good for the skin,” as the article in Stern says. But at the same time, they leach and dry out the skin, which damages the bacterial layer and hence the skin’s protective acidic film. Moisturising after your bath won’t help, but systematically caring for and revitalising your skin flora will.
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