October is almost over, and winter is well on its way. Like the leaves on the trees, the temperature drops, and the nights draw in. The effects of winter on our health can be widespread – with increases in coughs, colds and the dreaded flu. Our skin is no different, and changes with the seasons.
It’s amazing to think but our skin is a constantly renewing layer of dead cells that make up our outermost layer – the epidermis. Every 28 - 35 days we gradually lose these cells to the environment and that’s what makes up most of our house dust! New cells replace the old ones and they produce natural oils and grease to keep it healthy.
With a drop in temperature, skin may become dry and flaky, particularly on our legs and feet. Normally our skin produces a protein known as Filaggrin. This protein breaks down to form the natural moisturisers (oils in our skin) which keep it supple and soft but recent research published in the British Journal of Dermatology has uncovered how changes in the environment can reduce Filaggrin production. Looking at 80 healthy adults skin (on their cheeks and hands) they demonstrated a change in the skin texture and a drop in natural moisturiser production as the seasons changed (1).
Dry skin is very common, about 29% of the working adult population has clinically dry skin and more than 60% of the elderly, too. As part of our daily routine, moisturisers should be included, particularly in winter. Our feet and legs suffer the effects of drying in the winter months. Regular application of moisturisers (also known as emollients) can reduce the effects of drying. This is particularly important in the elderly or those with skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. Besides the weather, there are many causes of dry skin including the way we shower and bathe, skin disorders, diabetes and even the side effects of the common medications we may be taking. If you need advice, come and talk to our podiatrists about how you can best care for skin on your legs and feet.
1. Engebretsen KA, Kezic S, Riethmüller C, Franz J, Jakasa I, Hedengran A, et al. Changes in filaggrin degradation products and corneocyte surface texture by season. Br J Dermatol. 2018;178(5):1143-50.