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17 Surprising Tips From A Quebec Dermatologist For Protecting Your Skin This Winter

News flash: you're probably not doing it right.
17 Surprising Tips From A Quebec Dermatologist For Protecting Your Skin This Winter

With 2020's winter solstice fast approaching and Quebec's first snowfall of the year long behind us, you may be thinking of how to switch up your skincare routine to match winter temperatures in Quebec.

We get it — choosing the right products to best take care of your skin can be exhausting. With so many skincare brands competing with some of the same or very similar products, how do you choose what's best for you?

Whether you're a Clinique, The Ordinary or Ole Henriksen fan, your regular routine might not cut it during Quebec's harsh winters.  

We spoke to a Montreal dermatologist for more information — Dr. Mathieu Powell, a dermatologist at the McGill University Health Centre and Clinique Medic Elle in Montreal.

Scroll through for some of the best tips on winter skincare that you can keep in mind for this winter in Quebec.  

Which skincare products should people be using during Quebec winters?

According to Dr. Powell, as winter brings below-zero temperatures, harsh cool winds, low humidity, and sun-reflective snow, our skin becomes more prone to dryness, cracking, flaking, and ultimately, inflammation.

He says home heating can also make our skin dryer and recommends the use of a humidifier during Quebec's winter months.

(1) While skin tends to be oilier in the summer, he said a winter skincare routine may require thicker moisturizers such as creams and ointments (rather than gels and lotions), and cream-based cleansers, serums, and moisturizing toners, rather than drying astringents.

(2) Dr. Powell recommends taking quick, lukewarm showers and washing only what needs to be washed.

(3) Post-shower, he suggested patting your skin dry rather than rubbing and immediately applying a moisturizer.

(4) He said it's best to avoid drying exfoliators, which tend to cause flakes of skin to rub off.

(5) Quebecers should also not forget to use sunscreen in addition to SPF skincare products on the nose and cheeks, he warned — especially during outdoor winter activities.

Which skincare product ingredients are best and which ones should we avoid? 

Every Quebecer's complexion is different, but Dr. Powell says that moisturizers are key in maintaining healthy skin during dryer winter months.

(6) According to him, the best moisturizers are those that contain a "humectant," like hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which absorb moisture, and an "emollient," like petrolatum or ceramide, which create an oily barrier.

Dr. Powell says both ingredients prevent the evaporation of water out from the skin.

(7) He advised keeping in mind that when your skin is dry, it's best not to wash it too often so as not to remove your skin's natural oils with cleansers and he warned that even water itself can irritate already dry skin.

(8) The doctor said to consider splashing some lukewarm water on your face in the morning, and only using a gentle bar of soap or a cream-based cleanser in the evening.

(9) You can also apply a Vitamin C serum before applying your moisturizer, he said.

(10) Limit your use of makeup if you can, and consider using a tinted moisturizer with SPF instead, Dr. Powell recommends.

How can Quebecers take care of their lips during winter months?

The skin on your lips tends to be thinner than on other areas of your body, and is more prone to drying, cracking and bleeding.

(11) Dr. Powell recommends frequently applying balms or bland ointments containing petrolatum jelly during Quebec's winter months, and avoiding flavoured, coloured, or fragranced balms which can cause more irritation.

(12) He also says to avoid licking your lips, as this tends to create a vicious cycle of dryness and bacterial spread from inside the mouth, which may lead to infection.

(13) When moisturizers and balms are ineffective, you may require topical anti-inflammatory and anti-infective medications and should consult your doctor, he added.

How can people manage hand skin issues that result from excessive hand-washing and sanitizing?

With COVID-19 changing the way we behave when it comes to making sure Quebecers follow public health protocols, you may have gotten used to excessive sanitizing and hand-washing to prevent the spread of the virus.

However, each time you wash your hands, you're removing natural oils from your skin and in turn, the skin on your hands becomes dryer, said Powell.

(14) He recommends keeping a small bottle of moisturizer in your pocket, and immediately moisturizing after hand washing or sanitizing.

(15) Lighter hand moisturizers are better for the daytime, as we go through our regular daily activities, but he said you can also use an ointment-based moisturizer at the end of your day when you relax at home.

(16) If you're prone to eczema, the doctor stated that you may need medicated topicals, such as those containing cortisone or non-cortisone anti-inflammatory ingredients to soothe skin irritation and cracking.

Which skin conditions are most commonly found in the winter in Quebec?

According to Dr. Powell, common skin ailments in the winter include xerosis (dry skin), asteatotic dermatitis (cracked skin eczema), and the worsening of predisposed or genetic inflammatory skin conditions that are prone to dry skin and stress, like atopic or seborrheic dermatitis in the form of chronic eczema and dandruff, as well as psoriasis.

Cold winds and fluctuating temperatures can also worsen rosacea, which can lead to inflammation, pimples, inflamed eyelids, and worsening of facial eczema.

Dr. Powell says some patients mention hair loss and brittle nail beds during winter months as well.

Outdoor winter sports enthusiasts like skiers are still prone to sunburn and sun blistering on the face, especially in unprotected areas.

(17) That's why Dr. Powell recommends using a mineral-based sunscreen (containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide) with an SPF of at least 30 and reapplying when outdoors for long periods of time.

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