This Is Why Your Skin Feels Worse in the Winter (& Why Your Cheeks Turn Red)

Mar 8, 2018 at 11:29 a.m. ET
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If you live in a climate that experiences all four seasons, chances are you've noticed changes in your skin during different points of the year. At this point, you're probably used to having to slather on the lotion during the winter months, but why is that the case? Thanks to a new study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, we may have an answer.

During the study, researchers noticed a change in the breakdown products of filaggrin — a protein that helps maintain the skin's barrier function — in the hands and cheeks of the participants between the winter and summer months. In addition, there were changes in the texture of corneocytes — the cells in the outermost part of the skin's epidermis.

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So what does this mean? Basically, these findings help explain why our cheeks turn red in cold weather and why people with topical skin conditions like eczema and rosacea notice their symptoms getting worse in the winter.

"This study shows clearly that the skin barrier is affected by climatic and seasonal changes," Dr. Jacob Thyssen of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and senior author of the study, says in a statement. "Both children and adults suffer from red cheeks in the winter in northern latitudes and some may even develop more permanent skin conditions such as atopic eczema and rosacea."

Thyssen explains that the study used high magnification to show that the cold makes skin cells shrink, altering their surface. His main takeaway: Don't skimp on the skin care, advising that people should protect their skin with moisturizers in the winter and sunscreen in the summer.

"We already know that humidity can affect the texture of the skin and impact on skin disorders like eczema, and humidity fluctuates according to season," Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists explains in a statement. "In the winter, rapidly changing temperatures, from heated indoors to cold outdoors environments, can affect the capillaries, and prolonged exposure to wet weather can strip the skin's barrier function."

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Goad says this study is interesting because it helps explain seasonal skin changes at a cellular level and welcomes any research that will help us understand skin disorders better.

More research is needed in this area to improve skin care year-round, but in the meantime, don't forget that moisturizer and sunscreen, regardless of the season.

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