Winter is a season decorated with lustrous snowfalls, and festive memories filled with friends, family and loved ones. But it's safe to say that shifting into a winter routine is more than just pulling out your flannel toques and snow boots.
In this blog we'll cover essential self-care items to reduce cracked lips, dry-flaky skin, irritation and redness, and lastly, mental health.
1. LIP ROUTINE
Chapstick Fit Check
Have you ever conducted a fit-check for your lip product? Now might be a great time to start! It's time to consider switching-up your choice of chapstick during the dry winter season. We recommended opting for a chapstick rich in emollients, which are moisturizer's designed to hydrate skin formulated with occlusive agents that lock in moisture.
If you're unsure where to start, here's our list of common emollient ingredients found in most natural health and drugstore retailers:
- Shae Butter
- Cacao Butter
- Mineral Oil (I would avoid mineral oils om the face, as it is comedogenic)
More technical emollients found in the formulations include:
How do technical emollients help with dry lips?
Generally these substances contain a wax-like texture and appearance but provide most moisturizers with their elegant texture and feel.
Cold-Sore Lysine Ointments
Lysine is an amino acid offered in a variety of formats including lip ointments, powders, and capsules. Lysine is purported to have the ability to breakdown infections, and is used as a topical ointment to combat cold sores [HSV-1 (Herpes Simplex Virus-1)] .
How does Lysine work?
The exact way Lysine handles HSV-1 isn't entirely understood, with research suggesting the its antagonist, Arginine, is responsible for the replication of the virus at high doses. When Lysine is administered, it counteracts the function of Arginine, and is therefore thought to help in that way .
2. SKINCARE ROUTINE
Being exposed to the dry winter air, and constant indoor heating conidtions can leave your skin feeling dry, tight, and even flaky.
Opt for Moisturizers and Lotions
Once again, opting for skincare formulations rich in emollients (moisturizing agents) can help keep skin's surface barrier intact during dry seasons.
Although lotions and moisturizers are within the same family, the main differences are the concentrations of specific ingredients. For example, lotions contain higher concentrations of water within the formulation - making it an excellent light-weight choice during summer months, or for people with oily / combination skin.
Moisturizers are often synonymous with emollients, even when containing humectants and occlusive within the formulation. Moisturizers fill intercorneocyte cluster gaps to improve skin smoothness, hydration, softness and flexibility .
Moisturizers often contain the following:
Occlusive: A type of moisturizer containing oil as its primary base, and works by creating a hydrophobic barrier over the skin to block trans-epidermal water loss .
Ingredients to watch:
- Petrolatum, mineral oil, squalene, beeswax, stearic acid, lanolin acid, carnauba
Humectants: Allow the stratum corneum to absorb water by attracting water from dermis and a humid environment into the epidermis.
Ingredients to watch:
- Urea, sorbitol, panthenol, glycerol, propylene glycol, hyaluronic acid
During the dry, winter months, it is common to experience redness concurrently to dry skin. It is recommended to find formulations that target redness which is exacerbated by atopic dermatitis, and dry skin. It's ALWAYS recommend to patch test any skin formulation on your skin to ensure it's the right fit for you.
- Niacinamide (Vitamin B3): Clinically studied as an anti-inflammatory, and anti-redness skin agent. Niacinamide can cause irritation, patch test!!!!!!
- Licorice Rt.: Anti-inflammatory, anti-redness, and combats post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and symptoms of melasma by blocking tyrosinase enzymes. Licorice is also calming for the skin.
- Colloidal Oats: Contain fatty acids that hydrate the skin barrier, vitamin E for skin protection, beta-glucans for irritation, and soothing anti-inflammatory properties that calm redness.
Restoring the Surface Barrier
Ideally if your skin is already prone to dry / atopic dermatitis, protecting the skins surface barrier is of upmost importance.
Looking for ceramides in your formulation can help improve the structural integrity of the skin.
Ceramides account for over 50% of the skin's surface barrier, it is responsible for formatting the permeability of the skin's surface barrier in the stratum corneum . Specifically, ceramides are made from a shpingoid base (SB) and a Fatty Acid (FA) attached via amide bonds . This helps prevent the access of pathogenic bacteria, and keeps the skins surface barrier hydrated.
In layman terms, ceramides composed of healthy fats responsible for the youthful and hydrated appearance of the skin. It is generally boasted in the media, with reputable brands endorsing ceramides in skin formulations, like CeraVe.
How to spot Ceramides in your skin formulation:
Look for ingredients with the following listings:
- Ceramide ending in 1, 2, 3, 6 II, EOS, EOP, NG, NP, NS, and AP 
3. MENTAL HEALTH ROUTINE
Vitamin D (cholecalciferol) is a popular supplement in today's era, but the better question to ask is why and what relationship does it have with the winter season? For any of our reader's who are not familiar with this nutrient, vitamin D is primarily known to play large role in bone health, and calcium-phosphate homeostasis. Approximately 80% of Vitamin D is synthesized by the skin via ultra-violet (UV) rays, and the remaining one-fifth through dietary sources .
This means Vitamin D synethsis is heavily reliant to sun exposure.
The exposure time to UV rays (thus VD absorption) is downsized in winter due to the early nightfalls, leaving children and adults at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. So it can be in your best interest to closely monitor your serum levels with a clinician to ensure adequate intake is met.
Other common factors that can lead to Vitamin D deficiency:
- Genetic Predispositions
- Malabsorption (i.e. Leaky Gut, Short Bowel Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis)
- Pharmaceutical-use (phenobarbital, carbamazepine, dexamethasone, nifedipine, spironolactone, clotrimazole, and rifampin)
- Eating Disorders / Malnutrition
We explored the Neuroanatomy of Vitamin D defiency and depression, without making a definitive hypothesis, but rather an observation with its correlation with mental health.
There are multiple reasons for depression and therefore it should not be limited, or elucidated to the deficiency of one nutrient. Inflammation, and multiple psychological factors including post-traumatic stress, are amongst the variables that can play a role in the onset of depression.
Vitamin D and Depression
In recent times, Vitamin D has gained widespread attention for its role in mental health. But why? Lets explore the neuroscience of Vitamin D in the brain.
Vitamin D, and Mental Health
Landmarks in the brain that are associated with memory (hippocampus), cognition (pre-frontal cortex), hormone regulation (hypothalamus) and dopamine production, your "feel good hormone" (substantia nigra) do have empirical evidence indicating the presence of Vitamin D receptors in these brain locations.
In a 2019 article, researchers investigated the role of Vitamin D receptors in the hippocampus (memory). Traditionally, the hippocampus is associated with memory, and emotional function. Interestingly, atrophy (cell death) in the hippocampus, has been associated with blunted behavioral and emotional responses when conducted in rodent studies.
Through this study, it was revealed that Vitamin D may play a critical role in modulating the expression of brain-boosting neurotrophic agents including nerve growth factor (NGF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and neurotrophic (NT)-3) factors, all of which may play a role in the viability, and growth of neurons.
Healthy viable neurons = healthy viable brain
Healthy brain regions that modulate emotions = healthy mood
Vitamin D is known to be able to cross through the blood brain barrier, providing insight on how supplementation may to a degree serve as a potential strategy when treating depression. More research is required.
How does Vitamin D correlate with Depression?
The exact mechanism of how Vitamin D correlates with depression is not entirely understood. However, it has been shown that populations with Vitamin D deficiency are positively correlated with the prevalence of depression. This does not elucidate whether Vitamin D levels are associated with other variables including onset and severity of depression.
Julia Pasco, B.Psych, is the owner of Kipos Nutrimart Health Foods Store and KIPOS.ca. She has a formal background in psychology, nutrition, pharmacology and life sciences. As a home-keeper and business owner, Julia uses organizational, and holistic techniques to optimize her wellness. The blog articles published are an accumulation of medical and peer-reviewed research articles, and organizational tips to lead healthier lifestyles.