Unless you’re Santa, rosy cheeks are not necessarily a sign of robust health.

Wintertime in Sisters can be hard on the skin, and a little knowledge goes a long way toward warding off its effects and looking and feeling our best through the holidays.

We know that the epidermis is constantly being renewed, and it’s the cellular renewal process that forms lipids that create the skin’s barrier function. Mark Lees, PhD, clinical skin therapist, compares the epidermis to a brick wall. The “bricks” are the epidermal cells, the barrier lipid complex is the mortar between the bricks. This “mortar” holds essential moisture in the skin and blocks irritants from penetrating the epidermis. When the barrier lipid complex is damaged by extreme cold and windy weather, the skin becomes dry, chapped, sensitive, dehydrated and rough. Those clients with rosacea are more likely to suffer excessive redness as the immune system responds, due to the blood bringing immune cells to the site.

Re-establishing the barrier lipids, and repairing barrier function, protecting against TEWL, (transepidermal water loss.), is what winter skin care is all about. Unprotected environmental exposure to sun, cold, wind and dry air all contribute to TEWL.

According to Shelly Burns, naturopathic M.D., biotin or, D-biotin is a commonly overlooked vitamin B which is important in supporting healthy skin. During cold months it’s especially important to protect and prevent dry skin. Biotin has been called the dry skin cure. It can also help prevent hair loss and muscle cramps. Good food sources of biotin are eggs, legumes, nuts, brewer’s yeast and oat bran.

It’s very important to avoid harsh detergent cleansers or soaps on the face as well as avoid washing too often. Use a low-foaming, or a no-foaming cleanser. I advise my clients to cleanse skin at the end of the day — take off the day, the make-up, the sebum, the sweat, pollution of wood smoke or other irritants. You go to bed clean; you wake up clean. No need to cleanse again in the morning — unless you have acne or oily skin and feel the need to gently cleanse again.

The mainstay of winter skin care is an increased use of intense moisturizers, humectants and protectants. The goal is to combat TEWL and to keep skin hydrated.

These are a few of my favorite things:

1.?Hyaluronic acid: Don’t be frightened by the “acid” part. Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in the skin and in the synovial fluid that surrounds our joints. It is a great plumper, holding up to 1,000 times its weight in water. The amount we produce declines with age, so topical products with this ingredient have a great effect on aging skin.

2.?Collagen-boosting peptides: A 2004 study showed that subjects using collagen-boosting peptides after 2 months showed 6.5 percent thicker skin than retinol users, who showed a 4 percent increase. Retinol can cause irritation, especially during winter months. Peptides provide better results, without irritation.

3.?Wetter water: A good hydrating, purifying water essence to apply along with your moisturizer. Some good natural ingredients to consider are birch water essence, calendula, shea butter, naturally rich in vitamins A, and E, a nut oil that moisturizes, revitalizes and softens the skin.

4.?Glycolic and lactic acids. Both are exfoliants as well as humectants. They work to gently remove dry, dead cells on the surface of the skin and to accelerate cell turnover. It’s during cellular renewal that natural barrier lipids are produced. This process results in healthier beautiful skin.

5.?Sunscreen SPF 30: Yes, sunscreen is important even in winter. In fact, any skier can show you that sun off snow will burn the skin. Any cream or any foundation containing sunscreen must be applied every two hours in order to offer adequate protection. Cream sunscreens are not photostable, meaning they break down as soon as the sun hits the skin. Also, creams are absorbed into the skin, along with any probable carrier product that may not be good for either the environment or the body. An alternative would be a non-nano cream, or a mineral sunscreen containing micronized zinc.

6.?Cream or gentle milk cleanser: An organic, gentle cleanser is especially important during winter to avoid over-stripping the skin. Suds are not necessary in order to remove makeup or sunscreen residue. If your skin feels tight or itchy and dry after cleansing, try a different product.

In order to help support healthy winter skin, avoid occlusive products that contain petroleum. Avoid overcleansing, especially with harsh soaps. Avoid extremes of heat and cold. Avoid overuse of tretinoin.

As always, consult your skincare specialist with concerns or questions, and enjoy this holiday season!