What Is Osmosis And Why Does It Make My Skin Dry In Winter?

Whilst we may love the fresh mornings and cosy evenings that the cooler months bring, amidst the seasonal charm is a less welcome companion: dry, parched skin. If you’re wondering why your skin often feels tighter and more dehydrated in winter despite your best moisturising efforts, the answer lies in a process called osmosis.

The Science Behind Skin Hydration

Skin osmosis is a natural process and balancing act, through which water molecules move across the skin barrier, which acts as a semipermeable membrane, to balance water levels on both sides. This movement typically occurs from an area of higher water concentration inside the skin to a lower water concentration in the drier, external environment.

During warmer months, humidity in the air helps maintain this balance, keeping the skin’s moisture levels relatively stable. However, as the temperature drops and the air around us holds less moisture, an imbalance is created through water from your skin’s deeper layers moving towards the surface, eventually evaporating into the air. The result? Your skin loses moisture to the environment, leaving it dry, tight, and sometimes flaky.

Combating Seasonal Dryness

Understanding the osmotic process highlights the importance of adapting our skincare routines for the winter season. Since osmosis will pull water out of your skin in drier low humidity conditions, the goal is to minimise this water loss while providing your skin with the hydration it needs to maintain skin health, a stable protective skin barrier, and elasticity.

Here are some ways to combat the drying effects of winter osmosis:

Hydrate From The Inside Out: Drinking plenty of water is a year-round necessity, but it becomes even more crucial in winter. Hydrating your body from the inside helps maintain your skin’s moisture levels, counteracting the osmotic pull of water out of your skin. However drinking water alone is not enough to meet the skin’s hydration needs.

Tailor Your Skincare By Season: When the weather gets cooler, switch to a more emollient moisturiser like the dr.NC Concentrated Hydration. Add a double dose of hydration and use the dr.NC Concentrated Moisturiser+ as well to help rehydrate and create a protective barrier on your skin to reduce water loss. Both boosted with 5% barrier boositing and ceramide stimulating Niacinamide (B3).Pair those with a cell exfoliating and hydrating serum such as the dr.NC Concentrated Clarifier to remove dry, dysfunctional, damaged cells, and moisture bind at the same time thanks to the dual function of lactic acid. Maintain with dr.NC Micropeel Wipes for a once-a-week, one minute process to help remove dull winter skin and promote even skin tone, and the dr.NC Concentrated Cleanser to cleanse without stripping. This cleanser is boosted with hydrating glycerin and anti-inflammatory botanicals, and is made to support the skin barrier. Avoid foaming products at all costs, especially in winter. Soap is a dirty word when it comes to skincare.

Use A Humidifier: Naturally lower humidity levels are exacerbated by heaters and other environmental aggressors. By adding moisture back into the air, humidifiers help reduce the imbalance between your skin and the air, minimising the osmotic pressure that drives moisture out of your skin.

Limit Hot Showers: Whilst we’ve all been guilty of setting the shower to lava temperatures on a cold morning, that steamy, scalding stream of water can quickly dehydrate your skin. Lukewarm water is less intense, and helps preserve the natural oils in your skin. As an added bonus, it’s also better for your hair. 

Protecting Your Skin's Future

What happens when you don’t work with your skin to maintain hydration? First, there are the elements of immediate discomfort, such as tightness, dryness,  itching,  irritation, and flaking skin that’s desperate for water. But looking long-term, frequent lack of skin hydration can lead to more visible signs of ageing, such as fine lines and wrinkles. When your skin is dry, it becomes more susceptible to irritation, redness, and other skin conditions, such as acne, rosacea, peri oral dermatitis, that will compromise your skin barrier over time. A compromised barrier will lead to further inflammation and age your skin, a phenomenon known as inflam-ageing. A vicious cycle begins.

Hydration is an  essential factor for high functioning skin and is important in repairing and protecting your barrier. Without proper attention, dry skin can become an ongoing problem. Incorporating a full body approach to skin hydration, using products specifically designed to combat osmotic pressure and maintain hydration, is key for long term skin health. The dr.NC Dehydration range is a comprehensive solution to replenish moisture, and to enhance your skin’s ability to retain it, ensuring your skin remains balanced and healthy in every season. 

Osmosis and Winter Skin Care

Weather can wreak havoc on your skin. Quickly going from high functioning to a compromised flaky barrier, inflammation, ageing and a plethora of skin concerns. The good news is, dr.NC has designed simple yet effective routines to ‘winter proof your skin” for ALL skin types. The Derm has got you and your skin covered.

The dry skin experienced in changing temperatures is a reminder of the intricate ways in which environmental conditions interact with our biology. It’s why Dr Natasha Cook doesn’t believe in skin type: our “types” change with the weather. By understanding these processes, we can work to prevent dramatic shifts in our skin health by taking proactive steps to manage it. Softer, more hydrated skin can be maintained through creating an equilibrium where our bodies are balanced with the environmental conditions around us. The dr.NC Hydration range ensures your skin is ready for any osmotic challenges it faces.