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Preventive Maintenance: Your guide to having healthy winter skin

Do you realize that we have about two square metres of skin, and two billion skin cells? Skin is our most extensive organ, and our first defense against the harsh environment.


Do you realize that we have about two square metres of skin, and two billion skin cells? Skin is our most extensive organ, and our first defense against the harsh environment.

Even though some areas of skin are thicker, all skin has three layers: the epidermis (outermost layer); the dermis (middle layer); and the hypodermis (deep, subcutaneous layers).

The outside covering, the epidermis, is our first protective barrier from the world. It has many layers of cells, but no blood vessels. The corneal layer (outermost part) is made of tough cells, which constantly get rubbed off. It has different thicknesses, depending on where it’s found. The thickest is on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet to protect the inner skin layers from friction.

The next layer is the dermis. Its specialized cells produce supportive tissues called collagen and elastin fibres. The collagen forms a grid-like network, supporting the tissue. Elastin is finer, making the skin supple and elastic. Both are full of a gel that keeps your skin moist, locking in water. The blood vessels in the dermis carry nutrients and water to the epidermis, to regulate the skin’s temperature. As well, its nerve endings are sensitive to touch, pain, and temperature, making our skin a sensory organ.

The third layer, the hypodermis (underlying fat) makes us soft yet firm, and stores and releases fatty cells. Everyone’s skin is made up of these three layers. But not all skin is created equal.

A man and a woman’s skins are not the same. Why? In general, male skin is oilier and sweatier, with larger pores, and a richer blood supply. Men’s skin doesn’t wrinkle as easily and is about 20 per cent thicker than women’s. It’s firmer because it has more collagen and elastin. Look good so far? Well, the down side is men’s skin tends to be much oilier than a woman’s and his face dries out from regular shaving.

Although both genders’ skins age in the same way, for men it occurs later. A man’s thicker, oilier skin resists the effects of the sun and other environmental stresses. However, when a man turns 40 or 50, his second skin layer gets thinner, the collagen decreases dramatically and deeper wrinkles appear. Fortunately, both men and women can prevent and correct the signs of aging with appropriate skin care.

So how can you guys keep looking young? You may not want to bother with a bunch of skincare products, so start with the basics – cleansing, protection, and moisturizing after shaving.

First: Cleansing. Clean your face deeply at least once a day. Use a cleanser that works well and leaves your skin feeling great.

Next: Shaving. Don’t dry out your skin. Before shaving, take a warm shower or steam your face with a warm cloth to open up the pores. Instead of plain water, use a shaving gel or cream. Choose one for your skin type: sensitive, dry, or prone to blemishes. A swivel-head razor will give you fewer nicks than a disposable. Replace the blade often because a dull blade won’t give you a close shave and will irritate your skin. When you’re done, splash on cold water to close your pores. Remember, water or alcohol-based aftershaves dry out your skin.

Finally: Moisturizing. After shaving, use a vitamin and mineral moisturizer or an aftershave balm. Ones with minerals, such as: magnesium, copper and zinc can soothe irritated skin. Aloe Vera is also an effective moisturizer. Then protect your skin from the sun with sunscreens or moisturizers with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Man or woman, here are some tips to prevent your skin from drying out in the winter weather:

Take baths or showers less often and keep them short. Use warm (not hot) water (even when washing your hands);

Use as little soap as possible. Limit to face, armpits and genitals if you can. Try mild cleansers like Aveeno or Cetaphil or mild soaps like Neutrogena or Dove;

Use bath oils and moisturizers at least daily. Thick, greasy moisturizers work best. Avoid products with alcohol. Apply just after a bath or shower, when your skin is still damp;

Dry your skin thoroughly but gently – pat, DON’T RUB;

Drink plenty of water throughout the day;

Protect your skin by covering up on cold windy days;

Don’t blow your truck’s heat directly on your skin;

Avoid contact with harsh chemicals and soaps. Wear rubber gloves.

If you’re itching to see the end of winter, do your skin a favour and layer on the moisturizer. Feel better, and look younger. Smooth deal! n

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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