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The impact of winter on your skin

We all experience drier, and somewhat more sensitive skin in the colder, winter months, and the solution is not as simple as ‘drinking more water’ to hydrate your skin.

There are many factors that can contribute to dull, dry, dehydrated skin , and many ways in which you can remedy the situation during winter.

Cold weather, especially cold wind, combined with increased use of indoor heating leads to an increase in transepidermal water loss (TEWL). This essentially leads to a decreased water content in the stratum corneum (uppermost layer of the skin), leading to dry, rough, scaly and sensitive skin.

The situation is worsened with long hot showers and soaps that contribute to damaging the skin barrier function, further contributing to TEWL.
Dry skin has a genetic component, and some will be more predisposed than others, though even those with ‘normal’ skin will notice some change in their skin condition.

A change in the weather or season is often known to cause flare-ups in those with pre-existing dry skin conditions, or medical conditions and medication that causes dry skin. Hypothyroidism, renal impairment and other chronic illnesses can cause skin dryness, as well as commonly used drugs like isotretinoin and lithium.

Cold air tightens the skin’s pores and reduces blood circulation. This reduces sebum production. Sebum is an oily substance which acts as a protective layer that traps moisture in the skin. With humidity in the air lower during winter, the effect is that existing skin conditions are aggravated.

Worse still is that dry skin makes fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable. All the more reason to make that extra effort to keep our skin in good condition!

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Pregnancy Skin Conditions

Pregnant women are still susceptible to everyday skin concerns that plague other women, though the treatment may need to be tailored to suit the changes of the skin and body in pregnancy and take into account the effects on the developing fetus. Here is some of our advice followed by a few product recommendations for common pregnancy concerns.


Higher levels of hormones called androgens are at least partly responsible for pregnancy breakouts because they prompt the sebaceous glands in your skin to get bigger, and boost production of sebum. This often occurs during early pregnancy and may make the skin appear or feel oily. Acne during pregnancy may be mild, moderate or severe. It may be of new onset or an exacerbation of a pre-existing problem. It is important to remember that not all treatments and products are safe to use during pregnancy and if you were on a treatment regimen before you fell pregnant this may need to change. Consult your doctor, dermatologist or skincare professional to make sure you are on the right medication.

Product recommendations:

Neostrata Sheer Hydration-Sheer Hydration is a light, oil-free ,daily hydrator formulated with NeoGlucosamine to gently exfoliate the skin, promote cell turnover and help with minor acne problems.

Obagi NuDerm Foaming Gel – This foaming gel cleanser cleans the skin thoroughly of makeup and impurities. This product is safe to use during pregnancy.


Hyperpigmentation can occur for the first time during pregnancy as a result of hormonal and genetic factors, together with increased sensitivity to sun exposure The melanocytes in pregnant women are more sensitive to increased levels of melanocyte stimulating hormone(MSH), oestrogen and progesterone. Hyperpigmentation is one of the most common skin changes during pregnancy, and is also very hard to treat as options are few. It is often very distressing for pregnant women to deal with, in addition to all the other changes that come with pregnancy.
It may gradually improve or disappear after childbirth (normally 3-6 months after) but may persist in some women. There are numerous ingredients in cosmeceutical products that work synergistically to lighten and control pigmentation, but many of these are not suitable for use during pregnancy.

Product recommendations:

Heliocare 360 mineral – This innovative mineral fluid sunscreen is ideal for sensitive skin.

Neostrata Brightening cleanser
– The Neostrata Enlighten range is clinically proven to treat and control pigmentory disorders, dark spots and signs of sun damage, while also reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Please note that not all products in the Enlighten range are safe in pregnancy.


Dryness of the skin is a common skin complaint and may occur for the first time during pregnancy or part of an ongoing problem. The skin feels tight and uncomfortable and may appear rough and dull. Pregnant women often look for more hydrating creams during pregnancy as their regular moisturiser may not provide enough hydration.

Product recommendations:

Neostrata Bionic Face Serum – Bionic Face Serum is a concentrated oil-free serum with 10% Lactobionic Acid designed to work synergistically with other Neostrata anti-ageing products in your regimen to improve radiance, skin texture and the signs of ageing.
It provides comfort and hydration for dry skins.

Neostrata Bionic Face Cream– Bionic Face Cream is an ultra-rich, anti-ageing emollient cream which provides intense hydration and skin smoothing effects without irritation.


Some pregnant women have the impression that their skin in more sensitive than before pregnancy. This may mean different things to different people, but in general, the skin is easily inflamed and irritated and reacts to numerous cosmetic products. Sensitive skin is a common complaint among pregnant women and is most likely due to changes in hormone levels. Pre-existing skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea may improve or worsen and your regular skin care regimen may no longer be suitable.

Product recommendations:

Obagi Soothing Cleanser – This calming gel cleanser offers relief from inflammation and irritation. It effectively removes make-up and impurities without disrupting the skins natural moisture barrier.

Obagi Skin Calming Cream
– This non-irritating moisturising formulation contains plant-derived growth factors Kinetin and Zeatin. It effectively calms and soothes a sensitive and irritated skin.

Can I continue with my anti-ageing treatment during pregnancy?

A well-tailored anti-ageing skin care regimen can help slow the process of ageing. While you are pregnant you may need to change your existing regimen for one that doesn’t contain ingredients that are unsafe or have high irritation potential. In general vitamin A and its derivatives, including retinol, are not safe for use during pregnancy.
Please take our Skinsmart Skin Assessment to see our recommendations for anti-ageing skin care that is safe to use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

If you would like our advice on whether you can still use any of your existing creams, please email us on [email protected] or alternatively book a consultation with our medical therapist or dermatologist on 021 521 1107.


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Understanding Sensitive Skin

Thousands of ingredients are used by the cosmetics and skincare industry, including pure compounds, plant extracts, oils and waxes, preservatives, surfactants, detergents and polymers. While all ingredients used are tested for safety, some patients may still experience reactions to some of them.

There are 2 types of reactions that may be seen.

The most common is the primary irritant contact reaction. This tends to be of rapid onset following contact with the irritant ingredient, and causes mild discomfort, redness and possibly scaling of the skin.

An allergic contact reaction on the other hand, is often delayed, persistent, and sometimes severe.

More than 50% of the general population perceives their skin as sensitive, and this is often related to impaired barrier function. The human skin is constantly exposed to environmental stress, including changes in humidity, extreme temperatures, pollution, and daily topically-applied products, including soaps and household chemicals. These factors can lead to the removal of the epidermal barrier lipids, thus leading to impaired barrier function. Ingredients that have been used in the past can become irritating to the skin, because of the increased penetration into the skin.

A wide variety of procedures and ingredients can act as irritants.

Mechanical, chemical and environmental factors can act alone or in combination to produce skin irritation.

Mechanical factors: cosmetic procedures such as waxing, laser therapy, dermabrasion

Chemical factors:  solvents, some acids, alkaline substances such as soaps

Environmental elements: air-conditioning, food allergies, prolonged exposure to water.

These factors contribute to skin irritation, the disruption of the skin barrier and increased trans-epidermal water loss.

Other common irritants in cosmetic formulations are fragrances, preservatives and some botanical ingredients.

In order to manage cosmetic intolerance syndrome, we need to focus on maintaining and supporting the integrity of the skin barrier

If the skin barrier is working well, it will retain water effectively. If it is defective the skin will become dry and dull, and this means that irritants can penetrate more rapidly, causing sensitivity.

Much like a security guard for your skin, the barrier is there to stop potential irritants from passing through, and to protect what lies beneath!

So follow these simple steps to restore and maintain your skin barrier function:

  1. Avoid foaming cleansers containing sodium laureth sulphate. Avoid astringents, like alcohol on the skin
  2. Avoid physical granular scrubs or skin buffers, as these are too harsh on the skin
  3. Do not wash the skin with overly hot water
  4. Look for products containing active ingredients that are proven to be safe and effective.
  5. Keep the skin well hydrated. Use barrier repair creams containing cholesterol, ceramides, essential and non-essential fatty acids.

It is important to note that if you have a ‘sensitive’ skin, you could possibly have a skin condition like rosacea or eczema. It is best to consult with a dermatologist for a proper skin evaluation and diagnosis.