THEY’RE UNDERSTATED, CHIC AND CONSIDERED
THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD,
so it’s no wonder we have a long-standing obsession with the Scandinavian lifestyle. First we cottoned on to hygge (the Danish philosophy of creating and embracing comfort and contentment), next came lagom (the Swedish focus on moderation and balance) and now it’s all about sisu – the Finnish attitude of resilience. Modern life focuses on pace: rushing to work, racing through the day’s to-do list and trying to tick all the boxes in record time. Our lifestyle requires tenacity in all facets, and our skin needs resilience to perform at its optimum level, too, especially in winter. “The skin is the largest organ we have,” says Melbourne-based skin therapist Valli Shubere. “I’ve found it’s often very misunderstood and neglected in relation to the rest of the body.”
“In winter, i love an extra warm bath with epsom salts, lavender essential oils, shea butter, a chanel le lift flash eye revitalizer mask and a glass of red wine.“ PHOEBE TONKIN, ACTRESS
Indeed the skin acts as mission control for a wide variety of critical functions (most you’ve never put much thought into) dealing with regulation, protection and sensation. But when the skin has to focus its efforts on a rogue offender – for example, free radicals scavaging around looking to damage collagen — it throws the delicate balance into chaos.
Scientific research has pinned your tendency to age to 80 per cent environmental factors but just because the days are shorter and you’ve swapped a swimming cossie for cashmere, there’s no excuse to lower your guard and relax your skin routine — environmental aggressors abound.
Creating and maintaining complexion resilience is a year-round undertaking and winter’s chill makes it particularly difficult to keep skin in fighting form, as brisk temperatures and a drop in humidity deplete it of strengthening moisture.
“The skin’s natural protective barrier, which prevents moisture from escaping, can become compromised in cold weather, allowing moisture to escape and other nasties like microbes to enter via ‘small cracks’ in this outer barrier lipid layer,” says Emma Hobson of the International Dermal Institute. “This results in dehydration and skin sensitisation.”
Despite the UV index dropping, pollution (credited for accelerating ageing) is actually higher in winter, making pesky free radicals as worrisome as ever. Interview any skin expert and they’ll tell you an antioxidant each morning is as non-negotiable in your routine as SPF. Vitamin C and B3 (niacinamide) are effective options, while botanicals such as green coffee are innovative offerings. Find them in serums or moisturisers that you apply fresh out of the shower, preferably when skin is still damp, for faster absorption.
“Just like our skin, nails require tlc during winter as they face cooler conditions and increased dehydration. The knock-on effect of the weather changes mean that nails are weakened, brittle, soft or even peeling. You can supercharge treatments for your nails and hands by integrating enriching products into your routine. Always use a quality moisturising base on your nails, such as chanel la base protective and smoothing base coat, and look out for polishes that are natural and allow the nail to breathe. A specialist cuticle oil is a great solution for ragged cuticles and is best applied overnight. A diet rich in vitamins (a,b,c,d and e) and minerals (calcium, iron, silica) is also essential to ‘feed’ healthy nail growth.” JOCELYN PETRONI, SKIN AND NAIL THERAPIST
“People often shy away from exfoliating in the winter but it’s still a crucial part of your routine. You have to remove the dead layer of surface skin if you want to make sure that your serums and moisturiser can properly penetrate and give parched skin a boost of much-needed hydration in the colder months. I continue to exfoliate at least once a week in winter. It’s important to use a gentle and effective cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin. I don’t change my products too much from season to season though. If you’re using the right products for your skin type, you shouldn’t have to switch anything up.” SHANI DARDEN, CELEBRITY AESTHETICIAN
And staying in on cold nights and staring at your Insta feed? That’s not doing your skin any favours either: smartphones omit free radical-inducing blue light (also known as HEV or High Energy Visible Light) that anti-ageing specialist Dr Barbara Sturm believes is just as dangerous as pollution. “The worst thing you can do is use an exfoliating acid-based face mask, which compromises the skin barrier, while scrolling through your phone. You’re letting in blue light that causes inflammation and pigmentation.” Look for products packed with antioxidants as well as SPF, so you’re protected from both sun and screen.
Your evening routine should be all about repair — reach for a gentle cleanser formulated to dissolve pollution and grime. Then reinforce the skin’s barrier with an ultranourishing moisturiser. “Locking in moisture allows for key enzymes within the skin to work properly, especially with cell turnover, so the skin remains smooth and healthy,” says Hobson. “A dehydrated skin, with less water content, will ultimately have poor enzymatic action, and the dead skin cells won’t shed properly, leading to cellular build-up.”
You can also maintain optimal skin strength (and slow the normal signs of ageing) by boosting your complexion biome with the latest skincare, packed with microflora-feeding pre- and probiotics. Over-cleansing can strip skin of healthy bacteria, which is vital to a strong barrier, but these products restore the perfect balance, all the more important now new research suggests good bacteria can fend off skin cancer.
Resilient skin may be better equipped to handle the onslaught of year-long environmental insults, and it’ll also look better. “When the skin is strong, it’s hydrated, it’s healthier, it’s protected and it functions at an optimal level,” says Hobson. Radiance awaits, so start training.
Photography: Stefania Paparelli
Hair: Leslie Thibaud
Makeup: Victoria Baron for Chanel
Styling: Rachel Wayman
Manicurist: Jocelyn Petroni
Words by Janna Johnson O’Toole for ELLE Australia.