Care For Your Hair, Skin, and Nails In Cold Weather
There’s a lot to enjoy about the winter. From fireplaces to skiing and sledding to beautiful snow-filled scenery, winter can be a fun time of year. As beautiful as the view may be, however, the cold weather can wreak havoc on your health – specifically your hair, skin, and nails.
Having beautiful hair, skin and nails helps you feel your best! The cold winter months present a tough challenge to your hair, skin, and nails. Your nails become brittle and chip. Your hair is dry, lifeless and you just can’t seem to style it the way you usually do. Your skin can feel dry, tight and tough no matter how much lotion you use. Your lips are red, chapped and cracked, which can be very painful. I’ve been there too.
Creams, moisturizers, toners and even keratin shampoos are great, however they fail to support a key piece of the puzzle, your extracellular matrix. The extracellular matrix is the space between your skin and cells that provides that springy, tight, bouncy feeling you had in your 20s and keeps your hair and nails strong, thick and shiny.
Let’s take a look at why the winter weather is so tough on our hair, skin and nails and how you can care for them by supporting your extracellular matrix.
What is your extracellular matrix?
Aging is a natural process we cannot avoid. Skin aging usually starts in your 30s.1 This process has a lot to do with genetics and hormonal changes, however, it can also be sped up by sun exposure, smoking, poor diet, alcohol use and environmental factors such as pollution, weather, and humidity.
As I mentioned earlier, your extracellular matrix is the space between your skin and cells that supports the health of your hair, skin, and nails. Your extracellular matrix is made up of structural proteins (collagen, elastin, & keratin), as well as moisture-locking compounds such as hyaluronic acid. When your extracellular matrix has these nutrients in abundance, it’s able to fully support your hair, skin, and nails and give them that youthful boost we’re all looking for.
Winter weather can slow down the regeneration of extracellular matrix because of the lack of humidity in the air to provide the moisture it needs to keep your hair, skin, and nails looking healthy and beautiful.
The best way to support your hair, skin, and nails during the winter months is to regenerate your extracellular matrix. I will explain how you can do that naturally later in this article. First, let’s look at how the cold weather affects your hair, skin, and nails specifically.
Dry Skin In the Winter
The winter months create a special problem for our skin. Because there is little to no humidity indoors or outdoors, your extracellular matrix can’t get the water content it needs to have that vibrant, soft feel to it. Without the moisture from the humidity in the air and your home, your skin becomes dry and loses the elasticity that gives it a soft feel and youthful look. In addition, you lose cells more easily in the winter months, which causes abrasions and inflammation as you experience inclement weather.2
Without the humidity in the air to naturally moisturize your skin, it’s important to find it from other sources, such as drinking plenty of water. However, people drink fewer fluids during colder temperatures because they sweat less or aren’t as active.3 If your skin isn’t hydrated and is exposed to the dry winter air, it can be a double whammy for your skin. Be sure to drink 10-15 cups of filtered water per day from a glass or stainless steel container. Drinking enough water during the winter months also ensures your skin has enough moisture to support the regeneration of your extracellular matrix.
Most people turn to slathering on lotion every day as a solution to these bothersome issues. Unfortunately, most moisturizers and lotions contain toxins that can exasperate an autoimmune disease. Think of your body like a cup, and toxins like drops of water: if your cup is already full because you have a leaky gut, a poor diet, infections, and stress, those small, cumulative toxic exposures cause that cup to overflow. When it does, you’re pushed down the autoimmune spectrum into full-fledged autoimmune disease.
It’s overwhelming to try and avoid all toxic ingredients so here’s a list of “the dirty dozen”, or the worst of the toxic ingredients to avoid:4
- Sodium laurel sulfate
- PEG compounds like propylene glycol
- Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
- Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
- Coal tar dyes
- Fragrance or parfum
The best way to avoid toxins are to check the labels of your beauty products and avoid ones that include these ingredients. Some of my favorite places to get clean beauty products include:
- Beautycounter: I get all of my makeup from Beautycounter because they avoid using toxic chemicals in their formulas such as parabens and phthalates. Plus, they test their products for safety using rigorous standards. I love them and theirs is the only makeup I will wear!
- Milk + Honey: I use their body lotion and cream deodorant every day. The deodorant is a particularly good find because it can be very difficult to find an all-natural deodorant that actually works!
- KEYS: KEYS products are so clean you can almost eat them. Their eye butter is so rich and I love their lotion. The sunscreen is the safest on the market.
- Babo Botanicals: Babo Botanicals soaps, shampoo and lotion are for baby and mommy.
Brittle Nails In the Winter
Just as it affects your hair during the winter, the lack of humidity and moisture in the cold air – along with the repeated washing and drying of your hands – can make your nails brittle and crack more often.
Your fingernails are composed of laminated layers of a protein called keratin. They grow from the area at the base of the nail under your cuticle. Healthy fingernails are smooth, without pits or grooves. They’re uniform in color and consistency and free of spots or discoloration.
It’s not uncommon for nails to split, peel, or break. In fact, 27% of all women have brittle nails, or onychoschizia.5 This can happen because of an underlying health condition or external factors such as aging or lack of moisture.
Brittle nails fall into two categories: dry and brittle or soft and brittle.6 Dry and brittle nails are the result of too little moisture. They’re most commonly caused by the repeated washing and drying of fingernails, or cold weather. Soft and brittle nails are caused by too much moisture, often a result of overexposure to detergents, household cleaners, and nail polish remover.
Some other causes of brittle nails include:
- Age: As you age, your nails change and often become dull and brittle. Toenails commonly become harder and thicker, while fingernails become thinner and more brittle.
- Iron deficiency. This condition occurs when the body doesn’t get enough iron, which leads to low red blood cell levels. Nails chip and crack easily and in extreme cases, nails can develop a spoon shape with raised edges.7
- Hypothyroidism. Along with brittle nails, symptoms of an underactive thyroid also include hair loss, fatigue, weight gain, constipation, and depression.
- Raynaud’s syndrome. This condition is when your fingers and toes have poor circulation. They may feel cold or numb and your nails may develop ridges. It is more common in women than men.8
You can’t do anything about aging, however there are ways you can help your nails during the cold winter months by using a toxic-free moisturizer and wearing gloves. Gloves can protect your hands and nails from toxins and the harsh dry cold air during the winter.
Frail Hair In the Winter
Dry hair isn’t just a summertime problem. During the summer, blow-drying your hair mixed with exposure to the sun can quickly make your hair dry. In the winter, the cold air combined with dry indoor heat can also wreak havoc on your beautiful locks, leading to staticky hair, split ends, and even seasonal hair loss.9 Even if you have the healthiest hair, it’s not immune to the brutality of winter.
As with your skin and nails, the dry cold air in the winter months makes it difficult for your soft hair to get the moisture it needs. This can cause those pesky split ends.10
Another problem for your hair during the winter is static electricity. In the winter months especially, static electricity is higher because of the drier air that lacks – you guessed it – humidity. Our bodies constantly pick up electrons as we move. These electrical charges stick to our hair in the dry winter air because they don’t have the water they need to move around. That’s why we shock ourselves so easily in the winter.
Ways to care for your hair in the winter include: 11
- Keep your scalp moisturized: Products such as a hydrating shampoo, leave-in conditioner and hot oil treatment also can help fight the static electricity that hats and dry, warm air cause. Just make sure they don’t have any of the toxins listed above.
- Eat a nutrient dense diet: You should eat a diet rich in iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins. I recommend everyone take a multivitamin to ensure you’re getting enough of the nutrients you may be lacking. I’ll go more into the specific nutrients that help support your hair later.
- Lower your stress levels: The winter months are always stressful. The shorter cold days along with the holidays can make it hard to lower your stress and eat right. This can also affect your hair. A couple of my favorite stress-reducing activities are going for a walk with my family and getting warm and detoxing in my infrared sauna.
Now that you understand how the winter months can be harsh on your hair, skin, and nails, let’s look at some natural ways to care for them.
Nutrients For Hair, Skin, and Nails
There have been supplements for your hair, skin, and nails on the shelves for decades, but do they really work? The short answer is sometimes, however it has more to do with correcting a vitamin deficiency so it’s key that the supplement you take has compounds included that directly affect your hair, skin and nails.12
Most supplements containing biotin or vitamins A, C and E can support healthy growth of your hair and nails. While there are proven benefits of those vitamins, your hair, skin, and nails also need proteins such as collagen and elastin, along with additional amino acids such as omega-3s and L-proline. Let’s look at vitamins that can support your hair, skin, and nails:
Collagen is the most important and abundant structural protein in your body. Think of collagen as the “glue” that holds your body together. Your skin, bones, connective tissue, cartilage, and joints all depend on ample collagen to be healthy, strong, and flexible.
It’s critical to maintain collagen levels if you want to optimize the health of your hair, skin and nails.It’s even more important after the age of 40 when your body’s collagen production naturally declines. Your body cannot get enough collagen.
Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, is an essential vitamin for beautiful hair, skin, and nails. Low levels of biotin can result in thinning hair and brittle nails.
Biotin is found naturally in foods such as liver, cauliflower, wild-caught salmon, avocados, and swiss chard. 13 Because food-processing techniques like cooking can render biotin ineffective, raw or organic versions of these foods contain more active biotin.14
The recommended amount of biotin for adolescents and adults is 30 to 100 micrograms (mcg) per day, however you cannot get too much of this B vitamin. Biotin is water-soluble, so any extra amounts your body doesn’t use will simply pass through your urine.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is naturally made and used by your body to turn food into energy.15 It supports your nervous and digestive systems, and helps keep your skin healthy.
Niacin is often part of a daily multivitamin, but most people get enough niacin from the food they eat. Foods rich in niacin include chicken breasts, grass-fed beef, liver, turkey, and fatty fish such as salmon. Niacin is a B vitamin so it is also water soluble. Your body will get rid of any excess it doesn’t use.
This B vitamin is one of the more important vitamins you can take for your hair, skin and nails. Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) supports blood cell growth and like its B-vitamin cousin niacin, turns food into energy.16 It also supports healthy skin, hair and nails.
This essential B vitamin is found in leafy green vegetables, broccoli, sweet potatoes, grass-fed beef, chicken breasts, and eggs. Like other B vitamins, pantothenic acid is water soluble. Your body will release any excess amounts in your urine.
Hyaluronic Acid is a clear, gooey substance that your body produces naturally. It is typically found in your skin and eyes, and is part of your extracellular matrix. It’s function is to store water to keep your skin soft and moist.17
It can be taken as a supplement, however it is also used in creams, eye drops, and through injections. A lot of beauty products contain hyaluronic acid as a topical substance, meaning it’s directly applied to your skin. The issue is that you might not be getting optimal levels of this essential substance when it is applied directly to the skin. It can also be washed off or not fully absorbed into your skin. It works best from the inside out.
Proline is an efficient collagen builder, which helps smooth out wrinkles and maintain skin texture and resiliency. Proline is also perhaps the MOST important amino acid for maintaining collagen production as you age, positively impacting age-related drops in collagen levels.
As you age your skin becomes thinner and less fibrous. In addition to that, sun exposure and free radical damage to your skin can cause your skin to look wrinkled and feel not as soft. Proline actually builds collagen, which as I mentioned earlier is your body’s “glue.”
Now that you know the vitamins and proteins you need to support healthy hair, skin, and nails during your winter months, let’s talk about how you can care for them!
Hair Skin and Nail Care
I know you want soft elastic skin, soft and vibrant hair, and healthy looking nails during the winter months. We all want to look beautiful and feel young, year round. Not only that, dry skin and brittle nails can be painful! Giving your extracellular matrix some extra TLC is especially essential during the winter months.
Current functional medicine research shows that the BEST way to support hair, skin, and nails is from the inside out. This means you must regenerate your extracellular matrix. That’s exactly why I spent the last year formulating Radiance Hair, Skin, and Nails, which is packed with seven targeted micronutrients that act as superfoods for your extracellular matrix.
This supplement contains a blend of nourishing vitamins, botanicals, and amino acids specially formulated to bolster the structural proteins responsible for thicker, lustrous hair, youthful, plumper-looking skin, and strong, vibrant nails!
It is packed with 300 mcgs of biotin, 2.5 milligrams of niacin,15 milligrams of pantothenic acid, optimal amounts of L-proline and a proprietary blend of key nutrients, including hyaluronic acid, to support healthy looking hair, skin and nails.
Radiance Hair, Skin, and Nails works from the inside out to moisturize, protect and nourish your hair, skin and nails with key micronutrients. Something you won’t find in most hair, skin and nails formulas is L-Proline. I included it because it supports and stimulates the production of alpha keratin and collagen – key building blocks of your hair, skin and nails.
We all take pride in our appearance and I know it can be extremely hard in the cold winter months. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be! Taking care of your hair, skin, and nails during the winter will give you a confidence boost and make you look as young as you feel!
- Role of the extracellular matrix in skin aging and dedicated treatment. Adele Sparavigna. Plastic and Aesthetic Research Journal. 2020.
- How does cold weather affect our skin?. Marti Dermatology. 2020.
- What You Should Know About Winter Dehydration. Mana Medical Associates. 2020.
- The Dirty Dozen” cosmetic chemicals to avoid. David Suzuki Foundation. 2021.
- By the way, doctor: Does having ridged and split fingernails mean I'm unhealthy?. Harvard Medical School. 2008.
- Brittle Splitting Nails. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. 2020.
- 10 Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency. Mary Jane Brown, PhD, RD (UK) . Healthline. 2020.
- Raynaud's disease. Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. 2020.
- Seasonality of hair shedding in healthy women complaining of hair loss. Michael Kunz, Burkhardt Seifert, Ralph M Trüeb. PubMed. 2009.
- How to Conceal or Get Rid of Split Ends. Annette McDermott. Healthline. 2017.
- How to Keep Your Hair Healthy This Winter. Cleveland Clinic. 2020.
- Do Skin, Hair and Nail Vitamins Really Work?. Portneuf Health Partners. 2019.
- What is Biotin (Vitamin B7)?. Alina Bradford. Live Science. 2015.
- Health Benefits of Biotin. Cara J. Stevens. Healthline. 2019.
- Niacin. Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. 2020.
- What Does Vitamin B5 Do?. Rebecca Morris. Healthline. 2018.
- 7 Surprising Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid. Erica Julson, MS, RDN, CLT. Healthline. 2018.
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