It’s 7:30 pm, and bitterly cold outside. I have to apply moisturizer three times a day during this long string of frigid winter days in Ohio just to keep my skin feeling normal. The short days, arid indoor climate, no dog walks, no bike rides…all weigh on me this evening.
I feel blue. And this makes me wonder…how does feeling sad affect the appearance of my skin?
I found no good scientific studies that suggest that the winter blues can have a direct effect, either positive or negative, on the appearance or health of my skin. I did learn about a field of skin medicine called "psychodermatology," which is all about the mind-skin connection. That connection is a two-way street: your emotions affect your skin, but skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and so forth can also affect your emotions. This field is fascinating, but really addresses the blues that take the shape of clinical depression, which altogether must be acknowledged as a different thing.
For the cabin-fever-will-the-sun-ever-show-itself-again-blues that I feel, there are more likely to be indirect effects on my skin, and these are worth being aware of because there are some steps you can take to address them.
When you’re feeling blue, you’re less likely to exercise, more likely to eat unhealthy “comfort foods,” and might neglect that evening skincare routine in favor of an early bedtime. A glass of wine might sound like a better idea than 10 minutes on the treadmill (of course that might be the case whether you’ve got the blues or not!).
Thus, the message seems to be what we hear all the time, whether it's winter, spring, summer or fall. Winning the battle comes down to eating right, exercising, and so forth. So if I have the blues, I don't want to do exactly the things that I need to do to fight the blues. That's a conundrum!
So I step back from the usual message, and break it down into more specific ideas than "exercise and eat right." Here are four steps I take as my best defense against letting the winter blues get the best of me—or my skin:
I readily admit that I don’t always take my own advice, but I’m feeling better already, just thinking about the 15 minutes I’m going to dedicate to myself this evening after writing this. My skin will thank me by looking beautiful on those sunnier days that are just around the corner.