Utilizing Cold

Emblem for Skin Support Module - Utilizing Cold Temperature for Skin Health

Executive Summary

Cold water may help reduce irritation potential of existing skin care regimens and temporarily mask the symptoms of skin barrier deficiencies.


A phenomenon seen in the majority of inflammatory skin issues (such as seborrheic dermatitis) is that during the winter, the skin condition worsens and flare ups are more common place [1, 2, 3, 4].

At first, it may seem plausible that the cold temperature may be responsible, but in reality it’s difficult to isolate whether it’s the colder temperatures or the relative humidity which is responsible.

So, let’s have a quick look at some of the facts:

  • Low humidity has one of the clearest negative effects on skin hydration [5, 6, 7, 8]
  • Low humidity can elicit heightened hypersensitivity and increase barrier penetration [9]
  • Cold wind exposure can decrease skin hydration [10]
  • Increased temperature can improve barrier recovery rates [11]
  • High temperature (such as that in summer months) can increase trans epidermal water loss [12, 13]

What is trans epidermal water loss
TEWL (for short) is the measure of how much water/moisture escape from the body through the skin into the environment.

Accordingly, it seems that the low humidity of the winter months is the main culprit behind the worsening seen during this time.

Direct exposure to cold temperature (in isolation from low humidity) has actually been shown to have a variety of beneficial effects on the skin. One of the most interesting of these, is it’s ability to reduce skin sensitivity to known irritants.

This single aspect, may allow us to prevent the irritation we often experience from common skin care ingredients; allowing us to reduce the negative effects they have on the skin and improve the overall stability of the skin.

Documented Benefits

Direct exposure to cold temperature has been shown to have the following benefits on the skin:

  • Reduced skin sensitivity and irritation potential of antigens [14]
  • Reduced trans epidermal water loss [15]
  • Inhibition of histamine induced itch [16]
  • Mask symptoms of skin barrier defects [17]

Why It’s Important for Inflammatory Skin Disease

Characteristics most important for individuals affected by inflammatory skin disorders:

  • Reduced skin sensitivity (particularly during washing of damaged skin)
  • Reduced transepidermal water loss

Expected improvements:

  • Reduced irritation to common skin care products
  • More stable skin moisture levels

Ideas for Integration

We can use short term exposure to cold water to reduce the irritation potential and barrier disruption caused by common washing procedures (such as shampooing, cleansing, etc). This may allow the skin to stay relatively stable and help avoid some of the common negative effects of washing.

This can be as simple as 10-20 second cold water rinse prior to product application (cleansing/shampooing). For the more adventurous, strict cold water bathing and showering can be considered.

Additional Notes

  • In a case report, a nerve lesion resulted in aggressive seborrheic dermatitis affecting one side of the face. The physicians suspected that increased blood flow, and sebum secretion accompanied by decreased sweating resulted in increased microbial activity on the affected half of the face [18].
  • Some have speculated that the relatively low blood flow of the nasolabial folds (nose creases) and forehead together with the high relative skin temperature of these areas results in high transepidermal water loss and reduced barrier function and ultimately making these areas more susceptible to seborrheic dermatitis [19]
  • Sebum secretion rates are highest in summer [20]

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