While winter spells warm quilts, hot halwa and copious amounts of brandy with hot water, it also means dry skin and other complexion woes.

Gulshan Panesar, consultant, dermatology, Moolchand Medcity hospital, New Delhi, says, “Cold winds can cause dry skin, especially over bony prominences such as elbows, knees and shins, chapped lips, dandruff, seborrhoeic dermatitis, worsening of atopic dermatitis and an increase in skin viral infections." Though conditions such as dermatitis and dandruff can be genetic and chronic, requiring medical attention, just tweaking skincare and diet can bring relief from these afflictions in most cases. Here’s what you can do.

Drink water

Mini Sharma, clinical nutritionist, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi, says lack of hydration is cause for concern in winter. “In winter most of us naturally go for foods that are sugary and fatty," she says, adding, “generally this reduces our fluid intake dramatically and that causes dryness." Dr Panesar suggests a minimum of six-eight glasses of water a day to keep the skin hydrated.

Vitamin C mantra

Feather touch: Regular moisturizing and a nutrient-rich diet are the key to soft and glowing skin in winter.

British and Portuguese researchers have discovered that vitamin C can be used to treat wounds and protect skin cells from DNA damage. While dryness is an initial symptom of skin ageing, vitamin C can still help. The results of their research, published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine (September 2009), suggest that not only can vitamin C “mop up" free radicals, it can contribute to the removal of DNA damage. This means that vitamin C works from the inside out.

To get your dose of the big C make amla your best friend in winter. Not only does it oxidize slower (when cut) than other citrus fruits, it is one of the richest natural sources of vitamin C (30 times more than an orange) and also contains powerful antioxidants. Grate over salads, tuck into sandwiches with lettuce and tomato, grind into chutneys or eat a slice of amla murabba every day.

Omega protection

Omega-3 fatty acid intake can provide some relief from dry, itchy, scaly skin conditions. According to Dr Panesar, fatty acids help relieve the dryness that is the root cause of most types of dermatitis. She suggests sprinkling flaxseeds on salads and rolling them into rotis (sunflower and sesame seeds can also be used) and also taking evening primrose oil supplements in winter for such conditions.

If problems of dryness persist, get your blood sugar and thyroid profile checked since these conditions are known to cause persistently dry skin. Chronic dryness can also be part of underlying genetic conditions such as xeroderma or ichthyosis (extremely dry skin)—dermatological conditions that need to be treated by a doctor.

Vitamin D dose

Vitamin D helps in the absorption of other vitamins such as A and C. So in addition to increasing your intake of vitamin C, Dr Panesar also suggests including sources of vitamin D in the diet, such as fish, fortified milk, egg yolk, cheese and mushrooms.

“Or just a few minutes of sun exposure during winters is enough for vitamin D," she says—“extra and long sun-bathing is not recommended for Indian climatic conditions."

To help eat skin-right in winter, we’ve handpicked three recipes from Skin Deep—An Inside Out Approach to Looking Good, Naturally by dermatologist and cosmetologist Aparna Santhanam. The book claims that eating right will help bring the glow back this season:


Serves 4


1 medium bunch fresh coriander

1/3 cup peanuts

2 green chillies, slit lengthwise

Juice of a lemon


Salt to taste

For tempering

1tsp black mustard seeds

1tsp oil


Put all the ingredients in a blender and grind to a semi-smooth consistency, adding water as required. Add salt to taste and stir. Heat oil and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add to the chutney.

Why Santhanam recommends this:Coriander is rich in phytonutrients, flavonoids and active phenol acid compounds—all of which are good for your skin. Flavonoids repair the collagen in the skin, phytonutrients are found in plants and increase the skin’s immunity, while phenol is essential for skin cell turnover. Peanuts are a good source of protein, lemon provides vitamin C, while flax is one of the richest sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.


Serves 4


1 cup red pumpkin, diced

1 cup carrots, diced

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed

1tsp olive oil

2 cups water or vegetable stock

Salt, pepper and chilli flakes to taste


Heat a saucepan on high flame. Add olive oil, add the diced vegetables and tomatoes and sauté for 5 minutes. Add water or vegetable stock, salt, pepper and chilli flakes and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and purée in a blender. Return to a low flame and add orange juice. Thin to desired consistency and simmer for a few minutes. Serve hot.

Why Santhanam recommends this: This is a feast of antioxidants—vitamins A, C, beta carotene and lycopene. The orange juice helps absorb the omega 3 and iron better. The best thing is that this recipe is rich in carotene, a derivative of vitamin A which is anti-ageing, and the cooked tomatoes contain lycopene, one of the most important antioxidants known to man.


Serves 4


1 cup mixed nuts (finely chopped/ minced peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts)

1 cup dates (deseeded)

1 tbsp unsalted butter

½ cup low-fat milk


Chop the dates and then mince in a food processor. Heat a deep pan over high flame. Add the date paste along with unsalted butter and milk. Bring the heat down to a low flame and keep stirring until the paste acquires a liquid consistency. Add the nuts and continue stirring till it is mixed in well. Pour into a greased plate, let cool and once it hardens, cut into bite-sized pieces. Alternatively, roll into small balls.

Why Santhanam recommends this: Dates and dry fruits are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Date is a natural sweetener, with iron, while the nuts contain healthy fats that are essential in winter to keep the skin moisturized and body warm.


Dr Gulshan Panesar suggests some basics to keep your skin in shape this winter:

•Use good quality cleansers that are gentle and mild on the skin

•Moisturize daily to prevent dryness that’s at the root of most problems

•You need protection from the sun in winter too. Use an SPF 30 sunscreen on exposed parts

•Wear a layer of soft cotton under woollen clothing to <br></br>prevent rashes from wool.

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