During the awful subfreezing weather in January, I was asked what's the one thing you should always do to protect your skin in harsh, cold weather?
I said... as I usually do... make sure you apply moisturizers to all wind-exposed areas of your skin before you go out every day.
Then the person asked a really interesting question... It was whether or not a water based moisturizing lotion or cream, which obviously contains a lot of water, can actually freeze on your face in really frigid weather when wind chills are so low and even below freezing.
What do you think the answer is?
Let's figure this out.
Windchill temperatures near zero degrees F might lead you to say "yes", but the correct answer is actually “no”... That's because while your body's internal temperature is 98.6 degrees F, your facial skin temperature is really about 90 F. And when you put a lotion on your skin, the lotion very quickly becomes skin temperature.
You see, your body has a very sophisticated mechanism for maintaining a constant and normal temperature... in both very cold and very hot weather. In cold weather, the blood vessels in your skin constrict to decrease the heat you would lose by bringing 98.6F blood from inside your body to the surface of your skin, which is in contact with that very cold air. But even by decreasing the amount of warmer, core temperature blood in the surface of your skin, its temperature isn’t likely to go much lower than 80F, a decrease of only about 10 degrees.
But remember... the lotion stays the same temperature as your skin, because the skin shares your body’s heat with the lotion, to keep it at the skin’s temperature.
So skin subjected to even frigid sub zero temperatures is never going to approach the freezing point of water… so the lotion wont freeze on your skin even though it can freeze in the bottle... if the bottle is left outside in that same frigid weather.