What To Do About Dry, Winter Skin
Winter officially begins on Monday, December 21, so it’s time to switch up your skincare routine and say goodbye to chapped, winter skin.
Whether you love winter or hate it, one thing’s for sure, the cold, harsh weather coupled with the inevitable cranking up of indoor heating can make your complexion totally freak out. So, if you want to keep your skin calm, nourished and radiant rather than dry, red and itchy, here are ten ways to get your skin through the cold snap relatively unscathed.
1. Say No To Harsh Cleansing
Three words pretty much epitomize our skincare mantra for the winter months: gently does it. And this is never more important than when it comes to cleansing. In summer, it’s super tempting to want to zealously rid your face of all that sweat, oil and sunscreen, but you should never cleanse your face like your life depended on it – and especially not in the winter.
Cleansers that are laden with harsh chemicals like sulfates, fragrance, additives and unnecessary alcohol can strip your skin of its natural oils which is extremely drying on your complexion. And that’s never good when cold temps, low outdoor humidity and dry indoor heating are already doing a great job of that on their own. Even if your skin is super oily, stick with gentle formulations that contain skin-loving ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, vitamin E or oatmeal. The same rules apply if you’re a toner fan – go gentle all the way, baby.
2. Limit Hot Baths & Showers
Soaking in a hot bath on a cold Sunday night surrounded by your favorite winter-spiced candles and a nice glass of pinot? Bliss. But not, for your skin. You know how your fingers and toes sometimes look all crinkly after too long in a hot bath? Well, this is all down to moisture being drawn out from your skin which causes surface dehydration. Eek. Hot water basically strips away the protective lipid layer from your skin’s barrier which means all those lovely fats and proteins – which are vital for keeping your skin healthy – are able to escape.
Sure, bathing and showering can both be effective ways to help put moisture back into your skin, but only if you use lukewarm, rather than scorching hot water and limit bath time to 10-15 minutes. Then, after bathing make sure you apply plenty of moisturizer to seal water into your skin. According to the National Eczema Association it’s vital to apply moisturizer within three minutes of bathing to avoid your skin becoming even drier.
3. Don’t Forget Some Light Exfoliation
To give dull, sluggish winter skin a kick up the butt, a little gentle exfoliation is exactly what the skin doctor ordered. But again, we mean gentle with a capital ‘g’ because too much scrubbing will further impair your barrier function and exacerbate dryness and inflammation.
Two or three times a week, swap out your regular cleanser for one containing a small percentage of urea or exfoliating AHAs such as lactic or glycolic acid. Lactic acid is one of our favorite chemical exfoliators because it helps remove surface skin cell buildup without causing too much irritation.
As well as adding some much-needed radiance to your wintry complexion, gentle exfoliation also means moisturizers don’t have to fight with dead skin cells in order to effectively penetrate your skin. Win win.
4. Layer Up
Just like your winter wardrobe, a first-class skincare routine is all about layering. And what better way to layer up dry, thirsty skin than with a moisturizing serum?
Serums are potent, fast-absorbing treatments that have a much smaller molecular makeup than creams and lotions. This means they're able to penetrate deeper and faster into your skin for amazing results. In winter, look to gentle moisturizing serums with antioxidant protection like our HA Serum which contains the mighty hyaluronic acid combined with aloe vera, vitamin E, jojoba oil and green tea. Always apply your chosen serum to clean, dry skin then follow with moisturizer.
5. Switch To A Heavier Moisturizer
Sticking with the same moisturizer all year long might work for some, but for many their trusted summer lotion just doesn’t pack enough of a punch when the cold weather sets in. If this sounds familiar, step it up with a heavier cream rather than a gel or lotion, and check your labels for clinically proven emollient or occlusive ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil and squalane. These will help create a barrier on the surface of your skin to help prevent moisture loss and protect it from environmental nasties.
6. Be Smart With Your Accessories
Face masks aren’t going away for a while, but the constant rubbing of fabric against your skin not only causes maskne, but can seriously exacerbate dry skin conditions around your cheeks and jawline. Scarves, gaiters and high-collar coats can also cause similar itchiness and irritation to the skin on your chin and neck if you’re not careful. But it’s a pretty simple fix. Just make sure you choose natural, breathable fabrics and frequently wash anything that regularly sits close to the skin on your face.
7. Eat More Fats
No, not donuts and cheese – come on, you know better than that. When we say eat more fats, we’re obviously talking about good fats like omegas-3 and -6 that have been shown to help improve dry skin and which you’ll find in oily fish, olive oil, eggs, seeds, nuts and avocados. BTW, avocados are also rich in vitamin E which is a double bonus for the skin. Meanwhile, research has shown that flax seeds, and in particular flaxseed oil is particularly effective at improving skin barrier function, making it super beneficial for dry, sensitive skin. Avo and flax seed oil toast, anyone?
Also, avoid too much caffeine and alcohol as these both cause dehydration which will just undo all that hard work.
8. Look After Your Lips
If, like, us, you love a good lip balm you probably don’t need telling how important it is to avoid chapped lips (cheilitis for all you fancy folk) – especially in winter.
So, why do your lips suffer more than the skin on the rest of your face? Because the skin on your lips is thin, delicate and lacks sebaceous glands to keep it naturally moisturized. That’s why a hydrating balm is imperative. To best moisturize chapped lips, skip drying ingredients like menthol and camphor and swap them out for soothing ingredients such as green tea, cucumber, aloe vera and honey.
Also, STOP LICKING YOUR LIPS. Lip licking leaves saliva on the skin which evaporates into the atmosphere and strips away any excess moisture. Saliva also contains digestive enzymes like amylase and maltase, warn experts at Healthline. Over time, these enzymes can wear down the skin and make your lips more vulnerable to dryness. Sad times.
9. Invest In A Humidifer
As we’ve mentioned before, dry air = dry skin so if you really want to help reduce the amount of moisture that evaporates from your skin in low humidity, treat yourself to an at-home humidifier. Humidifiers increase moisture levels in your home by emitting water vapor or steam to counteract the drying air. Depending on where you live this might not be needed all year long, but most people's home humidity levels drop to as low as 15 percent in the winter, which is way lower than HVAC’s recommended 30-50 percent.
To really benefit your skin, place a humidifer in your bedroom as this is the room in which you spend most of your time (sleeping, obvs).
10. Keep Up With Sunscreen
Snow is a devil for reflecting the sun’s damaging rays right back onto your skin where it can burn it, dry it out and age you up like nobody’s business. But even if you’re not in snowy climes, the sun is still right there behind the clouds just waiting to cause havoc on your poor old skin. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Simple slather up with a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen – all year round. End of discussion.
About Georgia Gould
Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.