Winter months can be brutal on your skin. Even if you aren’t normally prone to dryness or flaking, freak-outs rise as temps drop. Between those blustery breezes and indoor heater, your skin can’t win. Hanging onto moisture can be a full-time job, and no skin type is immune.
How pervasive is it? CeraVe conducted a Harris Poll of 2,000 U.S. adults and found, “83 percent of Americans said their skin feels differently during the winter than it does the rest of the year … More specifically, 77 percent say their skin feels dry in winter and 41 percent even describe it as itchy.”
Are you one of them? Use this winter skincare guide to ease dryness and discomfort, while keeping your skin healthy all season long.
Why should you change your skincare routine in winter?
Your skincare routine isn’t meant to stay the same year-round. Just like your wardrobe, it is seasonally specific.
What many people don’t realize is that their regular regimen may very well be compounding common winter skincare issues like redness, dryness, and itching. And while you may not be able to avoid moisture-zapping winds and heaters, you can (and should) take steps to replenish what you’ve lost.
What changes should you make to care for winter skin?
Knowing how to take care of skin in winter is the first step to salvaging the oils that protect its natural barrier. Effective cold-weather skincare requires making some intentional changes to the products you use, fabrics you wear, and ways you warm up.
- Switch up your cleanser. We’ve been conditioned to believe that only frothy, foaming cleansers are capable of getting us really clean. Truth is, soaps can often strip skin of more moisture than they give back. Prioritizing your winter body skincare means banishing bar soaps with irritating ingredients or perfumes. Opt for moisturizing, fragrance-free oatmeal cleansers or oil-based gels over ‘unscented’ soaps, which often still contain traces of fragrance.
- Modify your skincare routine. After you’ve found a good balm, oil, or cream cleanser for your face, modify your next steps, too. Good face care in winter means ditching astringents or toners with alcohol and layering serums to lock in moisture. Try adding a hyaluronic acid in the morning and an oil or sleeping mask at night after you moisturize. Be sure to exfoliate at least once a week to remove dead, dry skin, so products can penetrate more deeply.
- Get a thicker moisturizer. Even if you have oily skin, you’ll probably need to add in a cream-based moisturizer instead of a lotion alone during the coldest months of the year. As Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, explains in RealSimple: “While humectants may have been sufficient to keep the skin hydrated during humid months, emollients and occlusives will be more important during low-humidity conditions.” To review: Humectants (like hyaluronic acid) extract moisture from the air and fuse it to the skin. Emollients (think: lotions and the like) protect the skin’s natural barrier. And oily, waxy occlusive form a protective layer that locks in moisture. Heavier, winter-proof moisturizers will contain some of each.
- Keep wearing sunscreen. When it comes to sunscreen, skincare in the winter really isn’t much different than the summer. You need to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF every day. No exceptions. In snowier climates, frozen precipitation can reflect up to 80% of the sun’s rays!
- Invest in a humidifier. Humidifiers pump extra moisture into the air via tiny water droplets. Not only are they good for keeping your sinuses, nasal passages, and lungs healthy, the steam they release can do wonders for your skin. They’re especially impactful at night when skin is in the regenerative stage of its circadian cycle.
- Turn down the thermostat. Even if you’ve perfected your skincare in winter, it won’t matter much if all you do is sit under a constantly running heater or roaring fire. Both can severely dehydrate skin, no matter how many skincare products you change out. Instead, heat your home to a comfortable 72 degrees or lower. Keeping the thermostat set at a consistent 68 degrees can also save you money for more skincare products or facial treatments!
- Avoid long, hot showers. This one can be a tough pill to swallow, but as contradictory as it sounds hot showers can really do a number on your skin. Hot water can easily strip away protective oils, so keep showers or baths to about 10 minutes and wash with lukewarm water.
- Wear natural fabrics. Add more natural fabrics to your winter skincare checklist. While warm, wool is a known irritant for most skin types. Switching out sweaters for cashmere or fleece can help you stay warm without the excessive itch. If you do want to keep wearing your favorite winter wool, try putting a layer of silk or cotton thermals between.
- Change out of wet clothes ASAP. Whether you’re building a snowman, making snow angels, or just getting caught in an unexpected downpour, make sure you don’t stay in wet winter gear. Moist gloves, socks, and hats can cause skin to chap.
- Stay hydrated! Remember that dewy, hydrated skin starts from the inside out. Your skin can’t hang onto moisture it doesn’t have. So drink your daily 8+ glasses of water (or hot tea) to keep skin supple.
Any number of these tips should create huge shifts in caring for winter skin. If you’re still experiencing issues, a 1% hydrocortisone cream or a visit to the dermatologist may be your next step.
This article does not contain medical advice and the information herein should not replace a consultation with a physician. See your doctor or a professional esthetician for skin care assistance personalized to your needs.
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