Winter is upon us and it brings changes to the skincare routine. Even here in the usually warm California, I feel my skin getting drier and in need of extra care. In colder climates, you’re even more likely to experience dryness, inflammation, and flakiness during the winter months. Some of the ways to adjust skin care in winter include more hydration and sealing in the moisture, changes to environmental risks, and more TLC from within.
The biggest problem with our skin during wintertime is the exposure to low – even freezing – temperatures and the biting wind. All of this ends up taking the moisture from the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis.
The skin that is exposed to the cold, in particular, that on our face and hands, can become super dry, flaky, and irritated. Lips can become much easier chapped than in the summer.
Additionally, indoor air tends to be hot and dry from heaters and this adds to the dehydrating of the skin. People suffering from eczema or psoriasis might experience even more flare-ups due to the cold and dry weather outside and hot and dry indoor environment.
Water loss accelerates when the glue is loosened by sun damage, over-cleansing, scrubbing, or underlying medical conditions — or by winter’s low humidity and the drying effects of indoor heat. The result is roughness, flaking, itching, cracking, and sometimes a burning sensation.Harvard Health
So, how can we combat dry winter skin? What are some common-sense changes to the everyday routine in wintertime? Let’s dive in.
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Tips for Dehydrated Skin
Adjustments to the skincare routine in winter include getting to the root of the problem from the inside and out. There are changes in the actual skincare regimen, there are environmental factors, and there is the inside-out approach that can help as well.
Before discussing how to change the skincare routine to combat wintertime dryness, let’s see what moisturizer ingredients are doing what for our skin.
Any skin moisturizer will contain one or more out of these three main types of ingredients:
Humectants are ingredients that attract moisture. They include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramides, honey, and lecithin.
As hydrophilic, or water-loving ingredients, humectants attract water to the skin as opposed to two other moisturising ingredients – occlusives and emollients – which act to reduce water loss or to enhance skin penetration of hydrating molecules.Formula Botanica
Emollients are ingredients that smooth skin by filling in the areas between individual skin cells. They include fatty acids that can be found in many oils and butters such as linoleic (grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, cucumber seed oil), palmitic (avocado oil), linolenic (cupuaÇu butter), stearic (cocoa butter), and lauric acids (coconut oil).
The term emollient refers to materials that are able to soften skin. The word is actually derived from mollire which is a Latin verb meaning “to soften.” In the cosmetic formulating world emollients are ingredients incorporated into products to improve the feel of skin and hair.The Chemist Corner
Occlusives are another set of ingredients that help seal moisture within the skin. They include waxes (beeswax, Carnauba, and Candelilla wax), as well as lanolin, squalene, and petrolatum.
Occlusives are a type of moisturizing agent that work by forming a protective coating on the surface of your skin. They are usually oily or waxy. Think of occlusives as “Saran Wrap” for your skin. In the same way plastic wrap forms a barrier between your food and the outside environment, occlusives prevents harmful particles from entering your skin and keep moisture sealed inside.Dr. Lesie Baumann
Winter Skin Care Routine
Here are the 16 tips to improve your chances to combat dryness and banish the winter skin rash.
1. Change your moisturizer in winter to banish dryness.
A good dry skincare routine should include products that will combine these three ingredients mentioned above. They do not have to come all in one product. If they don’t, it is perfectly fine to layer humectants, then emollients, and lastly occlusives to seal in all that good moisture.
Example of a winter skin care routine:
In the morning:
- Wash face with a mild cleanser. See below what cleanser is best during wintertime.
- Tone with a gentle toner like this Rose and Aloe Vera Toner.
- Apply a Hyaluronic Acid Serum or any other serum that includes humectants.
- Follow with a moisturizer that ideally includes all three functional ingredients. I put on a few drops of my facial oil and follow up with a face cream that includes emollient and occlusive components.
In the evening:
Same as above plus a heavier night cream with shea butter and wax to seal in all the good moisture in.
Try a heavier cream or ointment-based emollient, ideally one with ceramides. Ceramides are the skin’s natural fatty acids, which rebuild and protect the skin barrier.Web MD
2. Use a gentle cleansing oil rather than soap
Avoid soap which can strip the epidermis of its natural oils. It is super easy to cleanse the skin with an oil cleanser or a cleansing balm. An anhydrous (not water-based formula) that protects and adds to our own skin lipids is a good choice at this time of year.
3. Use gentle exfoliation
Cleansing or buffing exfoliators can help slough off dead skin. Any scrub has to be very gentle during wintertime. Rather than using harsher sugar or salt scrubs, I opt for gentler particles such as ground oats, poppy seeds, or ground coffee.
A once or twice a week mild scrub removes the dead skin cells and it makes the moisturizers absorb easier. Scrub, moisturize, and watch that skin glow!
Environmental Aspects of Winter Skincare Routine
No matter how many products we put on the skin during the harsher winter weather, we still should be controlling the environmental components of the skincare regimen. Here are a few tips to avoid dryness or even a cold-weather skin rash.
4. Lower the heat in the house
It is not only the weather outside that can wreak havoc on our skin but also the environment inside where we spend most of our time during the winter months. Make sure to lower your thermostat to around 68-72 F (20-23 C)
5. Use a humidifier
If you are sleeping in a room with particularly dry heat, add a humidifier (a bedside humidifier is a great idea). I use an essential oil diffuser and also add an overnight mask for face and lips to seal in the moisture.
6. Try dry brushing
The skin on the body can feel parched and itchy during wintertime. It might even start flaking. If that happens, a simple, few-minute-long dry brushing session before a bath or shower can be very helpful. The circular brushing not only exfoliates the skin but also helps with circulation and promotes lymphatic drainage.
For my dry brushing, I use this brush from Beauty by Earth. I also put a few drops of essential oil on the brush (I love the anti-cellulite properties of the pink grapefruit oil!). It is such a pleasurable ritual and a staple of my self-care.
7. Avoid extremely hot baths and showers
I love long and hot baths in the winter but I am conscious of the dangers of excessive heat on the skin. So, recently I’ve been dialing down on the temperature and duration of my baths.
Hot water strips the skin of natural moisture. To keep that skin healthy, hydrated, and protected, it makes sense to take shorter, lukewarm showers. If still giving in to an occasional bath, as I do, make it shorter too, and use an oil-based body scrub before relaxing in the bath. The oil will stay on the skin after scrubbing will protect it from irritation.
8. Pamper after the bath or shower
After cleansing, make sure to be gentle on the skin by blotting (rather than rubbing) the skin with the towel. Then, slather on a good moisturizer all over the body.
Here, it really makes sense to look for a body butter that will combine all the three ingredients mentioned above: a humectant (Hyaluronic Acid or Glycerine), an emollient (a good oil or fatty with a nourishing fatty acids composition), and an occlusive to seal it the moisture (wax or lanolin).
Check out this recipe for a non-greasy body butter that is super easy to make.
9. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
In general, we need to moisturize way more during wintertime than in the summer. During warmer months, I find that a body oil right after the shower is enough to keep my skin soft and hydrated.
But during wintertime, I go for heavier body butters. The difference here is that body oil does not include an occlusive. The oil sinks into the skin and nourishes it, but it does not seal in that moisture. Adding wax and butter such as mango, shea, cupaucu, or cocoa butter makes the body moisturizer stay in contact with the skin much longer.
10. Give the driest parts some extra love
Wintertime feet, hands, and elbows are particularly vulnerable. It is crucial to apply a cream or body butter right after cleansing to lock in that moisture so that the skin is not exposed to cold temps outside or hot and dry heat inside.
In our age of constant hand-washing and hand-sanitizer use, our hands are probably suffering the most. The water and alcohol in these sanitizers are especially harsh on the hands. Make sure to slather on that lipid-rich moisturizer immediately after washing or sanitizing to keep the skin on your hands nourished and happy.
Once the pandemic started and I noticed that my hands were getting much drier than usually, I made these solid lotion bars. They are made with Shea butter, avocado oil, and white beeswax. The tin fits in my bag and I can use the bar even when on the go.
11. Love your lips
The skin on the lips is particularly fragile and so it needs more than a little extra help during the harsh winter weather. Not only are the lips getting chapped quickly in the cold and dry air, but they are also more vulnerable to things like the herpes simplex virus if the lipid barrier on them is compromised.
Lips become chapped because when people go out in the cold and don’t protect their lips, they tend to get wind burned.Dr. Jaliman
A gentle lip scrub made with honey and cinnamon can buff the lips gently as well as moisturize them (honey is one of the best natural humectants).
After I scrub my lips, I like to slather them with my sleeping lip mask which has lanolin, beeswax, jojoba, and castor oil in it – a perfect trio to nourish the pout.
On a daily basis, remember to use a good, natural lip balm. And, if possible, opt for natural lipstick to avoid the chemical burden on the frail lip skin.
12. Don’t forget a good sunscreen
It is easy to think, it is cold outside, the sun is low, I don’t need sunscreen. As I wrote here, it is fine, and actually beneficial, to get direct sun exposure for several minutes a day. Anything beyond 20 minutes though, whether in summer or winter, is not good for us and can lead to skin aging and skin cancer.
n addition to moisturizer, remember to use sunscreen in the winter as well as the summer. The sun is sneaky, and the reflection of UV rays off the white snow can increase the UV exposure. Broad spectrum sunscreens are best. Physical blockers, such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide, typically filter out the most harmful UV rays the best.Associated Dermatologists
Until I found this company, putting on my mineral sunscreen was a chore: the sunscreens were pasty and not easily spreadable. And since I did not want to use chemical sunscreens, I often went without (bad idea!)
The mineral sunscreens by Beauty by Earth are not only super easy to apply, they are also very healthy for the skin. Zero harsh chemicals, only organic ingredients, only a trace of the white film. My favorite is the tinted sunscreen. I use it daily as my BB cream in place of foundation.
Facial Sunscreen – SPF 20 – $16.99
from: Beauty by Earth
Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Sticks – SPF 30 (Latte) – $12.99
from: Beauty by Earth
Tinted Mineral Sunscreen Sticks – SPF 30 (Creme) – $12.99
from: Beauty by Earth
Winter Skin Care from Inside Out
13. Kitchen Beauty
There are so many ingredients in our pantry and fridge that are good for the skin. Use them.
- Oatmeal – hydrates and locks in moisture (great for a gentle face scrub or place in a sachet in the bath for an instant moisture boost)
- Natural scrubs with poppy seeds, dried and ground orange or lemon peel, ground walnut shells, coffee (great for an anti-cellulite body scrub)
- Raw honey – excellent humectant with anti-bacterial properties (excellent for lip masks, face packs, cleanser
- Unsweetened yogurt – gentle exfoliation with lactic acid (can be used on the face or all over the body)
- Aloe Vera – maybe you are growing it in a pot or in your garden. The Aloe gel is an amazing moisturizer and skin-soother.
Skin-Loving Adjustment From Within
It’s not enough to moisturize with skincare products. You should also be moisturizing from the inside out by drinking plenty of water or water containing drinks throughout the day (kombucha, fresh juices and smoothies, plant milks). Warm soups and tea are one more way to keep the level of hydration high during the coldest months.
15. Eat skin-loving food
We all know that veggies and fruits have great benefits for our general health and also for the skin. But there are a few other foods that are particularly beneficial during the winter months. These are the foods that contain healthy fats such as Omegas and other fatty acids.
Eating healthy fats such as avocado has been proven to help maintain supple, spring-y skin. Healthy fats are essential for keeping your face and hands looking healthy and prevent them from drying out in the cold winter months.Dr. Rekha Tailor
Foods that include such healthy fats are for example wild salmon and other wild, cold-water fish, avocado, olive oils, sweet potatoes, and walnuts. The high content of Omega-3 and 9 in salmon and walnuts will help combat dryness and can even help with conditions such as eczema.
A lot of people don’t realize the importance of these to skin health, but there is significant evidence that omegas can even improve eczema. Their role is to maintain a healthy cell membrane, which is what allows a cell to hold water. This healthy barrier will support softer more supple skin.Dr. Sophie Shotter
Here is my favorite olive oil made entirely from the olives of Koroneiki variety. Read here about why this is the best variety of olive oil out there.
16. Add good supplements
Lastly, there are supplements that can help with excessive drying and make the skin look and feel more supple and healthy.
I am a huge fan of collagen supplementation. As I wrote in this article, collagen is crucial to the health of our skin, hair, and nails. Unfortunately, we start losing the naturally-occurring collagen starting in our mid-20s. To counter this loss, supplementation is crucial.Get 25% OFF NatureWise Collagen Peptides for a limited time with code ‘COLLAGEN25’ !
I also love using this green, marine supplement. Spirulina can be used topically or internally. Either way, it carries great benefits for the health of the skin. I have a recipe for a DIY spirulina and chlorella mask here. Whipp it up, put on, and chill with spirulina fortified smoothie in your hand to double up on the benefits. Your skin will be so thankful!
There are several excellent supplements on the market which are targeting specific issues such as skin aging and dryness. These would be a great addition to give the winter skin a bit of TLC from within. Read about their benefits on the company websites.
Good Skin Day – Calming Supplement for Skin
from: Ora Organic
Whether you live near the Arctic Circle or in sunny California, winter months require a bit different skincare from within and without. A few simple changes and adjustments of the topical products, nourishing supplements, and environmental factors will keep the skin protected from the harsh elements and help you avoid big problems such as extreme dryness, flakiness, eczema.