For all of winter's highlights, it also comes with some less than pleasant side effects - specifically, months of dry, itchy skin.
And even if you think you finally nailed your skincare routine this summer, figuring out which serums and scrubs will keep your face radiant under the sun, the onset of autumn’s wind and chill can bring back all those problems you thought you already solved. Unfortunately, bringing your skincare routine from summer to winter involves a little bit more than just slathering on more moisturiser.
On a quest to find out how to best protect our skin this winter, we sourced tips from some experts on how to keep the body’s largest organ healthy and hydrated.
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Hydration from inside and out
Our skin is the barrier that keeps water insider the body, so when it’s dry and cold outside, water evaporates off the surface faster and easier. That’s why your face looks like it’s glowing in July and not so much in January.
To prevent dryness, Dr Angela Lamb, a dermatologist in New York City, suggests using a humidifier in the bedroom, explaining that humidifiers are a great way to add moisture back into your home, especially if you’re prone to blasting the heat.
If you can manage it, adding one or two extra glasses of water into your daily routine can combat winter’s dry skin. “Adequate hydration is crucial for all aspects of health—skin health included,” said dermatologist Dr Dendy Engelman.
The change in seasons is a good time to revisit what products you’re using. Skin during the summer months can withstand a certain number of harsh products, but during the winter, it's more delicate and requires gentle cleansers.
Dermatologist Dr Samer Jaber suggests looking for cleansers marked ‘gentle’ or ‘for sensitive skin’. He also advises looking for something ‘fragrance-free’, as fragrance is a catch-all term for any number of chemicals that contribute to the scent of a product, but can cause reactions and redness.
If you’re dealing with breakouts, don’t automatically reach for the spot treatment or salicylic acid wipes—these treatments, while effective in treating acne, dry out the skin. If you’re already dealing with seasonal dryness, they will only exacerbate the problem. Before opting for any harsh treatments, try washing the area with water and a gentle cleanser and lightly exfoliating with a washcloth.
It might seem counterintuitive to exfoliate dry skin, but dermatologists say this step is the key to a brighter complexion. The trick is not to over-exfoliate or use harsh exfoliators.
Exfoliating helps the skin slough off dead cells, something that helps the moisturiser sink better into the skin. Dermatologist Dr Shari Marchbein suggests looking for a mild chemical exfoliator with a small concentration of glycolic or lactic acid and using it once, maybe twice a week.
Of course, skin is not one-solution-cures-all and, as with all of these suggestions, your personal mileage may vary. It depends on your skin type. For example, Dr Marchbein suggests that if you experience raw or severely dry skin, it’s best to forgo an exfoliating product altogether, and instead use a microfibre washcloth to gently manually exfoliate the skin.
See Also: Resolving Dry Skin Conditions
It goes without saying that winter requires a serious moisturiser. But it’s essential that you get the right one for your skin type. It’s worth analysing your skin habits—is it flaky? Is it itchy? Red? Sore?—and then searching for a product will really work for you.
Dr Marchbein advises looking for creams, rather than lotions, and eyeing the product list for ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Ceramides aid in the prevention of the skin’s barrier, which is easily broken down during the winter. Hyaluronic acid helps your skin retain moisture. If your skin is really dry, apply it morning and night.
Even though the cold, draughty rooms in the house in the winter can make you want to run a piping hot bath or shower, this is actually the last thing your skin needs. Hot water evaporates quickly, and the skin—if not immediately moisturised—can develop tiny cracks. This results in what feels like many tiny paper cuts or eczema, also called ‘winter’s itch’.
If you do indulge in a hot shower or bath, keep your bathroom door closed, and after you dry off, make sure to moisturise.
This feature was originally published in the winter edition of Flawless, which you can read here.