6 Tips For Dealing With Dry Winter Skin Like A Pro

Goodbye, hot showers.

by Deanna Pai
Originally Published: 
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While your skin faces all sorts of aggressors on a regular basis — pollution, UV rays, stress, you name it — there’s no denying that winter can be especially challenging. As with flight delays and canceled plans, you can blame this one on the weather, too. “All skin becomes drier during the winter months due to the decrease in temperatures, increase in time indoors with heaters, lack of humidity, and an impaired skin barrier,” says Dr. Corey L. Hartman, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama.

On the bright side, it’s a refreshingly even playing field — meaning no matter what your natural skin type is, you’ll still feel the impact. It’s also worth noting that the skin on your face tends to fare better than areas from the neck down. As Hartman explains, “Skin on the face is usually more protected by the presence of oil glands, which are in higher concentration than other areas of the body.” Still, he adds you should be wary about using too many actives (think vitamin C and retinol) on your facial skin during the cold-weather months, as this can disrupt your moisture barrier and make you even more prone to weather-induced irritation.

What does this ultimately mean for you? Simply that you need to tweak your winter skin-care game a bit to help your epidermis handle the aggressive seasonal dryness. Keep scrolling for ways to keep skin soft, smooth, and properly moisturized through spring.

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Step up your hydration

First and foremost, the lightweight gel-cream moisturizer you slapped on all summer might not be cutting it anymore. For this reason, “change from serums and lotions to oils, creams, and ointments,” advises Hartman. “These vehicles help to strengthen the skin barrier by locking in moisture and preventing trans-epidermal water loss.” In keeping your skin barrier functioning properly, these more heavy-duty moisturizers ensure that skin maintains proper moisture levels all day, every day.

Leave out harsh ingredients

Just as important as what you use? What you don’t use. “Be mindful of active ingredients like retinol, hydroxy acids, astringents, and alcohols, which can cause dryness and need to be moderated during the winter months,” says Hartman. “Just because your skin can tolerate them during warmer seasons doesn’t mean that they can be used in the winter.” Skip the harsh soaps, too, and swap them for a gentle cleanser that can remove makeup and grime without stripping the skin of its natural moisture.

Invest in a humidifier

If you haven’t yet added a humidifier to your bedroom set-up, consider this your cue. “Incorporate a humidifier indoors while sleeping to add an extra level of hydration while you sleep,” says Hartman. Basically, cold air holds less moisture — just a little thing called physics — and a humidifier offsets its effects by sending water molecules into the air.

Exfoliate with caution

A heavy-duty exfoliant can be tough on skin that’s already feeling dry and flaky, but it’s actually a good thing — when done right, at least. “Exfoliating is fine as long as it’s achieved with a hydrating exfoliator, like glycolic acid, and used in conjunction with moisturizing ingredients like squalane, glycerin, and ceramides,” says Hartman. With these safeguards, exfoliation can remove flakes and allow your following moisturizers to penetrate even more deeply.

Turn down the temp

That hot, steamy shower may be good for the soul, but it’s not doing any favors for your skin. “I know that they feel amazing, but they dry your skin out and cause irritation, itching, and rashes,” says Hartman. Sorry in advance, but try to keep your showers warm, not hot, and moisturize immediately after toweling off to prevent skin from drying out.

Don’t overlook the lips

Fun fact: Your lips don’t have the same oil glands as the rest of your face. As a result, “the lips need extra attention when the weather turns colder — and a moisturizing lip balm with SPF goes a long way,” says Hartman. He’s a fan of a lanolin-based ointment, as it “soothes the lips, protects the skin barrier, and provides the extra hydration that the lips need in the winter to avoid chapping and cracking.”

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