Winter is Coming: How to Care for Your Skin During Upcoming Harsh Weather

Winter is here, and skincare should be a top priority for many people living in places where the weather changes drastically. 

Experts urge that as you swap your closets and adjust your wardrobe for lower temperatures, you also need to pay attention to your skin. Dryer, colder air leads to dry, sensitive skin. Darker days and less time outside mean you need to pivot your daily moisturizing routine in favor of more delicate care. 

Your winter skincare adjustments aren’t as simple as you might assume — it’s not just a matter of more moisturizers to combat harsh winter weather, which can wreak havoc on your skin, leaving you looking red, feeling itchy, and irritated. The combination of the cold air outside with hot air inside can really disrupt and damage your skin barrier. This is especially true for people who suffer from conditions like eczema and psoriasis, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. 

Luckily, there are steps you can and should take to ensure that you are not only taking care of your skin today but also protecting your skin for the future.

Cleanse, Rinse, Repeat 

First of all, make sure you continue to wash your face regularly, even if you don’t notice that you are sweating as much as you might in warmer weather. Just because you aren’t drenched in sweat does not mean you don’t need to cleanse your skin. And look for products that are gentle and moisturizing, meaning they will help put more moisture back into your skin, rather than stripping it of its natural glow. In general, fragrance-free is always better and less harsh, which is really important in the winter.

Moisturize Often 

According to Dr. Adriane Pompa of Mayoral Dermatology, a board-certified dermatologist who is highly trained in medical dermatology, dermatologic surgery, and cosmetic dermatology in Miami, Florida, moisturizing is key. “During the winter months, we should shift from products that have the potential to irritate your skin, such as retinoids and alpha or beta hydroxy acids, to products that will hydrate and protect your skin barrier.”

In the winter, the priority should always be protection and hydration. Generally speaking, a must-have product in anyone’s winter skincare routine is “any moisturizer with ceramides or glycerin.” And remember that you can and should hydrate from within as well – drink lots of water to keep your body and your skin properly hydrated. 

Another skincare expert, the licensed esthetician and owner of Cici Skincare in Miami, Florida, Cecilia Moron, mentioned that a great item to add to your skincare routine is facial oil. “Oils tend to be misunderstood as we think they will make our skin oily, but choosing the perfect oil for you will do wonders.” She recommends never to apply an oil by itself, otherwise, your skin will dehydrate. Instead, apply oil as the last step of your nighttime routine to promote hydration. 

Skip The Exfoliating 

The biggest mistake Dr. Pompa sees patients make with their skin during the winter is hands down “over-exfoliation to help with dry skin.” Do. Not. Exfoliate! It seems like the obvious choice to remove dead skin cells would be to buff it off using exfoliating products, but that’s actually the opposite of what you should do. Instead, opt for moisturizing and gentle products to add hydration back to the skin, rather than removing dry skin. 

Always Wear SPF, Especially in the Winter

While you might not be relaxing at the beach or going for long walks in the sun, you still need to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, even in the winter. While there may be less of the sun’s harmful UVB rays in the winter, UVA rays are present year-round and are significant enough to age skin, causing fine lines, wrinkles, and even skin cancer. And in case you were not aware, snow reflects the sun’s rays, making exposure more dangerous. If you’ve ever experienced ski burn, then you know what we mean. Look for sunscreen products with a high UVA rating, and opt for more moisturizing sunscreen products, such as creams instead of lotions or sprays. “Or use a moisturizer and then apply sunscreen on top,” suggests Benjamin Barankin, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Toronto. 

Don’t Forget Your Lips!

Our lips are delicate. In fact, we only have 3-5 layers of skin on our lips and the cold weather can be very harsh on them, according to licensed esthetician Moron. This is why she recommends keeping them hydrated with a lip balm and using it as needed.

Be Kind to Your Skin 

Overall, be gentle and be kind to your skin. When the weather gets harsh, and you start to feel irritated and dry, don’t get frustrated or aggressive with your skincare. During the winter months, Dr. Pompa’s best advice is to “stop overdoing things.  It’s best to be gentle and kind to your skin. Avoid exfoliating or overusing retinoids. Winter can be harsh, so we should be kind to our skin.”

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