Winter and Skin Care: A Dermatologist's Guide
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Time to read 6 min
Have you ever fallen into your perfect skincare sweet spot during summer months, only to find your skin issues returning once the weather cools down? You're not alone. The winter months bring a dramatically different climate and in turn, markedly different skincare concerns.
Tending to your skincare needs in the winter can mean more than a quick fix. Rather, it requires seasonal adjustments to your skin care regimen, taking extra measures to keep skin hydrated, protect your skin from the elements, and treat chronic skin conditions that may arise as a result of the cold.
The following article features all the winter skincare tips you need to keep your skin looking healthy and refreshed all season long. Following a dermatologist's guide to maintaining your skin in winter, these simple but impactful instructions will help you maintain your summer glow even through the cold winter months.
It's common to experience unusually dry skin during the winter, with symptoms including itching, flaking, and rough texture. This is because the coldest months of the year bring in dry air, low humidity, and dehydrating indoor heating, each of which on its own is enough to affect the skin. Taken altogether, these conditions are all but certain to lead the skin to become dry and uncomfortable, even among those whose skin is thriving and bright during warmer seasons. Once this happens on the top layer of skin, it's not long before we face deeper impacts.
There's science behind this: every person's skin contains Filaggrin, a structural protein found in the skin barrier that is essential to healthy functioning. The filaggrin levels remain more or less the same throughout the year. However, the levels of natural moisturizing factor, which is a byproduct of the proteolysis of filaggrin, are lower in winter. This, alongside the increased degradation of filaggrin due to low humidity, causes increased transepidermal water and dry skin. Fortunately, there are many products specifically designed to alleviate dry winter skin and the common skin conditions that accompany the cold.
Though we don't tend to think of it this way, our skin's primary function is to protect us from the elements, helping us to maintain a healthy body temperature, keep up levels of hydration, and even help stave off infections. Beauty aside, this is the most important reason to protect the skin.
When our skin is dried out, it is less effective at performing its normal functions. Dry winter months can be a catalyst for a significant loss of moisture that does not just affect our skin's look and feel but also its protective capacities. This means that keeping our skin from drying out isn't just good for our appearance – it's important to our overall health.
Healthy, youthful skin should be hydrated, smooth, and clear. Indeed, when our skin is looking less than stellar, it can often be a sign of poor health. This does not mean it's easy to prevent the skin damage we all are subject to, or that those with chronic skin conditions like eczema should feel bad if they have trouble keeping their symptoms at bay. However, using this as a benchmark can be useful to identifying when a revised approach to skin treatment is necessary.
The following tips follow the recommendations of dermatology experts to help you improve your skincare routine all season long.
Harsh skin care products – such as scrubs featuring exfoliating beads and bathroom products like loofahs and bath mitts – can irritate your skin when it is dry, increasing your discomfort. Those who have eczema are also at greater risk of flare ups when using these products in the winter. While these may be built into your summer skin routine, it is recommended to hold off on using these until the weather warms back up.
A hot shower might be all you crave on a cold day, but be warned: water at high temperatures can also greatly dry out your skin. (Bummer, right?) This means that it is recommended to take showers no longer than 5-10 minutes, and to keep your water temperature as close to lukewarm as you can. It may not be the most indulgent method, but your skin will thank you later.
As mentioned above, indoor heating can strip the skin of its natural moisture. Combined with the harsh effects of end-of-year coldness, this can cause uncomfortable levels of skin dryness as well as dead, flaky skin. To prevent this, dermatologists recommend stocking up on warm, comfy clothing to wear around the house so that you can use your indoor heating more sparingly, preserving your moisture levels in the process.
When it comes to skincare, what goes into our bodies is as important as what we put on the outside. This means a skin-healthy diet can work wonders in staving off dryness. Look for foods that have high amounts of collagen and/or vitamin C, which help boost our skin's structure and combat skin damage from environmental factors.
If your diet isn't providing you with enough collagen or vitamin C, fear not: there are plenty of supplements on the market that can offer you the amounts you need, especially in the winter. Tasty, affordable, and easy to find, these offer an easy solution to common winter concerns.
Below are a few additional tips to make sure you have a good skin care routine throughout the winter.
Foam cleansers can be very dehydrating, doing the opposite of what we need them to do to fight environmental damage. The best winter regimens feature hydrating cleansers that won't strip the skin, like creamy and sulfate-free cleansers.
Just as the food we eat can have skincare benefits, so too can the fluids we drink. It's imperative to drink lots of water (or even electrolyte-rich beverages meant to increase hydration) so that you feel its effects inside and out.
Even when the sun isn't strong, it's imperative to continue using sunscreen, especially on our facial skin. In fact, it's common to get sunburns during the winter, as we don't tend to remember that the sun in the winter can be as damaging as in the summer. Consequently, fewer people continue to incorporate sunscreen into their daily routines. Don't forget the winter sun!
Beyond preventing the redness, dryness, and peeling that can come from sunburns, SPF is our best line of defense against skin cancer. This means continuing to use SPF is a must at any time of year.
Now that you know what you need to support your skin during the winter season, it's time to stock your medicine cabinet with the products that will restore your vitality no matter how cold it gets. Check out our complete collection of skincare products, featuring moisturizers, face creams, reparative oils, and more to keep you glowing even when the sun isn't out.
The cold, dry air that winter brings in – as well as the stuffy, dehydrating indoor heating we use to stay warm – can severely dry out the skin, leading to itchy skin, a buildup of dead skin cells, and other skin problems related to dryness.
Some of the best practices to combat winter dryness are bundling up on warm clothing to avoid overuse of your indoor heater, avoiding harsh products, and taking skincare supplements to maintain healthy levels of hydration.
Using SPF, reducing indoor heating, and eating collagen- and vitamin C-rich foods can make a world of difference in improving skin health during the winter.
Jack Levinson is a writer born and raised in Los Angeles. He received his bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. When not writing, his interests include the arts, cooking, and exploring the California coast.
Felipe is a hardworking and self-motivated dermatologist with a great passion for skin diseases and therapeutics. He has experience in specialised clinical care, researching scientific literature, and writing scientific articles.