When winter rolls around, a heavy sweater, puffy jacket, gloves, and scarf are inevitable — but dry skin doesn’t have to be. Just like how we accessorize to keep the bitter cold air at bay, we can switch up our beauty regimen to target some of the winter’s biggest skin woes, including lack of moisture, a decrease in elasticity, and a dull complexion.
“The combination of windy, cold, dry weather outside and humidity-depleting heaters indoors works to drain our skin of vital moisture during winter months,” says Dr. Arash Akhavan, MD, FAAD, founder and owner of The Dermatology & Laser Group in NYC. “Our dewy, hydrated summer glow can quickly fade to a dull and ashy appearance,” Dr. Akhavan, adds.
With that said, keeping the skin well-hydrated during the winter months is key to healthier-looking skin as lack of hydration can cause the skin to dry out much faster and, as a result, put a larger emphasis on wrinkles (not to mention: The depletion of elasticity contributes to the production of wrinkles). How do you combat winter’s impact on the skin? Read on for dermatologist-approved winter skin tips.
“In winter months, there are several reasons why we must focus on increasing hydration,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo MD FAAD, a Miami-based board certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skincare. Like Dr. Akhavan, Dr. Ciraldo says that climate-controled conditions of central heating can dry out the air, resulting in drier skin, too. “Our skin itself has less production of healthy, moisture-trapping skin oils referred to as lipids and ceramides,” says Dr. Ciraldo. With that in mind, it’s important to keep hydration at top of mind when caring for the skin during the winter season. And, fortunately, there are a few ways to add that moisture back in.
“There are many moisturizing ingredients that you will benefit from if you add them to your winter regimen,” Dr. Ciraldo explains. “The ingredients called humedtants are able to hold many times their weight in water to hydrate, smooth, and even plump up the skin surface,” she adds, noting that the most effective humectants are “glycerin, hyaluronic acid, panthenol (vitamin B5), and aloe vera.”
Because of their hydrating powers, these ingredients are abundant in many skincare formulas, including cleansers, mists, serums, and even some makeup products where hydration is a focal point. For example, SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator incorporates a moisturizing blend of hyaluronic acid, along with peptides and vitamin E to not only attract moisture to the complexion, but help keep it there with the help of its nourishing properties. Since these ingredients are known to add moisture and nourishment to the complexion — as well as protect against environmental aggressors — they can also help smooth out the look of wrinkles and prevent premature signs of aging, too.
As Dr. Ciraldo mentioned, vitamin B5 is another potent and effective humectant and incorporating it into your winter regimen can help replenish the skin’s moisture levels. One way to do so is with a serum such as SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel, which is specifically formulated with vitamin B5 as well as hyaluronic acid to attract moisture to the skin. When used with a vitamin C serum, this serum can give the complexion a rejuvenated, smoother, and brighter appearance.
In addition to incorporating humectant ingredients into your regimen. Dr. Ciraldo says to keep an eye on your water intake — and drinks lots of it. “I suggest that you have a 6 ounce glass of water for each caffeinated drink you have during the day and, if possible, try to drink at least 64 ounces of water each day,” she explains.
Another winter skin tip is to “use only tepid (room temperature) water” when you cleanse. And, avoid hot water altogether as it have an “overall drying effect on [the] skin,” says Dr. Ciraldo.
And, to get the most out of your humectant product, Dr. Ciraldo says it’s best to apply these types of products to “skin that is slightly damp so that it has ample amounts of water to absorb and trap in the skin surface.”
Repairing and Protecting the Skin Barrier
“The skin barrier refers to the function of the skin that has two major benefits,” says Dr. Ciraldo. “It protects skin from environmental insults, including irritation and penetration of pollution particles that can cause free radical damage [and] it also traps skin water content in the skin to keep skin hydrated,” she explains. Dr. Ciraldo goes on to explain how, anatomically, the barrier is “composed of intracellular components including panthenol, glycerin, and other absorbing molecules within the surface skin cells.” Then, “between the cells at the skin surface we have lipids and ceramides — the healthy skin oils that are water-trapping molecules that prevent water loss, but the way that plastic wrap will lock in moisture in refrigerated foods.”
The reason why repairing and protecting the skin barrier is important is because “when the skin barrier is compromised, skin becomes dry, rough, red, and much more sensitive,” says Dr. Ciraldo. “This often leads to exaggeration of the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and creases.” With that in mind, it’s a good idea to incorporate some ingredients that can protect the skin barrier into your winter regimen. And, similar to improving hydration, Dr. Ciraldo says it’s important to use products with ingredients that contain “both the natural moisture factor (NMF) components — including glycerin, panthenol, [and] hyaluronic acid — and the water-trapping healthy oils of our skin like lipids and ceramides.” She also explains that these ingredients are important year-round but it’s especially important to “load up on them in colder, drier climates and seasons.” One easy way to do this is to switch your cleanser with a formula that contains these ingredients. We love the Obagi Medical Nu-Derm Gentle Cleanser because it includes amino acids that help protect the lipid layer of the skin, plus apricot kernel for added nourishment. Using a cleanser with moisturizing ingredients helps cleanse the complexion without stripping the skin during colder months.
In addition to these ingredients, reaching for SPF in the winter time is also considered necessary. “Although the UVB (the burning rays) lessen in winter months, there is almost a constant amount of UVA (the skin aging rays) during all four seasons,” Dr. Ciraldo explains. “That’s why it is so important to use SPF 12 months of the year,” she adds, noting how in the winter, when the skin barrier is more compromised because of the weather, “dermatologists believe that UV rays can be even more damaging to skin since the skin barrier also helps to prevent penetration of UV rays.”
With that in mind, it’s important to keep sunscreen as part of your regular regimen and reach for products with SPF in their formulas. Supergoop!® Unseen Sunscreen contains an SPF level of 40 and, although it can protect the complexion, it’s designed to feel like it’s barely there with a formula that is colorless, weightless, and scentless (hence the name). This daily SPF also includes red algae to protect against the harmful blue light so many of us are exposed to via our devices, frankincense for a soothing effect, and a complex derrived from meadow foam seed, which boosts hydration on the complexion, making it a great sunscreen for winter.
Treating the complexion to an at-home micro-treatment is another way to keep winter skin woes under wraps as you can specifically target some of the bigger concerns such as dryness and dullness. Two common practices to adopt during the winter are micro-needling and microdermabrasion. These skin treatments got their start in office but, thanks to at-home devices and products, are available for at-home use, too.
“Microneedling has been a very successful in-office treatment for acne scars as well as lines and wrinkles,” says Dr. Ciraldo, explaining how it works by “creating micro-wounding of the skin that creates new collagen formation to lessen the appearance of these skin depressions” such as scars and lines. “Now that at-home micro-needling devices are so perfected, they can truly help everyone to gain access to this proven therapy, even if you can’t get to a doctor or aesthetician,” Dr. Ciraldo explains. At-home micro-needling devices don’t penetrate as deeply, “so they are amazing for milder scarring and more superficial lines and wrinkles,” says Dr. Ciraldo. In addition to smoothing out the look of the complexion and improving collagen production, micro-needling at home can also help with skincare product absorption, making it an excellent addition to a winter skincare regimen where you want to get the most out of your hydrating formulas.
If you’re looking to add micro-needling to your routine, we are big fans of the ORA Face Microneedle Dermal Roller System, which features tiny 0.5-millimeter needles that painlessly glide over the complexion to smooth out the look of the complexion, boost collagen production, and help the skin better absorb nourishing formulas, including serums, moisturizers, and oils.
“Another characteristic of winter skin is a slowdown in dead [skin] cells shedding,” says Dr. Cirlado. To combat this, you can use microdermabrasion to “remove outer dead layers of the skin from the [complexion’s] surface,” she adds, noting how using microdermabrasion at home can give you a “very effective” exfoliation. “The benefits are to increase skin luminosity as it removes dull-appearing skin cells.” Dr. Ciraldo says this is a “good treatment for dull skin tone,” as well as “uneven tone, rough texture, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.”
For an at-home microdermabrasion session, we recommend giving PMD Personal Microderm Classic a try. This device features interchangeable discs that provide a gentle yet effective exfoliation for a smoother skin texture. And, with regular use, fine lines, wrinkles, and large pores also appear less noticeable.