Winter can be really rough on your skin, and if you don’t take the time to ramp up your normal skin care routine, your skin can wind up feeling, at best, dry and tight, and at worst flaky and chapped or even cracked, raw, or bleeding – especially your hands. Over time, consistently overlooking winter skin care can age your hands and face, and even in the short term it can make things pretty uncomfortable. So what do you need to do to save your skin from the savages of cold, dry winter air?
1. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
If you already have a moisturizing routine, ramp it up, and if you don’t, now’s the time to start. There are so many factors that combine in the winter months to leech moisture and natural oils from your skin, and the only way to protect against them is to add moisture to your skin, and seal in what’s already there. To do that, you want to swap from water to oil based lotions that will help your skin retain moisture. Your winter lotion should be thick and creamy, like this Wild Lavender Lotion and use a non-pore-clogging plant-based oil like jojoba oil, avocado oil, or almond oil. Keep petrolium based products and shea butter away from your face, but use these thicker, oilier creams like this Shea Hand And Body on tough dry spots like your feet and elbows. Plan to moisturize your whole body at least twice a day – preferably right after your morning shower while your skin is still damp (to help your skin retain and absorb that extra moisture) and then again before bed. On drier days, there’s a good chance your skin will soak up your lotion faster than that and will need to be reapplied more often. As well, be sure to give special attention to your face and hands, which are generally the only parts exposed on very cold days.
2. Don’t Skimp On The Sunscreen!
Many people associate sunscreen with summer sunshine, but even an overcast day in the depth of winter can be just as harmful – if not moreso – to your skin. Especially if you’re in an area with a lot of snow, you get a double dose of sun from the light reflecting up off that gorgeous white stuff. So start every day with a facial moisturizer with at least 30 SPF, like this Perfecting Day Cream on your face and neck, and rub a little extra onto your hands to make sure they’re protected as well. Makeup with SPF like this Vita-Mineral Loose Powder is a nice extra touch, but even if you use it, in winter you shouldn’t skimp on that moisturizing/spf base layer.
3. Lay Off The Treatments
Even if you have naturally oily skin and have a regimen of peels, face masks (especially clay masks), alcohol based toners or astringents to help keep you skin in check, you want to do them less frequently in the winter – probably no more than once a week. In the winter time your skin’s natural oils can actually be an asset rather than a nuisance, so if your skin is starting to feel tight or irritated, reduce the frequency of your routine until your skin starts to rehydrate, or switch to a deep hydrating face mask like Intense Re-Infusion Mask for the season.
4. Don’t Forget Your Hands And Feet
With hands in gloves and feet in lace ups and boots, it can be easy to forget to give them a little love, but your hands can rack up permanent damage, and if you forget your feet, they won’t be slingback sleek come spring. Treat them both regularly to a simple salt or sugar scrub (look for ones with a natural plant-based oil like Smoothing Salt Scrub or make your own), and rub a thick, creamy moisturizer all the way in before slipping on your socks and gloves (and repeat after washing your hands). And always – always! – remove wet socks and gloves as soon as possible because they can irritate and damage your skin, and even cause it to crack and bleed.
5. Skip The Hot Water Soak
This is personally the hardest rule for me to follow, and the one that might surprise you: those long, hot hot baths and showers you take to warm up on a cold morning or after a long trek through the snow are actually drying out your skin. Because the hot water evaporates so quickly, it takes your natural moisture with it, and very hot water can even break down the lipid barriers in your skin which exacerbates the problem. Opt instead for shorter, warm-not-hot baths and showers, and if your skin is already irritated, try mixing oatmeal or baking soda into your bath water to help soothe the itch. Using less soap will actually help, too – as there won’t be residue to make your skin itch and flake. If you really can’t stand the cold, try installing a towel warmer like this Amba Jeeves Model C in your bathroom. These function a little like radiators, and will keep your bathroom warm all day and night, and will give you something cozy to wrap up in once you step out of the shower.
One of the most important winter skin care products isn’t one you put on your skin at all. Because the main cause of dry skin in winter is dry air (from low atmospheric moisture outside and the hot, dry air you use to warm your home), one of the best ways to combat it is…to re-hydrate your air. Humidifiers regulate the humidity in your room, keeping the air at a comfortable moisture level to help protect your skin. It won’t help you on your morning jog, but one of these cute Animal Humidifiers placed in each room of your home can really ease the pain of winter dryness.
7. Dress For The Weather
This one may seem a little silly, but winter gear isn’t just meant to protect you from the cold – it can help keep your skin hydrated, too. Even a simple Knit Hat can save your scalp from drying out (and thereby prevent seasonal flaking), and paired with a thick Scarf it can keep wind off most of your face in the harshest weather. Don’t underestimate gloves, either – even fingerless gloves can help protect the thin, delicate skin on your hands. Just be sure to avoid putting wool directly against your skin wherever possible – the itchy feel can irritate dry skin and promote scratching, which only causes further damage. The same goes for the rest of your winter clothes – opt for removable layers with a breathable cotton base to make sure you don’t get too hot or cold or start to sweat, which can further irritate and dry out your skin.
8. Remember Your Lips
Lips are something of a barometer of overall skin health – like a canary in a mine, they’re the first part that goes bad, but at the same time they can be easy to overlook or ignore. Keep a stick of at least SPF 15 lip balm on hand at all times and use it whenever you think of it, at least a couple times a day – this all-natural UnPetrolium stick is super hydrating and comes with an uncommonly high SPF 18. As well, try not to lick your lips, as this can cause them to dry out, even if it makes them feel a little better when you do it. Finally, while the amount of water you drink may not have a big impact on your overall skin health, it definitely makes a difference when it comes to your lips. If it’s winter, and your lips are chapped, chances are all that dry air is getting to you and you’re starting to get dehydrated.
Dried out, tight-feeling, flaky skin doesn’t have to come hand in hand with the winter months. With just a little conscientious effort and a little daily maintenance, you can banish many of the skin-woes of winter and be ready to meet the spring with fresh, youthful skin. How do you keep your skin healthy during the winter months? Do you have any favorite products? What changes do you make to your normal routine?