If I had my way, I'd stay inside all winter long. It's not that I don't appreciate the majesty of a snowfall — I'd just rather avoid the outdoors if it means preventing a dry, flaky face. But, thankfully, there are certain winter skin care practices that allow you to enjoy the frost without sacrificing a healthy complexion.
Basically, winter and skin don't naturally play well together. "Right now, there is less moisture in the air because of the environment, wind, and central heating," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman, M.D. tells Bustle. "This makes it harder for the skin to maintain oil, which acts as a barrier from environmental aggressors. With low humidity levels, it will degrade the skin’s natural moisture barrier, which can lead to cracking, peeling and irritation." That's never fun.
But a few simple tweaks to your beauty routine can mean surviving til' spring without a chapped lip or parched face. The most important one of all? Focus on moisture. "More than anything, making sure your skin stays hydrated during the winter is an important step to ramp up in your skin care routine," New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Hale, M.D. tells Bustle. "During the coldest months of the year, we experience transepidermal water loss, which can leave your skin dry and itchy." And transepidermal water loss is just what it sounds like: the loss of water, aka hydration, in your skin.
So, if you do nothing else, get thyself some moisturizer ASAP. Besides that, dermatologists reveal 13 other skin care tips and tricks for keeping your complexion glowing and hydrated in the depths of the coldest season. These are the expert-recommended winter skin care rules to follow so that you'll be better able to enjoy the wondrousness of the season — dry air, blizzards, and all.
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1. Skip Hot Showers
While soaking in a steamy shower is most definitely the stuff of dreams — especially when it's cold outside — this is one habit you should try to avoid in the winter months. "During the winter we tend to go straight from the frigid outdoor air right into our heated homes to take long, hot showers," Dr. Marina Peredo, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of cosmetic dermatology center Skinfluence, tells Bustle. "Heat is very dry and causes moisture to be drawn from the skin, and spending more than 10 minutes in a hot shower will strip the skin of its natural oils and cause dryness." So, do your epidermis a favor and stick to a lukewarm showers (and hydrating products when you're in them).
2. Moisturize When Damp
With face care in winter, it's not only important to use a moisturizer and other hydrating products, but also to follow the proper application method so that they actually penetrate your skin. "It's key to make sure moisturizer is applied to damp skin immediately after bathing or showering," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D. "Drying yourself off and then applying moisturizer isn't very effective." Engelman echoes this: "It allows the product to trap some of the water on your skin, keeping it from evaporating," she tells Bustle.
3. Avoid Harsh Ingredients
Hale points out that any face or body cleansers that contain sulfates are actually incredibly drying to the skin, which is the last thing you need when it feels like 80 below zero outside. Other ingredients to watch out for? "Avoid harsh soaps with fragrances, high concentrations of alpha hydroxy-acids and beta hydroxy-acids, like glycolic acid and salicylic acid, and retinols," says Engelman. "These can further irritate the skin by drying it out." Peredo also recommends skipping products that contain alcohol, since it's very drying. So be sure to check product labels before applying to your skin... especially in the wintertime.
4. Pick The Right Moisturizer
During the winter months, dermatologists suggest opting for moisturizers that contain ingredients that work to trap hydration within the skin. "Look for humectants, emollients, and occlusives," Engelman tells Bustle. "Humectants, like hyaluronic acid, are ingredients that help the skin retain moisture. Emollients help soften the skin. These include shea butter, cocoa butter, or oils. And occlusives are designed to prevent water loss." So while humectants draw moisture into your skin, the occlusive ingredient works to seal it in since it works as an outer layer. She points to glycerin as an example that serves as an occlusive barrier on the skin.
Mudgil also recommends ceramides, which are "substances that are native to our body and work very well." Since your skin's outermost layer is actually made up of ceramides — aka lipids, or fats — using them in your beauty routine works to nourish that protective barrier and strengthen your skin. They can also prevent irritation, which can be common this time of year.
5. Cool It With The Acne Treatments
If you're a fan of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid for treating zits, you may notice how these acne treatments become harsher in the winter months. As board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shari Hicks-Graham, M.D. says, "Lots of patients notice that products that were fine in the spring or summer become hard to tolerate as the temperatures drop outside." If you notice more flakiness, she recommends reducing the frequency of application. Or, simply add in a gentle moisturizer to help prevent dryness.
6. Keep Using That SPF
Yes, I know... the sky is gray and you're covered in 800 layers of clothing. That doesn't mean you should scrimp on the sunscreen. "It’s so important to protect your skin year round," Hale says. "Using an SPF is the number one way to prevent premature aging and keep a youthful and radiant complexion." Not only that, but you can be even more prone to sun damage in the winter. "Even though it's not as sunny, the sun's rays can still cause damage, especially when it snows and the rays reflect off the surface," says Peredo. So smear it on, even if it's January.
7. Get Yourself A Humidifier
If you wake up with dry nasal passages (what a joy) or even drier skin, it may be time to get a humidifier. "Adding moisture to the air will help replenish moisture to your skin while you sleep," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D. tells Bustle. Engelman adds that humidifiers allow your skin to retain its moisture instead of being pulled into the environment. And you don't want the latter scenario to happen. "The skin needs natural oils to maintain healthy cells and eliminate waste as well as prevent oil production to go into overdrive," she says. You can buy a machine, or simply place a heat-safe bowl of water on your furnace. As it evaporates, your home will fill with skin-friendly air once again.
8. Be Careful With Exfoliants
Regular exfoliation is one golden rule for having a healthy complexion since it sloughs off dead cells — but it's something to be careful with in your cold-weather skin care regimen. "Crazy as it sounds to exfoliate this time of year, a buildup of dry skin can create a barrier that prevents your skin from absorbing hydration, moisture, and nutrients," says Engelman. Her tip? Use a gentle exfoliator— think one with fruit enzymes or tiny physical exfoliants like jojoba beads.
9. Start Drinking More Water
You're supposed to do this all year long, but especially this season. "Staying adequately hydrated is very important for our overall well-being, including the health of our skin," says Mudgil. Even though you may be sweating less, Engelman points out that it's essential to replenish. "Dehydration is even more evident in the winter when the skin can't retain moisture as well," she tells Bustle. "Hydrating is important to keep toxins flushed and fluid moving efficiently through the capillaries."
10. Stick To Your Nighttime Routine
Even though it gets dark at 4 p.m., it's still important to stick with your nighttime skin care routine. And this means not falling asleep with all your makeup on. "Make sure that you wash off your day," Shainhouse says. "Remove makeup, dirt, and air pollution from the outside. It will reduce inflammation in the skin, free radical damage, and prevent skin aging." All good things, right?
11. Use A Weekly Mask Treatment
For an added dose of skin-nourishing ingredients, incorporate a weekly face mask. "Use a mask to boost hydration and give your face extra attention," says Engelman. "When applied, it creates a barrier for the skin, locking in moisture and improving texture. They're supercharged because they add concentrated active ingredients back into the skin in a short time frame." Look for those that contain hydrating essentials like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and green tea extract.
12. Layer On Your Products
To really protect your skin, Engelman recommends applying layers in your routine. "When skin is dry, it under-produces sebum which allows moisture to leak out," she says. "There's less moisture in the air, so add a couple more products into your regimen. Instead of reaching for the heaviest cream, it is more beneficial to apply different layers of products to provide multiple barriers." Pro tip? She suggests using a face oil followed by a moisturizer for ultimate hydration. "Oils help make the skin supple and less vulnerable to cracking and peeling, and a moisturizer on top traps oils into the skin," she says.
13. Cover Exposed Skin
You'll want to do this anyway in order to stay warm, but wrapping yourself up with cozy knits is also helpful in maintaining moisture. "Covering any exposed skin with gloves, hats, and scarves can help lock in moisture and prevent dryness," says Peredo. In other words: Pile on the layers for the sake of your glow.
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