6 Reasons Your Skin Is Worse in the Winter (And How to Fix It)

BY Jessie Quinn · November 23, 2018

chandler in pink coat I Dermstore Blog

Heavy sweater, puffy jacket, gloves, scarf, earmuffs and you’re set to waddle out into the great (winter) outdoors, bundled up and trying your best to protect yourself against the harsh cold air. But one thing you’re probably forgetting during the coldest months of the year? Your skin’s ability to fight against aging. That’s right: believe it or not, the wintertime can have a damaging effect on your skin’s elasticity and health.

“The combination of windy, cold, dry weather outside and humidity-depleting heaters indoors works to drain our skin of vital moisture during winter months,” explains 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,” he adds.

And if you don’t know already by now, lack of hydration can cause your skin to produce more wrinkles and dry out much faster. So how do you combat these conditions? Dermatologists offer their best solutions, ahead.

1. You tend to take longer, warmer baths

After being outside in the frigid air or having to walk home post–workout class and feeling that sticky sweat dry to your skin, you might want to hop right into a super-warm shower. But Dr. Akhavan says to resist the urge to spend a lot of time under the shower head. “During winter months you will want to keep your showers and baths shorter. Remember that water does not moisturize your skin; in fact, water repels oil, and long showers can, unfortunately, cause our skin to shed its natural oils,” she explains.

Try: Herbivore Botanicals Jasmine Glowing Hydration Body Oil

Once you hop out of the shower, reach for this body oil and apply it to damp skin. Because of its skin-softening ingredients—think grapeseed, coconut, camellia flower and jasmine sambac oil—it can leave the skin’s surface feeling soft to the-touch, making it a great addition to your winter skin care routine. For an added boost of nourishment, mix a little of this rich body oil into your lotion for extra moisturization. Added bonus: It’s chock-full of antioxidants, which can help protect the skin against harsh winter weather and premature signs of aging. As one Dermstore reviewer comments, “This is a wonderful body oil! It goes on smooth and leaves you baby soft and not the least bit greasy! It is lightweight but very moisturizing!”

2. You’re using the same facial cleanser you used during summer

Just like how you want to switch from a regular moisturizer in the summer to one that’s ultra-hydrating in the winter, the same method should apply to your facial cleanser. “Winter is a good time to switch to using more gentle cleansers that don’t strip away moisture. Avoid cleansers that have a high concentration of traditional soap solvents such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and avoid overuse of facial cleansers that have high acid content (salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acids such as glycol acid),” Dr. Akhavan says. “A better option is switching to cleansers that hydrate while they cleanse,” he recommends.

Try: Sunday Riley C.E.O. C+E Micro-Dissolve Cleansing Oil

Switch out your cleanser for something that protects against the biggest winter beauty woes. We love this cleanser for its vitamin C–enhanced formula that targets dry winter skin with impressive brightening capabilities. On top of that, evening primrose, turmeric, AHA and BHA acids work in sync to reduce sensitivity, replenish essential nutrients, deep clean and refresh the complexion all at once. “I love everything about this cleanser. My skin is very sensitive and I have barely broken out,” says one Dermstore customer. “Love that this cleanser is mild. It works great for removing everyday makeup and doesn’t bother sensitive skin,” raves another.

3. You’re not using a humidifier

What happens when you put together chilly temperatures outside and dry, unforgiving heat indoors? A nighttime ritual that demands a lot more attention than slapping on some night cream and heading to sleep. Jessie Cheung MD, director at The Dermatology and Laser Center in Illinois, says that a humidifier will do wonders for your winter skin. “Get a cool mist humidifier and aim it towards your face while you’re sleeping—this combats the loss of moisture from your skin as your heater runs more overnight from the drop in the temperature. As your skin gets more hydrated, it looks glow-y since it reflects more light,” she says.

Try: Juice Beauty Hydrating Mist

Another winter skin care tip worth taking? Add a facial mist to your routine to pump up the hydration. This hydrating mist contains resveratrol and aloe, two skin care powerhouses that refresh moisture and soothe the skin in a few spritzes. On top of that, vitamin C and E target dry and dull complexions to give skin a brighter, more supple appeal. “This has become a must-have for me,” raves one Dermstore shopper. “I like the fact that the ingredients are natural and I can actually tell my skin has been hydrated,” they add.

4. Your moisturizer is not enough

When in doubt in the winter months—moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! But don’t just opt for super-hydrating formulas without putting in the time to understand the frequency and timing of using them. In fact, Dr. Akhavan says the more often you apply, the better off you’ll be at fighting against aging. “In winter months, it is important to hydrate your skin often and regularly,” he explains. “One of the best times to moisturize your face and your body is when you first come out of the shower or bath. I suggest toweling off but leaving your skin slightly wet as you apply your moisturizer. Moisturizer spreads more easily on damp skin,” explains Dr. Akhavan.

Try: SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel

You’ve probably heard about hyaluronic acid bef0re, but allow us to elaborate. The main ingredient found in this hydrating gel can hold 1,000 times its weight in water, which is why it’s revered as one of the best moisturizers out there. This gel helps skin retain moisture and boost the effects of your moisturizer. One Dermstore customer notes, “It moisturizes without making you feel greasy and absorbs really fast. It’s very refreshing. It’s a great product to layer with heavier moisturizers.”

5. You’re not exfoliating

While you might think exfoliating when your skin has the potential to already be dry and sensitive is a bad idea, it’s actually the opposite. The only way to get rid of dead cells is to make sure you’re deep cleansing. “Sometimes when our skin gets overly dry, it becomes less efficient at exfoliating and dead skin cells can build up on the surface causing the skin to have a dull appearance. This can be especially true in areas such as the elbows, knees, ankles and feet which can be more susceptible to buildup,” Dr. Akhavan says.

Try: First Aid Beauty Cleansing Body Polish with Activated Charcoal

This winter, exfoliate in the shower with this body wash, which is formulated with charcoal to deep clean the skin, as well as aloe and honey for nourishment. Charcoal is one of those cult-favorite skin care ingredients that acts as a magnet to draw out pore-clogging impurities and buff out the skin for a flawless glow. When coupled with the humectant powers of honey and soothing benefits of aloe, it can result in smoother skin with long-lasting hydration. “I love what it does to the bumps on my arms and legs,” notes one Dermstore customer.

6. You stopped applying sunscreen

You might be annoyed when your mom reminds you for the 100th time to wear sunscreen year-round, but it’s one warning you want to keep close to your heart and at the top of your priority list. Even when there’s six inches of snow on the ground, you still run the risk of sun damage on your skin, no matter your age or location. “Many people unfortunately forget to apply their sunscreen during winter months. Ultraviolet rays are still present even on the coldest and cloudiest days of winter and protecting your skin from harmful effects of the sun is important when you are spending time outdoors,” Dr. Akhavan says. “There are many products available that are great moisturizers in addition to sunscreens serving an important dual role in dry winter months,” he explains.

Try: Éminence Organic Skin Care Tropical Vanilla Day Cream SPF 32

Do double-duty with this SPF boosted moisturizer. It’s chock full of good-for-your-skin ingredients, including vitamin C (an antioxidant that protects skin against environmental damage), aloe (which soothes), shea butter (a dry skin conditioner) and vanilla (improves circulation for skin that looks rejuvenated). “I have dry skin and this product helps me stay moisturized, even in the winter,” writes one Dermstore shopper. Another adds, “This product is so wonderfully pleasing to the senses. It smells delicious and feels super smooth and creamy.”

Jessie Quinn

Jessie Quinn is a writer and editor with work published in NYLON Magazine, StyleCaster.com, Girlboss.com, Marvel.com, and more. She is a graduate of Academy of Art University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Journa... Read More >

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