Winter has its perks: celebrating the holidays, cups of hot chocolate by the fireplace, snuggling in a blanket while reading a book. While you may be ready for the coziness of the colder months, your skin likely is not. You’ve likely noticed dry, flaky skin and chapped lips no matter how much moisturizer and chapstick you apply. So what gives?
In the winter, “the air becomes colder and dryer, with less humidity, causing us to lose moisture from our skin into the surrounding environment,” explained Robyn Gmyrek, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Columbia University in New York City. Cold weather also means staying indoors more with our heaters on, which can dry your skin out even more.
But this isn’t the only reason our skin dries out in the winter. “In addition, pollution is worse in the winter months, which heightens the risk of free radical damage which leads to premature aging,” said Michael Somenek a board-certified facial plastic surgeon practicing in Washington, D.C. He explained that this can lead to the typical winter dry skin, but also exacerbate rashes, eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea.
Our bathing habits also play a role in drying out our skin in the winter. “Long hot showers feel great during the cold winter months, but may actually cause damage to the protective barrier of our skin and promote further water and moisture loss,” said Rina Allawh, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, other than changing your bathing habits, it’s hard to avoid the factors causing your dry skin in the winter. So what can you do to combat these winter skin woes? We’ve asked the leading professionals what they change in their skin care routine as the temperatures drop, and which products they find work best. Here is what they had to say.
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SkinMedica’s TNS Ceramide Treatment Cream
“SkinMedica’s TNS Ceramide Treatment Cream has proven itself to be a wonderful wintertime moisturizer, and will deliver the relief you’re looking for,“ suggests Gary Motykie
, a board-certified plastic surgeon for the stars who practices in Beverly Hills.
The cream also contains ceramides, as suggested in the name, which helps protect the skin’s barrier from cold temperatures and free radicals in the air, as well as retain much-needed moisture. Get it from Dermstore for $69.
CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion
It’s not only your face and neck that will feel the effects of the dry air, but your entire body. So adding in a heavier body lotion during the colder months can be a big help.
“You can never go wrong with CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion for the body during the winter; it should be a staple product for any skin type,” Motykie said. Get it from Amazon for $17.99.
Glossier Super Glow Vitamin C + Magnesium Serum
“Adding vitamin C in winter is a great way to keep a summer glow and will give your skin a ‘glow up’ by stimulating the production of collagen,” Somenek suggested. “When this happens, skin can retain moisture better and be protected from external factors,” like the dry air and pollutants you’ll be facing.
One popular option for Vitamin C is Glossier’s Super Glow, which is safe for more sensitive skin types and contains hydrating natural ingredients like jojoba oil, sunflower seed oil and shea butter. Get it from Glossier for $28.
Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant
“You might think that exfoliating the skin in winter would make dryness worse, but that’s incorrect. It’s important to keep it up, but dial down the strength a bit to avoid irritation,” Somenek explained. “A chemical exfoliant is preferable to a scrub and it will help to treat flaky, tight skin and lock in and enhance moisture retention.”
He recommends Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant as a chemical exfoliant. “When skin is dry, it needs to shed dead skin cells. This product is a rice-based enzyme powder that works to slough away debris from the skin’s surface for a brighter, more refreshed complexion.” Get it from Ulta for $59.
Aquaphor Healing Ointment
One of the most common problems in the winter is chapped lips. “The lip skin is very thin and is very susceptible to being dried out by the cold winter air, wind and low humidity. To make matters worse, when our lips feel dry, we tend to lick them, which causes them to feel hydrated momentarily,” Gmyrek explained. “But unfortunately, the digestive enzymes in your saliva then damage the thin skin of the lips, and as the saliva evaporates, it pulls moisture with it, drying the lips further.“
One of her favorite products during the winter is Aquaphor Healing Ointment, which can be used on the body and on the lips. Unlike a lotion or cream-based moisturizer, this ointment creates a thick barrier, which allows your skin to heal and retain moisture. This product can be especially helpful to wear on the lips overnight. Get it from Amazon for $9.58.
EltaMD UV Restore Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 40
“Just because it is winter, don’t forget to use your sunscreen,” Gymrek warned. “Those rays may not be tanning you, but they are still penetrating deeply and causing damage. You might want to change to a more moisturizing formulation of sunscreen as well!”
She suggests trying EltaMD UV Restore Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 40.“This 100% mineral sunscreen contains squalane, an ingredient which restores skin’s natural moisture and suppleness,” Gymrek explained. “Not to mention the fact that it includes Vitamin C and E antioxidant protection, and ginger root extract, which improves texture and tone of the skin.” Get it from Dermstore for $38.50.
Senté’s Dermal Repair Ultra Nourish
This is a favorite moisturizer of Neekan Rivera
, a physician associate and founder of Aère Aesthetics
, located in Los Angeles and Denver. She explained why she prefers this moisturizer in the winter: “It uses a unique blend of lipids and a patented repairing molecule that restores the skin’s barrier function, delivers deep long-lasting hydration, supports the skin’s natural ability to heal itself and reduces signs of aging.” This product is also hypoallergenic and calms even the most sensitive skin. Get it from Dermstore for $179.
Osea Undaria Algae Body Oil
, a board-certified dermatologist and owner of Southern Connecticut Dermatology, recommends using body oil after bathing. “Moisturizers are best applied to moist damp skin after the bath or shower or after washing the face,” she explained. She recommends trying nut oils over mineral oils, as long as you’re not allergic. Osea Undaria Algae Body Oil is a product full of antioxidants and vitamins, containing two different types of seed oils, as well as algae. When using this product, Evan warned to “avoid application on the bottom of feet or in the shower to avoid slipping.” Get it from Bluemercury for $48.
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Moisturizing Body and Face Cream
This moisturizer is a favorite of Allawh's because it’s “lightweight, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic and non-greasy.”
La Roche-Posay’s formula is great for those with skin concerns besides dry skin. “In my eczema and psoriasis patients, I find that both products are excellent for dry, cracked skin to further supplement prescription topical steroid use. Ingredients are safe, and above all else, provide optimum hydration with minimal irritation, both of which are favorites among my skin of color patients with acne-prone skin,” Allawh said. Get it from Ulta for $19.99.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Facial Cream
For those with acne-prone skin, Allawh suggests using Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Facial Cream, which has a non-greasy formula and will not clog your pores. As an added bonus, Allawh explained, “The hydrogel provides a cooling sensation in addition to the added benefit of a rich moisturizer — quintessential for a morning or nighttime facial moisturizer.” Get it from Amazon for $16.39.
Alastin Gentle Cleanser
Also, consider what type of face cleanser you are using. In the winter, Robinson explained, “Overall, you want to go a bit gentler. This may mean swapping out a medicated cleanser for something more gentle.”
Her recommendation is Alastin Gentle Cleaner, as it is a gel cleanser. It “foams up to remove impurities (and makeup) while also calming the skin with antioxidants. It is sulfate-free and great for sensitive skin,” she said. Since this cleanser is so gentle, it will not leave your skin dry or flaky after washing. Get it from Alastin for $45.
Skinbetter AlphaRet Peel Pads
Using a chemical exfoliant one to two times a week until your skin has acclimated to the new winter environment is an important step in your winter skin care routine, according to Deanne Robinson
, a board-certified dermatologist and Chief Medical Officer of Ideal Image.
Her go-to for exfoliating is Skinbetter’s AlphaRet Peel Pads as they “keep dead skin cells on the go and your skin a glow!” They also come in individual packages for easy application. Get them from SkinBetter for $105.