When the air gets colder, your body tries to hold in heat by narrowing the blood vessels, which can cause the outer layers of the skin to become dull and dry, leading to flaking and cracking. It doesn’t matter what type of skin you have—everyone is impacted by changing winter weather. Luckily, there are things you can do to protect your skin, both on the outside and the inside.
Understanding your skin type and your personalized recommendations can make all the difference in comfortable, healthy winter skin. Here is everything you need to know about taking care of your skin in the winter and how to find the best skin care routine for your specific skin type.
Looking for tips for your unique skin type?
Typical Skin Conditions More Common In The Winter
In general, skin conditions that may be mild or non-existent during other parts of the year are much more noticeable in the winter. The air during the winter season tends to be very dry. Cold temperatures, lower humidity, and constantly running central heating lead to much drier air, which zaps moisture from the skin and leads to a number of skin conditions.
One of the most common winter skin conditions is known as winter rash, or extremely dry and dehydrated skin. Winter rash can occur on skin all over the body as the skin dries out and the natural oils that usually protect the skin and keep it nourished are stripped away from the lack of moisture in the air.
A number of other skin conditions are common in the winter. People with these conditions experience them year round but often find their symptoms are worse as the weather gets colder.
This condition is any kind of inflammation of the skin and often causes dry, itchy patches all over the body. Dermatitis can come from poor circulation, allergies, or an infection. Cold weather in the winter can trigger more inflammation in some people.
A n autoimmune disease that causes the body to produce large amounts of skin cells rapidly, which can lead to itchy, scale-like patches on the skin. The cold, dry weather of winter can trigger psoriasis flare-ups in many people and cause discomfort.
Winter Skin Care Basics
There are three main parts of every winter skin care routine, regardless of your skin type: cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing. How often you do these things and the products you use vary with each skin type.
Cleansing your skin removes makeup and the dirt that naturally gets on your face every day. Without cleansing, that dirt can clog pores and lead to blemishes and other skin issues.
When washing your face, hands, or body, use lukewarm water. Water that is too hot can dry out your skin even more. Washing your hands in slightly cooler water is still effective at removing germs, but it can also help keep your hands more hydrated.
Keep your showers to five to ten minutes to avoid the skin on your entire body getting dried out. Exfoliating removes dead and dull skin cells to reveal fresh skin underneath. Moisturizing your skin does as the name implies and helps it recover from dryness while staying supple and healthy.
Winter weather also causes chapped lips, which is an often-overlooked part of the skin. Regularly apply a hydrating lip balm that contains ingredients like wheat germ oil, coconut oil, or aloe vera to prevent the lips from drying out or cracking. The skin on your lips is extremely thin and fragile, so keep it moisturized by reapplying throughout the day.
Avoid matte lipsticks that can cause more dryness. Protecting your lips helps block out cold weather and wind that can keep them safe from free radicals and pollution in the air. Even though the weather is colder, sun damage can still occur in the winter. Stay in the habit of applying sunscreen daily throughout the year.
Even when the weather isn’t sunny, the sun is still emitting dangerous UV rays, so sunscreen is always vital. Throughout the winter, apply sunscreen with at least SPF 15 every day. Some moisturizers have SPF included for a two-in-one approach but don’t sacrifice the quality of your moisturizer just because it doubles as sunscreen. If needed, apply two separate products—a lightweight daily sunscreen and a thicker moisturizer to keep your skin protected all day.
Skin care also includes more than just your face. While most products focus on the face because it is often the most sensitive and exposed, don’t forget to protect the skin on the rest of your body. Clean your entire body with a hydrating body wash or cleanser.
Regularly apply lotion to your entire body, especially right after you get out of the shower, to trap in the moisture. Apply a thick hand cream every time you wash your hands to keep them moisturized and protected.
Aside from your face, your hands are likely the next most exposed to the elements and can easily crack or have dryness in cold weather.
Winter Skin Care Routine for Oily Skin
Even people with naturally oily skin can still feel dried out in the winter. Many people with oily skin tend to think they don’t need to moisturize or add special products in the winter because of their natural oils. But the dry weather can remove those oils and leave their skin vulnerable.
In the winter, if you have oily skin, you should still wash your face every day with a gentle cleanser and cold or lukewarm water. Pat your face until it is completely dry. After washing your face, apply an oil-free moisturizer enhanced with vitamin E to add moisture to the skin and replenish many of the skin’s natural oils.
It may be tempting to slather on products that are oily to replenish those oils, but moisturizers like petroleum jelly and other oil-based cleansers and moisturizers may actually dry out the skin even more.
About once or twice a week, gently exfoliate your skin to remove the dead skin cells. You are welcome to exfoliate more often, but you may only want to do it a few times a week or your skin will risk irritation.
After exfoliating, be sure to use more moisturizer to protect the fresh skin.
Winter Skin Care Routine For Dry Skin
People with dry skin often suffer from rashes and itching throughout the year, but it can become much worse in the winter. As always, continue to wash your face every day. People with dry skin should avoid foaming face cleansers that can dry out their skin.
A gentle, hydrating cleanser that is oil-based or a cream is a good option to clean the face while still replenishing natural oils and not over-drying the skin. Non-soap options like micellar water cleanse the skin without removing any of the skin’s protective barrier.
If your skin feels tight after washing, it’s a sign that your cleanser is stripping the natural oils of your skin and actually making your skin dryer. Even with dry skin, you can still exfoliate regularly during the winter. Exfoliation is especially important with dry skin because you are more at risk for dry patches that need to be gently buffed and removed.
Use a heavy-duty moisturizer every day that can add lots of additional moisture and lock it in. Look for rich creams and products with ingredients that prevent water loss and repair the skin’s moisture barrier. Layering products can be key to keeping your skin moisturized all day long. Try using two types of moisturizers or applying a hydrating oil followed up by a cream moisturizer.
Give your dry skin an extra boost of moisture with a sheet mask that uses natural oils and butters and nourishing vitamins. Sheet masks sit on the skin for around 20 minutes, which allows the ingredients to soak in to the skin and rejuvenate extremely dry skin. Use a sheet mask as needed, but around once or twice a week.
Winter Skin Care Routine for Sensitive Skin
People with sensitive skin often experience redness and dryness that can be made worse during the winter. With sensitive skin, it is especially important to look at all the ingredients in the products you apply to your skin. A single ingredient can further skin irritation. Look for a cleanser designed for sensitive skin that is free of soap, alcohol, and oil.
Wash your face with lukewarm water and gently massage the cleanser into your skin before patting dry. Just like you should throughout the year, look for products marked “fragrance-free”. Many people with sensitive skin are particularly sensitive to products with a scent. Watch out for items labeled as “unscented” because those items actually contain chemicals to cover the natural scent of the product, which can be just as abrasive as the fragrance chemicals themselves.
Use a moisturizer designed for sensitive skin. These products contain ingredients that not only add moisture to the skin and keep it hydrated but that also soothe and repair irritated skin. Ingredients like vitamin B3 and shea butter are gentle but also incredibly moisturizing. People with sensitive skin can have issues with regular exfoliation.
Start by exfoliating your skin just once a week to see how your skin reacts. Removing dead skin cells and the rough texture of exfoliating products can potentially cause sensitive skin to react, so only do it periodically in the winter and follow exfoliating up with lots of moisturizers.
The Next Level of Winter Skin Care
Beyond the basics of cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing your skin, you can take things to the next level with additional treatments and products to protect your skin.
Applying an oil or serum can give your skin an extra layer of protection. Lightweight oils can be applied to the skin daily and quickly absorb to replenish the natural oils that are lost in dry weather. Oils and serums are particularly good for people with sensitive skin because they can help block out conditions or chemicals that may harm the skin.
If your skin is still feeling dry when following a winter skin care routine, it may be time to step up your nighttime skin care game. Night is a great time to apply thicker and richer products and allow them to soak into your skin for hours as you sleep.
Night creams and serums can add an extra boost of moisture by boosting collagen and improving blood circulation. Eye creams are also beneficial at night to hydrate and restore the thin skin around the eye.
Winter Lifestyle Choices for Healthy Skin
The health of your skin is more than just what you put on it—it’s also about what you put into your body. Your lifestyle choices have a huge impact not only on your overall health, but on the health of your skin.
Start by drinking plenty of water. This is especially important in the winter when the air is drier. Drinking at least eight glasses of water every day can keep your skin and body moisturized and naturally plump up your skin cells, even in cold temperatures. Staying hydrated can also wash toxins from your skin and body, leaving your skin clear and fresh.
Maintain a healthy diet by eating plenty of nutrient-dense foods. Foods with lots of antioxidants can help protect the skin from the inside out. Add foods like carrots, spinach, tomatoes, beans, and nuts to your diet in order to keep yourself and your skin healthy. Processed foods, including foods that are high in carbs and refined sugars, can harm your skin and hurt your overall health.
Take supplements to give your body and skin an extra boost. During the winter months, many people don’t get enough vitamin D. Taking a daily vitamin D supplement can help skin conditions like dry skin, psoriasis, and eczema. Many vitamin D supplements are specially formulated to strengthen hair, skin, and nails.
Get plenty of sleep to allow your body and skin to rest and recharge. Exercise regularly and stay active, even when the weather is cold. Getting your body moving improves the health of your entire body and increases the blood flow, which stimulates healthy, glowing skin.
There are also things you can do within your home. Invest in a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Running the humidifier while you sleep can make a huge difference in the amount of moisture in your skin.
Set your thermostat to a moderate, comfortable temperature (between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit), even when it is super cold outside. Central heating is incredibly drying and can damage your skin.