Updated: Mar 21, 2021
Winter weather can be hard on the skin in many ways - it's colder and drier so hydration of our skin surface can often be affected in not-so-pleasant ways. Our skin may become more sensitive and dry, and we feel irritation, tightness or discomfort as a result.
You're not alone! Fortunately, there are a number of strategies to help our skin adjust to the elements of the season. Read on to see how you can protect and support your skin this winter.
Using a cleanser containing ingredients such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid help to support our natural skin barrier function. A robust skin barrier protects us from allergens and irritants from the outside world, while maintaining moisture at the skin surface. A hydrating cleanser is preferred over soaps that are harsher - there are many affordable options that are widely available.
Cleansing with lukewarm water is preferred over steaming hot water as it is gentler and strips away less of the natural oils found on our skin.
Creams tend to be more soothing and hydrating on the skin in winter months (contrast to using lotions and gels which provides a cooling sensation in the summer and feels lighter with application). Active ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides can help support a protective skin barrier. A dedicated face cream should be used in the morning and before bedtime.
While retinol or topical vitamin A is an excellent anti-aging ingredient, it tends to cause dryness and slight irritation. In the winter months, monitor how your skin tolerates retinol products and consider reducing the frequency of use (e.g. two to three non-consecutive evenings per week) with colder and drier weather. Of course, make sure that a moisturizer is applied a few minutes after using a retinol product to offset these not uncommon effects. Don’t forget that retinol or topical vitamin A cannot be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, no matter the season!
Exfoliation can help with removal of dead cells on the skin surface so our skin appears brighter and permit makeup application to go on more smoothly. However, exfoliation can cause irritation on the skin and may not be tolerated by those with sensitive or inflamed skin. Given drier and colder winter weather, consider reducing the frequency of exfoliation. Evidence-based exfoliating ingredients include various AHA/BHAs such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid. It’s even more important in the winter months to moisturize after exfoliation, to offset potential irritation on the skin. Signs of over-exfoliation could include red, flaky skin patches; burning sensation with use of skin care products; or skin that feels tender and sore - if experiencing these signs, make sure to pause exfoliation until they have resolved, and if they persist, seek medical advice from a physician.
It’s important to wear sunscreen year round as ultraviolet damage from the sun occurs regardless of the season or climate. Just think of sunburns that happen on the ski hills in winter. Even on a cloudy day, a substantial amount of UV rays (up to 80%) from the sun reaches our skin. Sunscreen in addition to other sun protective measures such as avoidance during peak hours, clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and wrap-around sunglasses help to protect the skin from premature aging, burns and skin cancers.
An antioxidant serum underneath the sunscreen is also important year-round - environmental allergens, pollutants and UV do not disappear in winter. Regardless of the climate, an antioxidant ingredient such as vitamin C can help slow down the signs of premature aging, promote collagen production and improve unwanted pigmentation on the skin.
Wondering what might be a skin care routine right for you this winter? Contact us today to explore options and the benefits of protecting your skin this season.