It’s everyone’s dream in the dead of winter: to have dewy skin that’s immune to the effects of icy temps, whipping winds, and Sahara-like heating. Good luck with that, right? “The air is frigid and dry outside, and any kind of indoor heat leaves it even more parched. Your skin’s protective barrier cracks, making it less able to repair itself,” says San Francisco dermatologist Katie Rodan, MD. “It becomes a vicious cycle unless you do something to prevent it—or treat it fast.” Here is the guide to protecting your most moisture-starved parts so you can stay soft and smooth all season long.
- Cool your jets
Reduce that steamy shower temperature – no matter how good it feels. Hot water + cleanser washes away your skin’s natural oils as thoroughly as hot water + detergent washes grease from your dinner plates. Squeaky clean is great for dishware, not so great for skin in winter.
- Face facts
Moisturizer does not moisturize. Most formulas are a blend of water and emollients, but their role is really to prevent or slow moisture’s escape from the skin’s surface.
- Buff up
Exfoliate regularly to help lagging cells get out of the way so skin can soak up moisture more easily. A scrubby glove or plain white granulated sugar in the shower will do the trick body-wise. On the face, a mild scrub is great every few days to get rid of surface flakes. Gentle chemical-exfoliant skincare such as Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Extreme Night Pads or Indeed Retinol Reface will keep flaky skin at bay and soften fine lines as well.
- Pat down
Don’t rub the water away after your shower – you want to dab or pat off the excess instead, so you leave a little extra moisture on the skin. Then lock it in with lotion right away. (Skin’s hydration boost from your shower lasts only about three minutes without lotion, fyi.)
- Layer layer
If you can’t take heavy textures on your face, consider a serum followed by a lighter-weight cream. The most potent part of any skincare ritual, serums consist of small molecules that the top layer of skin can absorb. Apply first, so your face cream can then serve as a protective barrier to trap the serum molecules against your skin.
- Put oil on water
Oil doesn’t “moisturize” any better than cream does. But applied over dampness, it helps keep some of that extra water in the top layer of the epidermis. It’s also a great layering option especially for dry complexions desperate for oil as well as water.
- Skip fragrance
Skin prone to dryness tends to be sensitive, and can react negatively to skincare scent, whether synthetic or natural. In the slideshow above, if the product is fragrance-free, I’ve said so.
- Consider ingredients
Ceramides, glycerin, mineral oil (aka paraffinum liquidum), colloidal oatmeal, and petrolatum are all excellent for tempering extreme dryness in winter. See ingredient details in the slideshow above.
To protect your body from the cold, you stocked up on pom-pom hats, Muppet furs, and parkas. But what should you be doing to protect your skin? These tips offer the best solutions to transition your skin care from fall to winter. Remember the truth about face oils, the trick to picking the right winter moisturizer, and the reason you need a pan of water in your apartment and you’ll have a perfect winter skin.