We may be fast approaching The Most Wonderful Time of the Year™️, but for our skin, winter signals a months-long battle to keep moisture locked in and inflammation at bay.
Particularly if you live in a place where seasonal weather changes rapidly – or if you’re managing a condition, such as psoriasis or rosacea – the transition can be exceptionally difficult. What’s more, all manner of lifestyle changes typically associated with the winter months simply make matters worse.
All hope is not lost, though! With some small adjustments to your skincare regimen and a close eye on your daily routine, youcan keep your skin healthy and happy.
Ahead: why wintertime skincare is different, plus tips for skincare and lifestyle management that will help maintain a glowy, clear complexion during the transition to chill.
How Winter Conditions Affect the Skin
It’s no mystery that as winter approaches, temperatures decline and humidity levels in the air drop substantially. This wreaks havoc on the skin, for three primary reasons.
First, the skin requires a delicate equilibrium of humid and arid conditions in order to maintain moisture balance. The degree to which drier conditions negatively impact you depends on your natural skin type; that said, moderate humidity in the airgenerally helps keep thirsty skin quenched. When the colder months strike and the humidity disappears, the skin must work harder to produce moisture and keep it locked in.
Secondly, skin likes consistency. A temperate environment makes itmucheasier for our cells to live their most balanced life. A sudden change in weather can be jarring, as can the repeated transitions from hot to cold as we wander out of the elements into centrally heated buildings and back out again. As the skin struggles to keep up with these cyclical transitions, we may experience all manner of undesirable symptoms, like dryness, tightness (not the good kind!), scaly patches, excess oil production, and more.
Last, but not least: dehydrated skin cells tend to die out more quickly, meaning winter conditions may cause excessive buildup of dry skin – clogging pores, exacerbating inflammatory conditions, and encouraging breakouts.
How Winter Lifestyle Changes Affect the Skin
We tend to think of skin – and any related ailments we might experience – in the context of topical treatments. Got dryness? Serums! Moisturizers! Facials!
While these are worthwhile considerations, the health of our skin is intimately tied to our internal health, as well as environmental factors. The winter months often bring significant changes to lifestyle that can disturb the skin’s composure.
Different Eating Patterns Affect the Gut-Skin Axis
Especially in the Northern Hemisphere, where winter is characterized by social calendars brimming with holiday cheer, diet can have an immense impact on the health of our skin.
Consumption of sugary treats, alcohol, and foods high in oils and saturated fats tends to become at leastmoderatelymore frequent, which can disturb gut health, affecting the skin via the gut-skin axis.
Even if you’re notjingling all the way, several studies have suggested a variety of reasons our cravings for culinary comforts may go up as soon as the temperatures go down.
Just because the sun is shrouded in cloud cover does not mean your skin is safe from UV rays, and sun exposure (yes, even in winter) is perhaps the foremost cause of skin damage – from photoaging to skin cancer.
We cannot emphasize this enough:please. wear. sunscreen.
Drinking Less Water
Our hydration levels are slowly depleted throughout the day and night as our bodies use water to prod along our internal processes, but the higher activity levels and warmer weather typical in summer encourage accelerated water loss through sweat. A combination of this dehydration and ambient heat act as clear triggers for drinking water, meaning we’re – ironically – more likely to stay hydrated in the warmer months.
Without the influence of heat or physical activity (which also tends to slow in the winter months), we may not think so much about drinking water, but it’s still just as important for the skin. (Itis roughly 64% water, after all!) In addition to the obvious benefits of well hydrated skin, water also encourages good circulation and delivers vital nutrients to the entire body.
More Hot Showers
Is there anything more pleasing than a long, scalding hot shower after a day out in the chill?
It may feel amazing, but hot showers – and/or showering more often than usual – strip your skin of the natural oils and proteins it would leverage to combat the dehydration brought on by the cold, arid weather.
What’s more, hot water is known to exacerbate inflammatory skin conditions, which will likely already be none too happy with dry, cold conditions.
How to Care for Your Skin in Winter
While winter months may be hard on your skin, there are plenty of measures you can take (in addition to keeping an eye on the lifestyle factors above!) to keep serious epidermal upset to a minimum.
Know Your Skin
Having a solid knowledge of your skin type and how it reacts to various environmental factors is the first step in developing a winter routine that will keep it happy until the weather warms again.
You may have a general idea of your skin’s unique temperament, but an appointment with a qualified professional can help take your knowledge to the next level and put together the perfect skincare regimen.
Don’t Skip the Exfoliants
It may seem counterintuitive to exfoliate already potentially dry, irritated skin, but winter may be themostimportant time to exfoliate, since the purpose of exfoliants is to slough off dead skin and other buildup.
Cold and dry conditions can result in a surplus of dead skin cells loitering on the top layer of the skin. A chemical exfoliant, such as a light peel, can help to rid the skin’s surface of unwelcome traffic and reveal the soft, glowy visage beneath. (Just make sure to moisturize!)
Speaking of moisturizers…
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
…but know that “thicker” isn’t always better.
It may be tempting to reach for your heaviest moisturizing cream during winter, but it’s more important that your moisturizer contains the right ingredients foryour skin, given the present conditions. (Refer back toknow your skin.)
Creams, serums, and oils aren’t the only way to replenish your skin’s moisture, either! Switching to a gentle milky cleanser during the winter months may give your moisturizers a boost.
Don’t Neglect Your Body
Facial skin gets alot of attention. It makes sense, given its constant visibility, but it’s important not to spend allyour time and TLC on the face; the body needs love, too! Exfoliants and a consistent, tailored moisturizing routine are key.
(Pro tip: lock in extra moisture by patting dry after a shower and moisturize within a few minutes of getting out, before your skin has time to completely dry.)
The harsh conditions of winter can wreak havoc on your skin, but with a little foresight and extra care, you can maintain your softest, glowiest skin – through winter and beyond.