The temps are dropping, there’s a chill in the air, and cozy sweater season is in full swing. With all the fun winter brings (like holidays, snow days, and nights by the fire), it also brings dry air and cold weather that can wreak havoc on our skin. If your normally well-behaved complexion has been showing signs of distress—like dullness, dryness, irritation, and more—it may be a sign that your winter skincare routine needs a refresh.
According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD, “Skin loses a lot of moisture into the environment when the air is less humid, such as during the transition from summer to fall.” (This can cause your skin to feel drier than usual.) “Dry skin requires both humectants and emollients that draw in moisture and lock in moisture, respectively,” she adds. Swapping your usual lighter moisturizers for richer formulas, going easy on exfoliation, and using a calming cleanser are just a few ways to prep your skin to handle the season’s harsher weather.
If you’re looking to keep your skin comfy and hydrated all winter long, read on for Dr. Nazarian’s pro winter skincare tips and the best skincare products to help.
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Cleansing is probably the first (and most important) step in your skincare routine. So when you’re scrubbing up to get rid of makeup, dirt, and oils, reach for a formula that treats your skin gently and doesn’t strip away much-needed moisture. Dr. Nazarian says, “People often wash their skin too aggressively—which can strip skin’s natural moisture barrier and lead to drying.” Formulas like cleansing balms and soap-free cleansers are a go-to in winter months to dissolve the day away and hydrate your skin.
Our Pick: FARMACY Whipped Greens Oil-Free Foaming Cleanser. Reset your skin with help from this soap-free foaming cleanser that uses moringa seed extract and moringa water to help purify your pores, papaya enzyme to gently exfoliate, green clay to absorb oil and dirt, and sodium PCA to help keep your skin soft and supple.
No, not like that skin-stripping toner you swiped on religiously in junior high. Winter is not the time for daily clarifying ingredients. Instead, a hydrating toner will serve your winter skin well. These toners are like liquid, lightweird versions of hydrating serums and will help boost your skin’s hydration levels without adding any weight. On your freshly cleansed skin, add a few drops of toner to your palms (or a cotton pad), and press them into your skin. Give it a few seconds to fully sink in, then move on to the rest of your routine.
Our Pick: FIRST AID BEAUTY Ultra Repair Wild Oat Hydrating Toner. This restorative toner was designed with your sensitive skin in mind. It’s made with calming colloidal oatmeal, wild oats, propolis extract, honey, and hyaluronic acid to help soothe, nourish, hydrate, and relieve your stressed-out complexion.
We love the fresh feel of light gel moisturizers during the summer, but winter calls for slightly richer formulas to properly lock in hydration. Look for an intensely hydrating moisturizer in the form of a rich cream or lotion (especially if you have dry skin, which is even more prone to losing natural oils) made with known hydrating heroes, like hyaluronic acid. “A good humectant is hyaluronic acid, which draws water into the skin. Skin barrier-repair creams such as Vaseline contain emollients and can be applied afterward. These help decrease the loss of moisture into the environment over time,” says Dr. Nazarian.
Our Pick: PISTACHE SKINCARE Hydrating Face Moisturizer with Vitamin E uses pistachio oil that’s rich in vitamin E and fatty acids to nourish, protect, and seriously quench your skin. Plus, French soybean lecithin helps enable other ingredients to absorb deeper and minimize moisture loss.
Facial oils have tons of nourishing benefits, but one of their secret powers is that they can help trap that much-needed moisture in your skin (almost like a less occlusive skin slugging). At night, once you’ve applied the rest of your skincare, including your nighttime moisturizer, press a few drops of your favorite face oil right over top. The only exception to this hydrator hack is on nights when you are using retinol, which might cause unwanted irritation.
Our Pick: DEW OF THE GODS MINI Feels Microdermabrasion Facial Scrub. You don’t need to be rough to exfoliate your skin thanks to this delicate scrub. Featuring silica crystals that bind to rich oat milk and squalane, this helps to gently buff away dead skin cells and dryness without the redness and inflammation.
The skin on your lips is pretty thin and loses moisture easily, which can result in dry, flaky, chapped lips. It’s always important to carry a good lip balm with you to rehydrate and protect on the go. Not only do lip balms provide an added physical layer between your lips and the cold, moisture-sucking air, but they also deliver essential nutrients to keep lips moisturized from the inside out. Bonus: You can swipe lip balms onto your cuticles and dry spots in a pinch.
Our Pick: GOLDFADEN MD Fleuressence Native Botanical Cell Oil. This dewy oil is infused with a cocktail of good-for-skin ingredients, like rosehip seed, Kalahari, and baobab oils and Co-Enzyme Q10 to help fade fine lines, reduce the appearance of large pores, soften and plump skin, and protect skin from environmental stressors.
It may be tempting to skip exfoliators when your skin’s feeling sensitive from exposure to dry, cold air. But exfoliating ensures you're clearing away any dead skin cells that can flake off and cause dry skin. Plus, they help your moisturizer and other skincare products really soak in. The key is to use a more gentle formula than you would in the summer, and exfoliate less often. “Switch to a gentle exfoliant during the winter season, and consider a product with bakuchiol, rather than a classic retinoid that may be too drying or irritating,” says Dr. Nazarian. We love using scrubs with exfoliating ingredients like glycolic acid, which helps loosen and lift dead skin cells from your skin’s surface to reveal fresh ones beneath.
Our Pick: BALI BALM Lemon and Black Pepper Lip Balm uses peppermint leaf (perfect for the season!) and organic lemon to coat your lips in moisture and give them an effervescent zing.
As great as a good blackhead or breakout-busting mask can be, some of these formulas can be too harsh and drying in the winter months. Opt for a hydrating cream or sheet mask instead. Look for masks with moisturizing emollients alongside more active hydrating ingredients, like vitamin E and ceramides.
Our Pick: GLOW RECIPE Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask. This mask is made with hydrating ingredients (like hyaluronic acid and amino acid-rich watermelon extract) that soak into your skin while you sleep.
We know you’ve heard it, but it’s worth repeating: your skin needs protection from the sun all year long. Just because it’s darker and cloudier out, doesn’t mean your skin can’t get sun damage. “SPFs are still very important because although the temperature drops, there’s still radiation year-round, and even small amounts of radiation can add up to the cumulative damage that leads to skin cancer, wrinkles, pigmentary problems, and aging of skin,” says Dr. Nazarian. So, make sure to apply your favorite broad-spectrum sunscreen daily (bonus points if it’s extra hydrating for winter), and rest easy knowing your skin is safe and protected from those UVA and UVB rays.
Our Pick: FENTY SKIN Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 uses invisible SPF 30 to help shield your complexion from UV rays, while hyaluronic acid, aloe, and niacinamide help hydrate, fade dark spots, smooth pores, and defend against pollution.
Believe it or not, the heat in your home (although comfy and cozy) can contribute to your skin feeling dry. Heaters (like air conditioners) can pull moisture from the air. In addition, coming in from cold air into a heated room can cause your skin to feel tight and dry, and lose moisture. Dr. Nazarian says, “You can minimize the potential for dry skin by using a humidifier to add moisturizer into the air during colder and drier months.”
“Use less hot water (hot water removes natural oils more than lukewarm) and keep showers shorter during the dry fall season.” Dr. Nazarian adds that applying one of our holy grail hydrating products, Vaseline, can help. “Apply a small amount to skin immediately after showering to lock in moisture and prevent evaporation of hydration, which is common in the winter months.”
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