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by Laurie Wertich updated 12/2021

Winter is coming—and with it comes dry air, cold temperatures, and possibly even snow. All of those things can do a number on your skin, but a little preparation can go a long way. As you pull out the winter wardrobe, it’s time to pull out the winter skincare habits, too.

How Winter Affects Our Skin

The changing seasons can place extra stress on the body and skin. If you brave the outdoor elements, cold, chafing wind can leave your skin dry and cracked. Unfortunately, lounging around indoors isn’t the answer—as indoor air lacks natural moisture. The bottom line—winter is bound to leave your skin feeling a little parched.

Cold temperatures result in poor circulation and widened capillaries and, as a result, our skin can suffer. You may find that your skin feels dry, itchy, or irritated. In fact, during winter our typical skin type might shift—oily skin becomes normal, normal skin becomes dry, and dry skin becomes sensitive and irritated.

As we move between cold outdoor temperatures and warm, dry indoor temperatures, our skin becomes “confused” and loses its ability to regulate itself and adjust to the ever-changing conditions. Before winter robs your skin of moisture, you can launch a counterattack. Here’s how:

Winterize Your Skin-Care Plan

In order to maintain healthy skin, it’s important to adopt a winter skin-care routine. Minor adjustments will help you protect your skin and look and feel great.

Switch from lotion to cream. Creams are more moisturizing than lotions—and therefore, more appropriate for winter. Creams feel heavier on the skin and provide a stronger barrier against water loss. Look for a cream that has more oil content and less water content. Apply it at night before bed for the best chance at keeping your skin soft and supple through the long winter days ahead.

Stay hydrated. Water is one of the most important ingredients for healthy skin. During winter, your skin can lose precious water from the sun, wind, and central heating. Stay hydrated for a healthy body and healthy skin.

Adjust your cleansing routine. The skin care routine you use in the summer won’t serve you in the winter. Shift to a lighter cleanser. Extreme weather can weaken the skin’s protective barrier, so you want to avoid intensive cleansing that will further strip your skin of natural protection. Use gentle cleansing milks or mild, foaming cleansers. Avoid alcohol-based cleansers, which will strip away your skin’s natural oils, resulting in dry, irritated skin.

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Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. During winter, we need heavier moisturizers to repair the damage done by extremely dry weather and protect our skin from further dryness.

Avoid long, hot showers and baths. Nothing sounds more appealing than a heavenly hot shower or bath on a cold winter day—but it can wreak havoc on your skin. The hot water will actually rob your skin of its natural oils and result in more dryness. Choose warm water instead of hot water. If you must bathe, consider adding a few drops of essential oils to your bath water.

Go easy on the soap. Pigpen would rejoice in that advice—but we’re not suggesting you forego hygiene. Just switch to a gentle, foaming shower gel and skip the soaps and the alcohol-based cleansers.

Wear sunscreen. You may feel less exposed to the sun during winter, but it’s no time to skip the sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend applying sunscreen 365 days per year. Use a sunscreen with at least 15 SPF—higher if you spend a lot of time outside during the winter, and higher yet if you participate in any snow sports because the sun reflects off of the snow.

Add humidity. As soon as we turn on our heat in the winter, our indoor environment dries out. Consider using a humidifier to put some moisture back into the air.

Pay attention to hands and lips. Our hands and lips are especially sensitive to the cold, dry elements. Moisturize your hands every time you wash them. Wear gloves outside to prevent dry, cracked hands. Use a thick lip balm to keep your lips hydrated.

Wear gloves. Gloves do more than keep your hands warm—they also protect them from the elements. Wear gloves every day during the winter, even if you don’t think you need them. If the skin on your hands becomes chapped, it can crack and get infected. Once you have chapping on your hands, it’s hard to come back from it. Instead, prevent it by wearing gloves. Prevention is key here.

Stay active. Staying active will help stimulate blood circulation, which is good for your skin.