When winter winds blow and temperatures drop below freezing, whether you huddle indoors with a book or put on your skis every weekend, you may think that your skincare regimen doesn’t need any changes. Dr. Eugene Tanquilut, Medical Director of VCI Med Spa in Tinley Park, Illinois, says, “Winter weather creates special challenges for healthy skin. Extreme temperature changes, exposure to sun, cold and wind, and humidity changes mean that your skin needs a different kind of care in the cold weather.”
Angela Dunlap, RN, BSN, Director at VCI Med Spa, seconds Dr. Tanquilut’s opinion. “Every day we see skin damage because of exposure to winter weather. While we can help remediate the damage, we prefer that our patients and clients prevent this damage in the first place.” Amy Axelson, esthetician at VCI Med Spa, notes, “We give our patients six basic tips for winter skincare and when followed, patients see a remarkable improvement in their appearance.”
1 – Switch to a Winter-Friendly Cleanser
At this time of year, an exfoliating cleanser may be too harsh for your face. While rubbing off drying and flakes sounds good in theory, a harsh scrubbing may cause your oil-producing pores to go into overdrive and cause breakouts. An exfoliating cleanser may cause red spots and rashes in the wintertime too. Dunlap says, “If you have rosacea, winter flare-ups can worsen with exfoliation.”
Dunlap suggests talking to your esthetician about a gentler cleanser. “You’ll want something that removes soil and bacteria without damaging your skin’s own protective layer. Ask for a milky formula that also hydrates your skin while cleansing, to bolster your skin’s natural defenses. iS Clinical’s Cream Cleanser, for example, has bioidentical lipids and helps build a protective barrier while it cleanses the skin.”
“We also recommend iS Clinical Warming Honey Cleanser,” Axelson says. “It’s a rich, luxurious cleanser made with the purest raw honey, papaya extracts, and green tea. These ingredients work to exfoliate and nourish, leaving skin looking and feeling velvety smooth. Your skin is ultra-hydrated and moisturized, which helps to refine and balance problematic skin types.”
2 – Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
Winter gives skin a double whammy of drying air. Outside cold air is dry and inside heated air is dry. “You probably notice a change in your hands, especially as we all wash our hands more often to avoid viruses in the winter. Your fingertips may feel like sandpaper, your nails split easier and your hands “catch” on clothes. This dryness may be most noticeable in your hands, but it’s happening all over your body,” says Dunlap.
Bathe or shower in tepid water, as hot water dehydrates the skin. Pat your skin dry and apply moisturizer within five minutes. “Plain old petroleum jelly is an inexpensive, high-quality protective shield for your body and hands,” says Dunlap, “but don’t use it on your face. Instead, ask your esthetician for a formula that will seal in the moisture and protect your face while not clogging pores or irritating skin.”
Axelson recommends products with hyaluronic acid, which acts as a humectant to restore water balance in the skin. “We love the results from iS Clinical Sheald Recovery Balm & Reparative Moisture Emulsion. It forms a protective barrier to keep skin from drying.”
3 – Slather on the Sunscreen
Ultraviolet radiation is still making it through those gloomy skies, says Dunlap. “UVB rays, the “burning” rays, are strongest between about 10 am to 3 pm, which is the time most people are outside enjoying winter activities and sports. UVA rays are less intense initially, but they can actually do more harm as they penetrate your skin’s layers more deeply. In combination, these rays do irreparable damage to the outside and to the deep layers of your skin. This is what causes premature aging and skin cancer. In the winter, even when we don’t see the sun, these rays are reflecting from the snow back onto our exposed skin, causing double trouble.”
The way to prevent this is by using a high-quality sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, higher if you have fair or sensitive skin. Apply sunscreen generously, at least 30 minutes before going outside, to give the exposed skin time to absorb the protection. Zinc-based protection is also a good choice, says Axelson.
4 – Mom was Right About Gloves and Scarves
Cold air is dry air and being outside will suck the moisture out of your skin. Dunlap says, “Listen to Mom and put on gloves or mittens to prevent moisture loss in your hands, and a scarf to help keep your face hydrated. Putting on a hat will also protect your hair’s health and vitality while keeping your ears warm.”
Avoid wool wrappings and keep them clean. “Wool fibers can cause micro-scratches that can irritate and inflame the skin,” says Axelson. “Instead, opt for fabrics that are soft and washable like fleece, jersey, or cotton. These won’t aggravate your skin with rough fibers and they can be machine-washed frequently to remove any soil or bacteria.”
5 – Participate in Dry January All Year Long
Reducing alcohol intake not just in January, but throughout the year is better for your skin, says Axelson. Alcohol is a diuretic, which reduces the amount of water in your skin. It also causes your liver to produce acetaldehyde, which is toxic to tissues and will cause wrinkles and other signs of aging. Alcohol is also an inflammatory, which enlarges the tiniest blood vessels, causing redness in your skin. Drinking is a factor in acne breakouts.
“Alcohol also disturbs your sleep cycle,” says Dunlap, “which means your body cannot do the cell repair it’s meant to do during restful sleep,” Dunlap recommends increasing your intake of water, perhaps flavored with a dash of citrus. “Drinking more water means your skin stays better hydrated, which decreases acne, wrinkle formation, and appearance and reduces redness and inflammation.”
6 – Act Quickly When You See Trouble
Don’t wait for skin problems to resolve on their own. “As with any health issue, getting it diagnosed properly and treated promptly is vital to quick recovery,” says Dunlap. “If you’ve started using a new product and see irritation or breakouts, stop using it immediately.” Axelson says, “Whenever your skin gets irritated, dry or flaky, eliminate products with retinol or glycolic acid from your skincare routine.”
“Instead,” continues Axelson, “ask your esthetician about incorporating antioxidants into your winter routine. We recommend iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum which contains antioxidants such as Vitamin E and Vitamin A. These nutrients treat inflammation, acne, and rosacea. We also like iS Clinical Youth Intensive Crème or Omni Facial Serum. These contain growth factors and copper tripeptides that provide hydration and potent antioxidant protection. They also stimulate the production of collagen.”
Prevent Winter Weather Skin Challenges
Winter weather, both inside and out, presents special challenges for your skin’s health and appearance. By following these basic winter skincare recommendations, you’ll have plumper, smoother skin that’s better hydrated for a longer-lasting youthful look.