I recently moved to the East Coast from sunny and temperate Southern California, and with that move came experiencing winter for the first time. I was prepared for most things: freezing temperatures, icy sidewalks, overheated rooms. What I did not expect was painfully dry skin—the biggest pitfall of winter. Turns out, your skin loses about a quarter of its ability to hold moisture in cold, dry weather. I discovered quickly that transitioning from the humidity of summer to the dryness of winter means switching up your skin care routine.
I reached out to some experts to help me create the perfect morning and evening routine for winter. If you’re similarly looking to combat dryness and protect your skin’s overall health, here are a few tips from the pros.
Morning Routine //
Step 01. Cleanse
Once winter hits, skin stops producing as much sebum, so it’s important to maintain your skin’s natural moisture barrier. Switching to a non-foaming, cream-based, or oil cleanser will help moisturize your skin and replenish its natural oils. Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf contributor, recommends looking out for these key ingredients when buying a creamier cleanser: glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides. All of these ingredients work to bind water to your skin, which will better hydrate your face and prevent damage throughout the day.
Step 02. Serum
Dr. Yadav recommends applying a vitamin C serum after cleansing. Serums are made of very small molecules, which allows the skin to absorb them quickly and deeply. Vitamin C has been proven to increase skin elasticity, stimulate collagen synthesis, and boost the skin’s immune system, as well as repair damages caused by external elements. The vitamin C serum is also high in antioxidants, which increase water absorption in your skin.
- Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
- SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
- TruSkin Naturals Vitamin C Serum
- Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster
Step 03. Moisturize
Biting winds, freezing temps, and dry indoor heating is a recipe for dry skin. The most obvious and vital way to fight flakiness is to apply moisturizer. Consider a heavy-duty moisturizer that is noncomedogenic (i.e., won’t cause you to break out) and contains ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid, which attract and lock in moisture. Even in the winter, it’s important to apply SPF. So before you complete your routine, swipe on a light layer of SPF to protect yourself from the UV rays.
- Aveeno Skin Relief Moisture Repair Cream
- Garnier Moisture Bomb
- Avène Cicalfate Restorative Skin Cream
- Neutrogena Hydraboost
Pro Tip: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
All the experts we polled had one universal tip: Drink more water! Dry winter air can draw water out of the epidermis by osmosis, making the skin dehydrated. Your skin is just another major organ that needs water to properly function. In the winter, it is recommended that you increase your water intake by 20 percent. So, if you normally drink eight glasses of water, start drinking ten.
Evening Routine //
Step 01. Makeup Remover
This step can easily be missed in our rush to get to bed. Not properly removing makeup, however, increases the chance of your skin absorbing the debris, oil, bacteria, and free radicals built up throughout the day. This not only clogs your pores (hello, breakouts), but it also prevents your skin from absorbing nutrients from your serums and moisturizers. Using a micellar wash or makeup remover wipe to thoroughly remove junk is vital if you want to really benefit from your entire skin care routine.
Step 02. Cleanse
After removing makeup, it’s important to fully wash skin with the same cleanser you used in the morning. The water-binding ingredients will help your skin absorb the nighttime moisturizer as you sleep, so you can wake up with glowing, supple skin.
Step 03. Gentle Exfoliation // 2x a Week
With dry skin comes dead skin, and that is where exfoliation is key. Dr. Schlessinger says exfoliation is an essential part of one’s skin care routine. “Exfoliation removes dulling skin cells, debris, and other impurities, leaving the complexion feeling soft and smooth,” he says. “It also stimulates healthy cell renewal, giving skin a healthy, glowing appearance.”
Dr. Neal Schultz, an NYC dermatologist, host of DermTV.com, and creator of BeautyRx, recommends using glycolic acid. “Glycolic acid works by gently dissolving the glue that holds the dulling, clogging discolored dead skin cells, revealing smooth and even-toned skin.” Be sure to only exfoliate two times a week in the winter. Over-exfoliation can actually damage your skin, making it more sensitive and susceptible to damage.
- Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Washer
- L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Peel Pads
- Pixi by Petra Glow Peel Pads
Step 04. Moisturize & Treat
The nighttime is when your skin goes through an intense healing process. Cells repair and rebuild during sleep, and the majority of skin cell turnover occurs during the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep. Because your skin is working hard to regenerate, it will naturally lose moisture as you sleep. To bolster this repair process and retain water in your skin, try using a heavy-duty moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid or glycerin and retinol. Retinol boosts collagen production and encourages epidermal cell renewal, while hyaluronic acid deeply hydrates skin.
- Murad Perfecting Night Cream
- Clinique Turnaround Overnight Revitalizing Moisturizer
- SkinCeuticals Renew Overnight
- Olay Regenerist Night Recovery
Pro Tip: Humidifier
Speaking of nighttime skin healing, dry heat from your radiator or central air system can seriously suck the life out of your epidermis. Investing in a humidifier that replaces moisture in the air can benefit your overall health, including your skin’s. Any humectant ingredients in your moisturizers will draw in this moisture to plump and heal.