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Winter Skincare: 12 Expert Tips To Keep Your Skin Hydrated And Radiant All Season Long

Dry and cold air can result in itchy, red, and irritated skin. Fight the effects of winter dryness with these expert tips to help your skin maintain its natural moisture.

Winter Skincare: 12 Expert Tips To Keep Your Skin Hydrated

The winter season can be harsh on your skin, creating a sense of inescapability. The cold, windy weather outside can leave your skin red and sensitive, while indoor heating saps moisture from both the air and your skin.

Even the delightful aspects of winter, like cozying up by a crackling fire, can contribute to drying out your skin, as highlighted by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Furthermore, indulging in a hot shower for warmth can strip your skin of its natural oils, as indicated by the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

Even the delightful aspects of winter, like cozying up by a crackling fire, can contribute to drying out your skin, as highlighted by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Courtesy: Pexels

The dual impact of cold and dry conditions outdoors, coupled with the hot and dry environment indoors, can send already-dry skin into a challenging situation. Even individuals with combination and oily skin types are not exempt. Those with oily or combination skin might notice that these conditions lead to dryness, sensitivity, redness, dehydration, and discomfort in their skin.

Common symptoms of winter skin include:

  • Dehydration
  • Redness
  • Tightness
  • Flaking
  • Continuous discomfort
It's recommended to pay attention to your skin's needs and adjust your routine.  Courtesy: Pexels

Fortunately, there are numerous methods to counteract the factors leading to dry skin and maintain a moist and supple complexion throughout the entire season. This includes making simple tweaks to your daily routine.

It is important to note that the #1 skincare advice for winter emphasizes that adapting to the season doesn't necessitate a complete overhaul of your skincare products. Instead, it's recommended to pay attention to your skin's needs and adjust your routine by incorporating one or two products. Consistency in your skincare routine remains crucial.

Read on to discover 12 simple tips approved by dermatologists for achieving radiant skin during the winter season.


1. Invest in a Humidifier to Maximize Moisture

“In the cooler winter months, the outdoor air typically holds onto less water and is drier and colder,” explains Naissan O. Wesley, MD, a dermatologist with Skin Care and Laser Physicians of Beverly Hills in California. According to the Cleveland Clinic, using a humidifier in your home or office can replenish moisture in the air, aiding in keeping your skin well-hydrated.

Use a humidifier throughout your entire home or in the rooms where you spend the majority of your time. Strive to maintain indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent.

2. Opt for Cooler Water Temperatures When Showering and Washing Hands

While indulging in long, steamy showers may be tempting in cold weather, it's essential to note that very hot water can dry out the skin, warns Marie Hayag, MD, a dermatologist and founder of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics in New York City. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests that opting for a 5- to 10-minute warm shower or bath is less likely to exacerbate dry skin compared to a hot one.

Opt for Cooler Water Temperatures When Showering Courtesy: Pexels

A helpful guideline is to avoid water that causes your skin to turn red, as indicated by UPMC. This is crucial not only for showering but also for handwashing.

3. Choose Mild, Fragrance-Free Body Cleansers

Using bar soap during bathing can exacerbate dryness by removing the skin's natural oils and disrupting the microbiome, cautions Dr. Wesley.

For individuals with dry skin, Dr. Hayag suggests opting for body wash instead. She recommends looking for washes labeled as "for sensitive skin," "dye-free," and "fragrance-free." These products often contain fewer drying ingredients and more moisturizing elements such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, oils, shea butter, and oats.

4. Use Sunscreen, Even on Overcast Winter Days

During bright winter days, the snow reflects the sun's rays, leading to an increased UV exposure, as highlighted by the Skin Cancer Foundation. UV rays are associated with skin cancer, sunburn, and premature skin aging, including wrinkles, leathery skin, and liver spots, according to the American Cancer Society.

Whether you're engaging in winter activities like skiing, playing in the snow, or running errands in a parking lot, applying sunscreen is crucial in harsh winter weather, just as it is in the summer.

Even on darker, gloomier days in winter, it's essential not to be deceived. The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that up to 80 percent of the sun's harmful UV rays can penetrate clouds and still cause damage.

Use Sunscreen, Even on Overcast Winter Days Courtesy: Pexels

Before heading outdoors, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, featuring water resistance and moisturizing ingredients such as lanolin or glycerin, to all exposed areas of your body.

5. Keep Your Hands Moisturized, Especially After Washing

Frequent hand-washing is crucial, particularly during the presence of the common cold, flu, and COVID-19, as emphasized by the CDC. However, Dr. Linda Stein Gold, a board-certified dermatologist at Henry Ford Medical Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, cautions that constant washing can be harsh on the hands.


Dr. Stein Gold advises applying hand cream after each washing. To protect your hands while washing dishes or cleaning around the house, she also recommends wearing waterproof gloves. After applying moisturizer, Dr. Wesley suggests wearing cotton gloves to aid in the absorption of the cream by your skin.

6. Choose Suitable, Comfortable, and Non-irritating Clothing

Certain fabrics commonly used in cold weather can exacerbate dry winter skin. Dr. Stein Gold advises against direct contact of wool and rough clothing with the skin, as it may cause irritation and itching.

Instead, opt for light layers made from soft, breathable materials like cotton or silk directly against the skin. Once that base is in place, you can layer on heavier, warmer sweaters, as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).


Additionally, ensure you protect your hands from the cold winter air by wearing gloves or mittens. If wool gloves prove too irritating, consider trying leather ones, as suggested by Dr. Wesley.

7. Prioritize Proper Nutrition and Hydration

While expecting significant results may be unrealistic, there's a potential to moisturize your skin internally to some extent. Dr. Wesley suggests that staying hydrated by consuming ample fluids, particularly water, is among the dietary measures to prevent dryness. A small study indicated that individuals with low water intake were able to positively impact skin hydration by increasing their water intake (in this case, two liters more than their usual daily consumption).


Prioritize Proper Nutrition and Hydration Courtesy: Pexels

Your diet can also play a role. Dr. Wesley recommends avoiding processed foods and sugars, and instead, opting for whole foods rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids to maintain overall body and skin health.

8. Skin-Care Tweaks Specific To Your Skin Type

For Dry Skin, Layer Moisturizers to Boost Hydration

The primary focus of your winter skincare routine should revolve around preserving moisture in the skin to prevent dryness. It's common for the moisturizer you're currently using to be insufficient. Michele Green, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, suggests rotating through three to four moisturizers as skin needs change.


For those with a drier complexion, a single moisturizer may not be adequate. Dr. Green recommends incorporating a hydrating serum with ingredients like hyaluronic acid or squalane as the base layer. Allow it to absorb into the skin for five minutes, and then apply a cream-based moisturizer (thicker than lotion, often in a tub) on top to seal in the hydration.

In Case of Acne-Prone Skin, Switch To A Gentler Cleanser

During the summer, increased sweating and the use of harsh cleansers may have been common, especially for those dealing with pimples. However, as the cold weather sets in, even acne-prone skin is susceptible to dryness. Dermatologist Michele Green suggests switching to a creamier facial wash in the colder months.


These cleansers have a different feel on the skin—less foaming and more lotion-based. One recommended option is CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser, noted by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) for containing ceramides for moisture and being noncomedogenic, reducing the likelihood of contributing to breakouts.

After making this adjustment, you may not need to alter your acne-fighting topicals like benzoyl peroxide or retinoids, as mentioned by the AAD. However, you might find that a bit more moisture is necessary. Dermatologist Noelani Gonzalez recommends acne patients opt for a richer or thicker moisturizer during this season. While it might be a concern, moisturizing is important for all skin types, including acne-prone skin. Look for oil-free and noncomedogenic products to maintain clear pores.


9. Adjust Your Skincare Routine for the Season

If your skin is experiencing dryness and itchiness, Dr. Hayag advises reducing the use of skincare products containing alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and retinoids on the face. These substances can exacerbate the issue and might indicate irritant dermatitis, a skin reaction from prolonged exposure to an irritating substance. Once the skin heals, you can gradually reintroduce retinoids and alpha-hydroxy acids.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends avoiding products with alcohol and fragrances when your face is dry to help the skin retain its natural oils. Opt for oils and creams in your skincare routine, and if your toner causes dryness, consider applying a moisturizer on top, says Dr. Wesley.


For nighttime skincare, use a richer moisturizer on your body, including arms, legs, and midsection. Dr. Hayag suggests looking for occlusives like petrolatum, squalene, and shea butter that form a protective seal over the skin to seal in moisture. Moisturizers with humectants such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin allow the skin to breathe and are less likely to contribute to acne.

In winters, Dr. Wesley recommends using a thicker cream from a jar or tube for the body. Courtesy: Pexels

Ensure to moisturize the entire body, especially in winter. Dr. Wesley recommends using a thicker cream from a jar or tube for the body, as lotions from a pump can be thinner and more watery, potentially evaporating from the skin's surface.


10. Pat Dry and Seal in Moisture

Gently pat yourself dry after washing your hands, recommends Dr. Hayag. The AOCD suggests that blotting or patting the skin dry, instead of rubbing it, helps preserve more moisture.

Apply the same technique when toweling off after a shower, as advised by Dr. Stein Gold: “Blot skin dry and apply a thick moisturizer within a few minutes after bathing to seal the water into the skin.”

11. Maintain a Comfortable and Cool Thermostat Temperature

When seeking refuge from the dry, cold outdoor air, the inclination may be to turn up the heat upon arriving home. However, it's important to be mindful that high central heat can further reduce the moisture in your house, as highlighted by the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD). Consider maintaining a cool yet comfortable setting to prevent additional drying of your skin, with the AOCD suggesting a temperature range of 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.


12. Prevent Dry Lips In Winter

Given that lips produce less oil than the rest of the face, they are particularly sensitive to cold weather. To protect them during winter, it's crucial to provide extra care. Prevent dry lips from becoming chapped and sunburned during winter activities by applying a hydrating lip balm with SPF every morning and consistently throughout the day to lock in moisture. The AAD suggests using a moisturizing balm like petroleum jelly or another ointment to heal and prevent chapping.

Use a moisturizing balm like petroleum jelly or another ointment to heal and prevent chapping. Courtesy: Pexels


Please note that the skincare suggestions provided here are generic recommendations by experts and should be considered as informational tips. For personalized advice and a comprehensive understanding of your skin's specific needs, it is strongly recommended to consult with a dermatologist or qualified skincare professional.