Updated 1/11/18. Winter is here and for many, this means dry, flaky, red and irritated skin and long overcast days. Do you think that simply layering on an extra coat of heavier moisturizer will do the trick? Or you don’t need sunscreen to protect your skin this time of year? Think again. Here are the five most common mistakes that people make and my expert solutions to keep it looking its best during the driest season of the year for your skin.
Winter skin mistake #1: Skipping sunscreen. Are you not using sunscreen on your face since it’s cold and cloudy and you’re not spending much time outdoors? The UVA rays, the ones responsible for changing the DNA of your cells that leads to premature lines, wrinkles and sagging, are almost the exact same strength from summer to winter. Additionally, they can penetrate through clouds and windows in your home, car or office. This is why it’s essential that a moisturizer with sunscreen is applied to your skin every single day of the year if you are serious about protecting your skin from the damaging rays. Daylight is the #1 cause of premature skin aging and because of this, sunscreen is considered to be the best anti-aging product you will ever use. Since UV rays can interfere with the skin-barrier function which can prevent skin from maintaining proper moisture levels, this makes sunscreen beneficial for dry skin types. Every day of the year, use a well-formulated UVA/UVB-protecting sunscreen applied to both the face and neck. (Your neck is an extension of your face so don’t forget to protect this area, too.) Recommended sunscreen: Daily Protection SPF 30.
Winter skin mistake #2: Over-moisturizing with the wrong moisturizer and relying exclusively on moisturizer to hydrate the face. When the skin is dry and flaky on your face, applying an extra thick coat of moisturizer will surely take care of this, right? Wrong. Your skin is like a sponge in that it takes in what it needs and the rest sits on top. When you apply an extra layer of moisturizer, this may be wasteful since the skin can only absorb so much. As for blemish-prone skin types, too much of the wrong type of moisturizer may cause congestion, bumps, and breakouts so this type of skin has to be especially careful when choosing a formula. (This is why everyone should know the difference between dry and dehydrated skin to determine the true needs of your skin.)
The first solution for all skin types is to use the right moisturizer for your skin type and one that has the most effective hydrating ingredients that actually repair the lipid barrier and prevent transepidermal water loss. Some of my favorite moisturizer ingredients for repairing dry, flaky, winter skin are safflower, soybean, sweet almond, carrot, borage and sunflower oils as well as ceramides and linoleic acid. Unlike other types of moisturizing ingredients used in skincare formulations, these ingredients will actually correct the lack of oil and lack of hydration deep within your skin and repair your skin’s lipid moisture barrier to make your skin moist, supple and smooth.
The second solution is to not rely exclusively on a moisturizer. Consider applying a serum underneath your cream to give water-binding properties to deeply hydrate the skin. (Serums have a smaller molecular structure than moisturizers so they absorb deeper within the skin cells.) See this collection of serums.
Winter skin mistake #3: Not adjusting your skincare routine, as needed. Our skin, like our bodies, is constantly changing. Add in a severe drop in the weather temperature and this will definitely impact your skin. You must make certain that you are using the right products to adapt to your skin’s changing needs. This might include switching from using a gel-based face wash to a gentler cleansing lotion. You might also apply a skin oil over your moisturizer at night to prevent moisture evaporation. (Don’t make this mistake when using a skin oil.)
Another suggestion is to treat your skin to a hydrating gel mask or cream mask to give moisture above and beyond your regular products. Recommended masks: Bio Calm Repair Gel Masque and Pure Radiance Creme Masque.
Also, don’t forget to increase your exfoliation. After all, trying to moisturize cells that are already expired won’t get you very far. Use an exfoliating serum a few nights a week to dissolve away dryness and reveal a smoother, healthier-looking texture. Read: Acids, Enzymes And Scrubs: Which Exfoliant Should You Use And How Often?
The key is to really listen to your skin. If your skin is feeling tight, dry or abnormally sensitive, then your routine isn’t working the way it needs to and it is time to make some adjustments. Consult with a trusted esthetician or skin care professional or take this Skin Type Quiz to get a customized skincare routine.
Winter skin mistake #4: Not sealing in moisture fast. Did you know that you have a 60-second window after cleansing your skin to seal in moisture while your skin is damp to prevent severe dehydration? Since the air is so dry in the winter, it looks for water wherever it can get it and this means taking it from your skin at its most vulnerable time after cleansing. Here’s what happens. When you wash your face, your skin is damp. Water acts like a magnet and it will attract water out from the deepest layers of the skin and evaporate into the dry air. The result is even tighter, drier skin. To prevent this from happening, be sure to immediately apply moisturizer after cleansing (or ideally an alcohol-free toner and serum beforehand) so your skin can stay moist and hydrated. Recommended toner for winter: Moisture Infusion Toner since it corrects dryness and soothes winter-induced redness and irritation.
Winter skin mistake #5: Licking your lips and avoiding lip balm. Just like the skin on your face, the cold winter air can affect the skin on the lips causing them to get dry and flaky. When this occurs, licking your lips may provide temporary moisture and relief but did you know this act leaves the skin drier than it was to start? When the lips are moist on the surface from your saliva, they attract moisture from deep within the skin and will evaporate into the dry air through a process called osmosis. Adding to the lip dryness, there are digestive enzymes in saliva that can break down the skin causing the corners to crack when saliva gets trapped there. The best way to fix and heal dry, cracked lips is to use a well-formulated, conditioning lip balm and apply it to your lips throughout the day. Even if you still feel the urge to lick your lips, the balm provides a barrier of protection to keep your natural moisture in the lips. Some menthol lip balms may be too irritating if the skin on your lips is already dry so consider avoiding ones with mint. To exfoliate dryness, mix a little sugar into some olive oil to create a smoothing lip treatment. The lip treatment that works well for me is Blistex Complete Moisture.
In summary, there are so many advancements in skincare that you no longer have suffer from dry, dehydrated flaky skin if you’re doing all the right things. Making these adjustments will most certainly help you have soft, smooth and moist skin all winter long. Here are 8 tips to cure dry, itchy skin on the body.
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Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”