Updated: 1/16/18. Without fail, every winter I’ll have people contacting me asking, “My skin is getting rough, dry and red on my chin and neck. What do you think is causing this?” Since I consider myself to be a ‘skin detective’, in that I recognize that lifestyle and habits play a huge role in how someone’s skin will act, I’ll immediately go into question-mode to figure out what is going on.
Experience has taught me that my first question is,“Have you been wearing turtleneck sweaters and wool scarves up close to your face?” For many people, they usually find that these are in fact, the culprit. (Scarves and wool materials are known to trigger eczema flare-ups, too.)
Why do wool scarves and sweaters cause the skin to be dry, red and rough?
For starters, your skin has a barrier made of natural lipids that help keep moisture in and irritants out. When this barrier is damaged due to extreme cold and lack of moisture in the air, it creates tiny, invisible cracks in the skin. These cracks allow moisture to escape, causing dryness and flakiness. Then, what adds to the dryness and flakiness is when someone is all bundled up to keep warm and a wool material is rubbing up against their face and neck. The fibers are scratchy and create friction that can act as an irritant (on top of already vulnerable and irritated skin) and further damage the skin’s protective barrier. The result is even drier skin that feels rough to the touch.
A wool scarf and a turtleneck sweater can be particularly irritating on the neck since the skin is much thinner and get irritated more easily.
What’s the best way to prevent face, neck and chin dryness?
Obviously, avoid wearing clothing made out of wool or anything with any scratchy-feeling fibers.
Instead, choose materials that feel very soft to the touch. If you have your favorite wool scarf and just don’t want to give it up, then be conscious of not wrapping it too close to the skin. For many people, simply having this new-found knowledge creates enough awareness that allows them to position their scarf in a better way.
How can I soothe the skin and repair the dryness caused by wool scarves and sweaters?
Use a rich moisturizer followed by a skin oil.
The combination of a skin moisturizer and skin oil should provide needed relief as well as offer repair to the skin’s moisture barrier to seal up the invisible cracks, so it can quickly return back to its normal, healthy state. Recommended products: Phytolipid Comfort Creme followed by a few drops of Pro Remedy Oil. (There is a very specific way to use a facial oil so be sure you’re using your oil correctly by reading this post.)
For the neck, it’s always best to use a cream that’s exclusively formulated for this area. Recommended product: Intensive Firming Neck Creme.
Discontinue using products with exfoliating acids, retinol or prescription retinoids.
Any time the skin is irritated, you’ll want to temporarily discontinue use of products that are exfoliating the surface layers and stimulating cell turnover. While products like exfoliating acids, retinol, or prescription retinoids play an important role in keeping your skin looking smooth, they can potentially add to the irritation when the skin is acting sensitive due to the friction from a scarf or wool sweater. However, you don’t want to stay off of these types of products for long and lose their great benefits. Once the skin gets back to normal, get back to using those. Read my beginner’s guide to exfoliation and my beginner’s guide to retinol and prescription retinoids. You can also take our Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended, or schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.
Knowledge is power so I hope this provides some new insight into why your skin might be unusually dry during the winter. Make sure you avoid these five common winter mistakes.
Lastly, since I mentioned that I act as a skin detective, I have a client who was getting red patches in three areas of her face. Come to find out, it had to do with how she was applying her skincare products.
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.”