Updated 01/05/22. Winter is here. For many, that means dry, flaky, red, and irritated skin. And if you’re thinking that simply layering on an extra coat of heavy moisturizer will do the trick (or that you don’t need to wear sunscreen this time of year), think again! Here are the five most common winter skin mistakes that people make, along with my expert solutions for each one.
Mistake #1: You Skip Sunscreen
Many people don’t use sunscreen in the winter, because it’s cold and cloudy and they’re spending much of their time indoors. But did you know that UVA rays, the ones responsible for changing the DNA of your cells and causing premature lines and wrinkles are close to the same strength in winter as they are in summer? To make matters worse, they can penetrate through clouds and windows, so your skin is still being exposed to them even when you’re inside.
This is why it’s crucial to apply sunscreen every single day of the year—no matter how cold or cloudy it may be outside. After all, daylight is the number one cause of premature aging, which is why sunscreen is considered the absolute best anti-aging product out there. Since UV rays can also interfere with skin barrier function, and prevent the skin from maintaining proper moisture levels, sunscreen is truly an essential part of anyone’s winter skincare routine. Make sure you’re applying it to any exposed skin, including the skin on your neck and chest (your neck is an extension of your face so don’t forget to protect this area, too).
Mistake #2: You Over-Moisturize With the Wrong Formula
When your skin is dry and flaky, applying a thick layer of moisturizer will take care of it, right? Wrong. Your skin is like a sponge in that it takes what it needs and the rest sits on top. It could be wasteful to apply an extra thick layer of moisturizer since your skin can only absorb so much.
When it comes to blemish-prone skin types, too much of the wrong moisturizer can cause extra congestion, bumps, and breakouts. (That’s why it’s important to understand the difference between dry and dehydrated skin. If you’re experiencing the latter, reach for a lighter, hydrating moisturizer like Sheer Moisture Lotion.)
The solution to this mistake is simple—use the right moisturizer for your skin type! If you don’t know your skin type, you can the Skin Type Quiz to find out. Generally speaking, you want a moisturizer that has ingredients that can support the lipid barrier and prevent moisture evaporation. Some of my favorite moisturizer ingredients for winter skin are safflower, soybean, sweet almond, carrot, borage, and sunflower oils. I also love ceramides and linoleic acid.
The second solution to this mistake is to not rely exclusively on a moisturizer. Applying a serum underneath moisturizer can offer the skin extra hydration thanks to water-binding properties (serums have molecules with smaller structures than moisturizers so they can absorb deeper into the skin). This is a particularly great option if you’re blemish-prone and worried about using a thick moisturizer.
Mistake #3: You Don’t Adjust Your Skincare Routine Seasonally
Our skin is constantly changing, and that’s especially true if it’s experiencing extreme temperature changes. You must make certain that you are using the right products to adapt to your skin’s changing needs. This might include switching from a gel-based face wash to a more gentle cleansing lotion. You might also apply face oil over your moisturizer at night to prevent moisture evaporation. Another suggestion is to treat your skin to a hydrating gel mask or, for drier types, a cream mask to give moisture above and beyond your regular products. (Learn more about how to transition your skincare routine to winter.)
Also, don’t forget to increase your exfoliation. This may sound counterintuitive if your skin is getting drier, but trying to moisturize cells that are already dry and expired won’t get you very far. Exfoliate a few nights a week to get rid of dryness and reveal a smoother, healthier-looking texture.
Overall, the key is to 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. I recommend the Barrier Restoring Kit in this instance. It’s a collection of three products: the Moisture Infusion Toner, the Pure Radiance Creme Masque, and the Pro Remedy Oil. Together, they help support your skin’s natural moisture barrier for smooth, hydrated, and healthy-looking skin. (Read more about your skin’s moisture barrier and how to tell if it’s damaged.)
Mistake #4: You Leave Your Skin Bare For More Than 60 Seconds After Cleansing
Did you know you only have a 60-second window to seal in moisture after cleansing your skin? Otherwise, you risk 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—post-cleansing.
Here’s what happens. When you wash your face, your skin is damp. The air acts like a magnet, attracting water out from the deepest layers of the skin and evaporating into the dry air. This causes your skin to become tight and dehydrated, which is the exact opposite of what you want.
The solution for this is simple. All you have to do is apply your next product within 60 seconds of washing your face. I call this the Golden Minute Rule, and it’s one of the easiest ways to care for your skin! I promise this will help keep your moist and hydrated.
Mistake #5: You Lick Your Lips
The cold winter air affects the skin on your lips just like it affects the skin on your face. Over time, it can cause your lips to become dry and flaky. When this happens, licking your lips may provide temporary relief, but it can actually make them even drier since the air will cause the moisture to evaporate out of deeper layers of the skin. To make matters worse, there are digestive enzymes in saliva that can break down the skin and cause dryness and cracks.
The solution to dry, cracked lips is to use a well-formulated, conditioning lip balm throughout the day. Easy, right? Even if you still feel the urge to lick your lips, the balm will provide a barrier of protection to keep moisture sealed in. I recommend avoiding lip balms that contain menthol, as these could be too irritating to your lips, especially if they’re already dry.
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.”