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Winter Skincare Tips & Advice for Cold Months

The winter months bring changes to moisture levels in the air, cold weather, and drier air both inside and outside, which wreaks havoc on skin health. Cold air outside and indoor heat contribute to a general dryness, which can lead to cracking, flaking, dehydrated skin, cause damage to the skin barrier, and cause flare-ups of skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and Raynaud’s disease. An excess of dry, dead skin can also contribute to an ashy, dull-looking appearance of the skin, further emphasizing signs of the natural aging process, such as fine lines and wrinkles. When dealing with external environmental stressors on skin health, many topical treatment options keep your skin looking bright, smooth, and clear in wintertime. To determine the best skincare regimen to combat the effects of winter weather, schedule your consultation with New York-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michele Green.

While some aspects of your skincare routine should be maintained year-round (such as applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen every morning!), your skin care products should be updated in the winter months to combat the effects of the winter weather more effectively. The skin on your face and hands is most frequently exposed to the harsh elements, necessitating special care. The dry air in the winter means that you should look for skin care products that will boost hydration in the skin, infusing and sealing in moisture. Switching to a fragrance-free, hydrating cleanser rather than exfoliating with ingredients such as shea butter, glycerin, and niacinamide is best. Winter moisturizers should be thicker lotions or creams with humectants to hydrate the skin and emollients to seal in the moisture. Even in the winter, overexposure to the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays can cause damage to the skin, so it is still essential to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher at the start of every day. With the guidelines for winter skincare, there are still many product options to choose from, which is why it is always best to seek your skincare routine recommendation from an expert dermatologist, such as Dr. Green, who can recommend the skincare products that will work best for your skin.

Experienced board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michele Green has been masterfully treating patients in her Upper East Side New York City dermatology office for more than 25 years. With her proprietary line of skincare products, MGSKINLABs, Dr. Green can recommend the highest quality lotions, creams, serums, and sunscreens to cleanse, moisturize, and protect the skin year-round. An expert in treating patients of all skin types, whether you experience dry skin, oily skin, sensitive skin, or combination skin, Dr. Green will recommend the skincare routine that will provide you with smooth, clear, glowing skin even during the winter months. In addition to skincare products, Dr. Green is experienced in many anti-aging treatments, including Botox, dermal fillers, laser treatments, chemical peels, microneedling, and much more. Well-known for high patient satisfaction, Dr. Green has been voted one of the best healthcare providers in New York City by such publications as Super Doctors, Castle Connolly, and New York Magazine.

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What causes dry skin in the winter?

Harsh cold and dry air outside are characteristics of the winter months, which can affect the skin’s health, especially the skin most exposed to the elements on the face and hands. The stress of the temperature and the dryness in the air, both inside due to heaters and outside due to a general lack of humidity, can strip the skin of moisture and natural oils, damaging the skin barrier. Composed of dead skin cells and lipids, the skin barrier offers protection from harmful elements and requires moisture to function well. When moisture in the air decreases in wintertime, the moisture levels in the skin barrier also decrease, leading to dry, cracked, flaky, itchy skin. Dehydrating skincare products, such as exfoliating body wash and scrubs, scented soaps, retinoids, vitamin C, toner, and heavy makeup, can exacerbate dry skin in the winter. Luckily, there are many skincare options to treat dry skin.

How to treat dry winter skin

During the winter months, it is essential to choose skincare products that are moisturizing and hydrating to combat dry winter skin, especially on the body areas that are most often exposed to the elements, such as the face and hands. The winter air is already dry, so the first step is to avoid products that strip the skin of moisture and natural oils, such as scented soaps, exfoliating cleansers or scrubs, and topical retinoids. Patients should also avoid long, hot showers during the winter months, as hot water can further dry the skin and reduce natural oils. Patients should adjust their skincare routine in the wintertime to include hydrating cleansers, thick, creamy moisturizers, hand cream, and SPF 30 or higher sunscreen to protect against harmful UV rays. Staying hydrated, reducing alcohol intake, and consuming foods rich in antioxidants and fatty acids can further contribute to keeping the skin smooth, bright, and healthy during the winter.

What is the best cleanser for dry skin?

When choosing a cleanser for the winter, it is essential to find a hydrating product rather than exfoliating. As the air is arid during the winter, it is important to use skincare products to hydrate the skin. Avoid cleansers that are scented or that contain alcohol, as these ingredients can further dry out and irritate the skin. Instead, cleansers that are labeled as “fragrance-free,” “gentle,” or “moisturizing” are the best products to use in the winter. For the face, look for products that contain hydrating ingredients, such as shea butter, glycerin, and niacinamide, for smooth, bright skin. A cleanser is also necessary for washing your body, and patients should look for creamy, fragrance-free body washes to be applied when taking a lukewarm rather than hot shower. For patients susceptible to eczema, washing hands with regular soap can dry out the hands, leading to itchy, inflamed patches on the skin’s surface. As such, patients with eczema can turn to moisturizing cleansers to wash their hands, looking for brands like Cetaphil and Aquanil and ingredients like shea butter and silicone.

What is the best dermatologist-recommended SPF 30 sunscreen?

In the winter, we tend to forget the importance of sunscreen when not spending our days on the beach or in the park. However, sunscreen is just as essential in winter as in spring and summer. UV rays from the sun and the glare of the bright snow can still cause damage to the skin in the winter, further drying out the skin and emphasizing signs of the aging process, such as fine lines and wrinkles. As such, it is essential to always wear sunscreen, even in the wintertime. The type of sunscreen worn can be adjusted during the winter months. Instead of light lotions or sprays, patients can turn to creamier sunscreens that moisturize the skin and protect against UVA and UVB rays. For a powerful sunscreen that protects the skin without leaving a greasy feeling, patients can turn to MGSKINLAB Hydrating Sunscreen SPF 50. This sunscreen locks in moisture to keep the skin looking smooth and bright. It is formulated with humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, to hydrate the skin and caffeine with antioxidant properties. Dr. Green recommends that patients apply this sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours they are in the sun.

What is the best moisturizer for winter dry skin?

During the winter months, patients should find a rich, creamy moisturizer that will hydrate the skin and protect the skin barrier from the cold, dry environment. In the summer, Dr. Green will often recommend a thinner, lighter lotion to balance out the humidity in the air. However, a light lotion will not provide sufficient protection from the dry air in the winter. When looking for the best moisturizer for the dryness in the winter air, it is essential to look for three main categories of ingredients: humectants, such as ceramides, glycerin, jojoba oil, and hyaluronic acid, that draw in moisture to hydrate the skin; sealing ingredients, such as silicone, mineral oil, and petrolatum, that trap moisture in the skin; and emollients, such as linoleic acid and lauric acid, that seep into cracks to smooth the skin. For the most part, during the winter, it is important to avoid harsh exfoliating scrubs or other products that can further irritate the skin. However, patients can turn to a moisturizer that contains lactic acid, which will gently promote skin cell turnover while still moisturizing the skin. When choosing a moisturizer for the winter, Dr. Green recommends the MGSKINLAB Intensive Skin Repair Lotion, which contains hydrating ingredients such as Jojoba oil, shea butter, and aloe vera.

Dr. Green recommends applying moisturizer to your face and body while your skin is still damp following a shower to help trap moisture in the skin. When choosing a moisturizer for the body, look for heavier, creamier products than those available for the face that contain ingredients such as shea butter, glycerin, and petrolatum. The skin on the face is thinner than other body areas, meaning a lighter formulation is necessary.

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What is the best winter skincare routine?

The best winter skincare routine includes a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen that hydrates the skin to combat the effects of cold weather and dry air. A fragrance-free, gentle cleanser containing ingredients such as shea butter, petrolatum, and silicone should be gently massaged into the face once in the morning and once at night to remove excess oil, dirt, makeup, and other debris. A moisturizing cleanser can also be used to wash hands throughout the day, as a non-soap product will clean the skin without drying out the hands, which are particularly prone to cracking and flaking in the winter. Typically, it is best to avoid toners, heavy makeup, and products that dry out the skin during the winter months, such as topical retinoids. A rich moisturizer should be applied twice a day and is essential during winter time to attract moisture and seal it into the skin. Dr. Green recommends looking for a moisturizer that contains hydrating products such as hyaluronic acid, jojoba oil, glycerin, and ceramides. Finally, at the start of every day, patients should apply a rich, hydrating sunscreen of SPF 30 to protect against sun damage.

Will a humidifier help with dry skin in the winter?

In addition to dry air outside, indoor heating can create dryness inside, which can strip the skin of natural oil and cause cracks, irritation, and flaking. A humidifier is a device that releases moisture into the air indoors to reduce dry air in your home. A humidifier set to 60% can significantly reduce dry skin during the winter months, helping the skin to retain moisture indoors. If your house has a radiator, you can also increase the moisture levels in the air by placing a bowl of water on the radiator, which releases water vapor into the air.

Winter skin care tips from a board-certified dermatologist

In addition to finding skincare products that will hydrate and moisturize the skin, there are several lifestyle choices that patients can make to help with dry winter skin and improve their complexion:

  • Take lukewarm showers instead of hot showers. As much as a hot shower can be tempting, hot water can strip the skin of natural oils and dry out the skin.
  • Stay hydrated. Increasing your water intake can help reduce dry skin during winter. You can increase hydration by limiting the consumption of alcohol.
  • Avoid scented soaps and skincare products that can irritate and dry out the skin. Instead, choose a moisturizing cleanser and body wash for the hands and body.
  • Switch to moisturizing cleansers containing shea butter, glycerin, and niacinamide ingredients.
  • Moisturize often with a thick lotion or cream to combat the dryness in the air inside and outside. Look for products with humectants like hyaluronic acid and ceramide and emollients like linoleic acid and linolenic acid.
  • Always apply sunscreen before going outside. Even in the winter, UV rays can cause damage to the skin.
  • Apply hydrating lip balm with SPF protection to keep the lips hydrated throughout the day and protect against sun damage.

Winter skincare FAQs

Why does my skin itch in the winter?

Many patients wonder, why is my skin itchy in the winter? During the winter months, the moisture levels in the air outside are reduced drastically, and cold air can cause stress to the skin. Indoor heating systems also dry out the air, meaning there is no respite from dryness, stripping the skin of natural oils and moisture. Dryness on the skin, also known as xerosis, can include many symptoms, including cracking, irritation, stinging, redness, flaking, and itching.

How to stop itchy winter skin

Patients experiencing itchy skin due to xerosis from dry winter air should be advised not to scratch the irritated skin, as this can worsen the skin condition. To relieve itchiness, patients can use a cold compress on the area to numb the itching sensation. To prevent itchy skin from occurring, it is essential to keep the skin moisturized with a hydrating cleanser and rich lotions or creams. Moisturizers can reduce the symptoms of dry skin and repair the skin barrier for smooth, clear skin.

Why does my skin break out in the winter?

Acne breakouts are among the most common skin conditions in the United States, affecting as many as 50 million Americans yearly. Most people think of acne breakouts as affecting teenagers during puberty. However, breakouts can occur even as adults and are more common in the winter. In 2015, researchers in New England found that the frequency of experiencing moderate- to severe acne increased by 11% in winter. Acne breakouts occur when the pores on the skin’s surface are clogged by excess sebum, the natural oil produced on the skin, dead skin cells, and other debris. In the winter, the dryness in the air causes the skin to dry out as well, which triggers the over-production of sebum, leading to excess oil on the skin’s surface. The best way to prevent winter breakouts is to keep the skin hydrated and moisturized.

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Why does my skin crack in winter?

Many patients ask, why does skin crack in the winter? During wintertime, humidity levels are much lower, meaning the air is dry, and the cold air can be harsh against the skin’s surface. When exposed to this cold, dry air, skin can be stripped of moisture and natural oils, leading to rough, flaking, itchy, irritated, and cracked skin. This condition, characterized by dry, rough skin, is known as xerosis and is most common in the winter months.

Why in winter does my skin get dry?

The skin’s surface comprises the outer layer of skin, known as the epidermis, protected by the skin barrier, a thin layer of lipids, and dead skin cells. The skin barrier helps to keep the skin looking smooth, bright, and hydrated. Still, it can be easily damaged by environmental factors, such as sun exposure, the natural aging process, and dry air. When the skin barrier loses moisture, the skin appears dry, cracked, and dull.

How to combat dry winter skin

The best way to combat dry winter skin is to choose skincare products that moisturize and hydrate the skin for a smooth, clear, bright appearance all winter. With many options, it can be challenging to determine which skincare products are right for you. That is why an excellent first step in developing your winter skincare routine is to schedule a consultation with expert, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michele Green. Dr. Green will begin by examining your skin to determine your skin type before recommending products that can help keep your skin healthy all winter. Whether you have dry skin, oily skin, sensitive skin, or combination skin, Dr. Green knows the products and treatment options that will be best for you.

How to treat dry skin in winter at home

There are several ways to treat dry winter skin at home, including choosing suitable cleansers, hand creams, and moisturizers to keep your skin hydrated. Most winter skincare products work best when applied regularly when you get up in the morning and before bed. To protect your hands, you can choose a gentle cleanser rather than a scented hand soap, which will help to keep the delicate skin on your hands moisturized and protected from cracking and irritation. Further, to regulate the moisture levels in the air in your home, you can purchase a humidifier. Humidifiers help combat dryness by adding moisture to the air, protecting you from the harmful effects of dry air at home.

How to take care of skin in winter naturally

There are several lifestyle changes that you can make to improve skin health during the winter, including:

  • Taking lukewarm showers rather than hot showers
  • Using a humidifier at home
  • Covering up your skin with clothing when you go outside, such as gloves and scarves, to prevent exposure to the cold air
  • Eating foods rich in omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids to hydrate the skin
  • Staying hydrated by drinking water and limiting alcohol intake

Does your skin get lighter in the winter?

The dry winter air can cause the skin to crack and flake, which leads to a dull, ashy appearance. Changes in skin tone in the winter are primarily due to the lack of hydration in the skin, especially compared to the glowing, dewy skin we often experience in the summer. In addition to looking dull and light, the skin in the winter is usually dry and irritated, leading to a tight, itchy sensation.

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How to avoid skin darkening in the winter

As changes in skin tone in the winter are due primarily to dry, dead skin and dehydration, it is essential to find skincare products that gently promote skin cell turnover without further drying out the skin. Dr. Green recommends using a lactic acid-based cleanser to exfoliate the skin while moisturizing it gently. Alternatively, patients can use an AHA & BHA peeling solution to exfoliate the skin and boost skin cell turnover for clearer, brighter skin. Patients with acne-prone or oily skin can turn to products with ingredients like aloe vera and glycerin for hydration and lightening.

How to take care of winter skin – get started today.

As winter approaches, finding a skincare routine to keep your skin hydrated throughout the arid months is essential. Both inside and outside, moisture levels in the air decrease during the wintertime, which can strip the skin of moisture and natural oils, leading to dry, cracked, flaky, irritated skin. To combat dry winter skin, patients should look for hydrating cleansers, thick moisturizing lotions, and creamy sunscreens to attract and seal in moisture. It is best to avoid skincare products and activities that can further irritate and dry out the skin, such as scented soaps, harsh scrubs and exfoliates, and hot showers. With so many treatment options available, choosing skincare products that will be best for you during the cold winter months can be overwhelming. Luckily, experienced board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michele Green is an expert at creating individualized skincare regimens to meet each patient’s unique needs.

Dr. Green is an internationally renowned board-certified dermatologist with over two and a half decades of experience providing some of the world’s most discerning individuals with the best cosmetic dermatology has to offer, including personalized skincare routines. Dr. Green takes a holistic approach and embraces a less-is-more philosophy regarding facial rejuvenation and skincare, working with each patient to develop a perfect plan for their skin type. She is consistently voted as one of New York’s best dermatologists by Super Doctors, Castle Connolly, New York Magazine, and the New York Times for her dedication to her patients and expertise. Please call us at 212-535-3088 or email our New York City-based office today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Michele Green and improve your winter skincare routine to achieve a healthy, radiant complexion year-round.

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