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The transition from fall to winter can wreak havoc on even the hardiest complexions. And it's not just the drop in temperature outside that's to blame—switching on that cozy-making central heating and seeking solace in hot bubble baths play a part too. "When there are rapid changes in temperature, such as coming inside into a warm environment from the cold, water will evaporate more quickly from the skin due to the stark difference between inside and out," notes Dr MJ Rowland-Warmann, founder and lead clinician at Smileworks. "This is made worse by the fact that in cold weather the humidity decreases, putting extra strain on the regulation of hydration of our skin. The result is that more water is lost and the barrier function of the skin can be compromised as a result, causing it to become red, dry and flaky. We often see these changes first on the lips."
While the super-cold weather may not have hit yet, prevention is always easier than cure. Thus, we called on skin experts to reveal their top tips for keeping skin happy and glowing from now through winter.
Choose a Hydrating Cleanser
Effective cleansing is the cornerstone of any good skincare routine to remove dirt, impurities and makeup that can cause blemishes, but you should also look to a cleanser with benefits. "Some cleansers can dry skin out, which is especially bad in winter because the cold air is already doing a good job of dehydrating your complexion," says Dr. Marc Ronert, Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of IMAGE Skincare. "The key is to find a cleanser that’s hydrating and removes all those problem-causing impurities."
Look to a cleanser that boasts ingredients like hydrating hyaluronic acid. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Cleansing Gel & Oil-Free Makeup Remover with Hyaluronic Acid ($10) is a good choice for spot-prone complexions, while a cleanser with skin barrier-bolstering ceramides, like CeraVe Hydrating Face Wash ($14), is ideal for dry skin types. Ronert recommends the IMAGE Vital C Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($30), a creamy cleanser that's infused with Vitamin C. "Vitamin C helps brighten the appearance of skin and the creamy texture of the cleanser actually works to hydrate skin while cleansing too," notes Ronert.
Exfoliate For Glow
It's so hard to achieve glowing skin without a little exfoliation. "The process helps unstick lackluster, dead skin cells so that newer, healthier cells underneath can radiate," says Dr Ronert. PHA is a next-gen exfoliator and gentle enough to use on even the most sensitive skin. Click here to find out the best acids to use for every decade of your life.
Choose an Antioxidant-Rich Serum
Serums are the best way to deliver active ingredients deep down into the skin, thanks to their lightweight texture. "Antioxidants have the X-factor when it comes to winter skincare," notes Dr Rowland-Warmann. "Skin is damaged by free radicals, which are substances that are released by the cells in response to stresses such as sunlight, pollution and smoking. These are even more damaging if the skin’s barrier function is reduced in the winter due to dryness or dehydration. Antioxidants include vitamins, plant extracts and coenzymes, which reduce skin breakdown."
Dr Rowland-Warmann recommends keeping an eye out for serums containing the following antioxidants:
- Vitamin C: "This is an essential in the metabolism of collagen within the skin. I recommend Vitamin C serums in the morning, as it increases the efficacy of your sunscreen." (Ed note: which you should wear daily, even in winter).
- Vitamin A: "Also known as retinol and used at night, it reduces damage caused by sunlight and reverses so-called photoaging. Vitamin A also makes the epidermis (the outer layer) thicker, providing the skin with more protection. Retinol can be a little drying in the winter and care should be taken if using products containing it so that they don’t irritate the skin. It’s wise to start with a low-dose retinol and work up the strengths when the skin is used to them."
- Vitamin B3: "Also known as niacinamide, this is a useful ingredient in reducing water loss through the skin and improving the barrier function."
Shop Byrdie-approved antioxidant-rich serums below:
Add a Layer of Hydration and Lock It In
Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL) occurs in winter when the humidity decreases in central-heated offices and homes, and subsequently, moisture is drawn out of the skin and into the air. Add a hyaluronic acid serum to your routine to boost your hydration levels, but be sure to follow it with a moisturizer. “Moisturisers will bind and retain water, in addition to forming a protective seal preventing further water loss," explains aesthetic doctor, Rita Rakus.
And don't forget to moisturize your lips, too!
Turn Down the Water Temperature
It may be very tempting to ramp up the temperature in your bath or shower, but it's not the best idea for your skin.
"Hot water is likely to harm the functions of the skin rather than help them," says Rowland. "Hot water will cause dehydration of the skin as it tries to regulate temperature, and due to the water, oils from the skin will be removed which would otherwise protect it from the elements. This will again reduce the barrier function, as these lipids play a vital function in antimicrobial, antioxidant and skin permeability function and preventing water loss.
What’s more, Rowland notes that changes in the pH of the skin can alter the behavior of the barrier; a long soak in water can change the pH of the skin for several hours and make the protective layer less effective.
Opt for a warm bath or shower and follow up with a skin barrier-boosting moisturizer.
Add An Oil
"If your skin is still feeling dry then I recommend adding a drop or two of light oil with your moisturizer so it can protect your skin against the harsh cold weather without feeling heavy and greasy," suggests Su-Man Tsu , celebrity facialist at the W Hotel in London. "Look for rosehip oil, apricot kernel oil, macadamia oil or walnut oil,"
Rub Your Ears
A slightly odd one, but Hsu recommends rubbing your ears 36 times to bring warmth to the body. "Rubbing your ears is not only good for health, but it instantly heats up your body temperature when you are feeling cold and can also help boost the circulation in your face," she says. Glow on and give it a try...
Get a Humidifier
This steamy invention prevents winter skin from drying out. In the summer, the air is usually humid, which helps your skin stay hydrated and supple. In winter, the air is cold and dry, so your skin isn’t able to absorb as much water from the surroundings to keep your skin hydrated. "Putting out a humidifier has the same effect in that it adds humidity to the air that your skin can use," says Ronert. "This will help soothe dried-out, itchy, and cracked skin suffering from harsh winter weather. Just make sure to seal in this extra hydration with a moisturizer!"
Get Hydration Injected
There are certain in-clinic treatments that can boost your skin's hydration from the inside out. Volite involves multiple injections of hyaluronic acid the plump the skin; you can read our review of Volite here.
For seriously dry skin, Preema Vig, Medical Director of the Dr. Preema London Clinic, says, Profhilo is a great treatment. It's a more intense version of Volite and involves slow-release hyaluronic acid being injected into the skin to boost hydration from the inside out. "This innovative treatment acts directly on skin laxity and combines bio-remodelling with an immediate tightening effect," explains Vig. "This injectable puts the ‘peachiness’ back into parched skin and provides deep-down, long-lasting hydration, which will help protect you against the bitterly cold weather in winter." If you're a newbie, try a Hydrafacial to clear out blocked pores and boost hydration.
During the winter months, many of us go into hibernation mode, exercising less and eating more comfort food. Unfortunately, this can lead to dull, lackluster skin.
"Investigate eating foods that contain omega oils, lots of hydrating capabilities and a wide range of vitamins and minerals to nourish the skin," advises Claudia Talsma, co-owner and director of Salcura Natural Skin Therapy. "Think of avocado, cucumber, spinach, lettuce and banana." Click here for 10 food scientifically proven to boost your skin.
Dr. Howard Murad, Board Certified Dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare, agrees. “Hydrating your skin from within is the way forward!" he says. "I always say you should eat your water by consuming lots of raw fruit and vegetables. During the winter months look out for foods, such as cold-water fish, ground flaxseeds, walnuts, goji berries and eggs.
He explains that these foods are fantastic at flooding your cells with water and keeping cells strong so they can contain the water, keeping you hydrated and healthy for longer. "Make sure you are taking the right supplements to ensure you are getting all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs too," he advises.
Read Murad's book The Water Secret to learn about hydrating your skin through diet.
Don’t Overdo the Skincare
You might be tempted to pack on the skincare when your skin is crying out for attention, but less is more. "It is important not to overdo the skincare in winter and overload the skin," warns Dr. Rowland-Warma. "Too much of a good thing can make the skin sluggish and block your pores, leading to more dull skin and more breakouts. It’s important to strike the right balance between helping the skin through the winter months and not overdoing it."
Makeup artist Joyce Connor suggests keeping a face mist close at hand at all times. "You can spritz these over the skin and even over makeup to hydrate your complexion throughout the day," she says. "My favorites are from Avène, Emma Hardie, and Mario Badescu."