How To Fight Dry Winter Skin

Expert tips to prep your skin for the cold.

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Dry hands, irritated skin, chapped lips—those are just a few of the telltale signs that indicate winter has arrived. Thankfully, a little bit of prep goes a long way in keeping your skin healthy through the next few months. To help you navigate the cold days ahead, we asked Vancouver-based dermatologist Dr. Frances Jang and Montreal-based celebrity “skin strategist” Jennifer Brodeur—who has worked with the likes of Michelle Obama and Oprah, and who has her own skincare line, JB Skin Guru—to share their favourite hydrating ingredients and winter-ready products, as well tips on how to get glowing skin all year round—even when the mercury drops.

Look for signs of dryness

“At first, the signs are barely noticeable,” says Brodeur. “It may start with a feeling of tightness, then, as foundation is applied, it looks rough and flaky, and scaling becomes apparent even without makeup. Fine lines look more visible, redness arises and patches of grey or ashy skin are harder to cover,” she adds. Jang explains that you should keep an eye on how sensitive your skin is and monitor worsening patches of eczema, as those are clues that your skin is feeling the effects of the change in temperatures.

Pinpoint the causes of dry skin

Cold weather can cause your skin to be drier than usual, but it’s not the only factor that’s contributing to your winter beauty woes. Both Jang and Brodeur say that indoor heating is a frequent culprit, whether that’s from blasting the heat in your home and office or the hot air in your car. This, Jang says, causes your skin to get dry and flaky, and it can even cause dryness around your cuticles, which can lead to cracked nails. Other things to watch out for include wool clothing, which may irritate your skin, and hot baths and showers.

Switch up your skincare

“As winter approaches, I suggest switching some of your skincare products to help with hydration,” says Jang. “For the face, using a heavier moisturizer or a face oil may help maintain skin hydration, while using a cream or oil-based exfoliant instead of a dry one will help prevent aggravating the skin.” Start using a hydrating cleanser, says Brodeur, which will help ensure that your skin’s natural oils aren’t stripped during your daily routine. Whenever possible, try to use a gentle cleanser in the evening and just use water in the morning.

If you don’t want to give up your lighter moisturizer once winter rolls around, Brodeur suggests adding a few drops of face oil to to your day cream to give it a hydration boost. If you aren’t sure what your skin needs to make it through winter, Jang recommends visiting a skincare professional to evaluate how you can best maximize your skin’s health throughout the colder months.

Don’t forget your sunscreen

“It’s important to continue using SPF 30+ when it gets cold, as we still experience significant level of UVA during the winter months, even in a temperate climate,” says Jang. If you’re an avid skier or snowboarder, SPF is essential when hitting the slopes as the higher altitude and the UV rays that get reflected off the snow can cause serious damage.

Invest in a humidifier

Brodeur suggests investing in a humidifier to minimize dryness. “To maximize the amount of water in the air, place a humidifier in the bedroom, since that is where you spend the most time,” she explains. “A cool air humidifier increases the moisture level in the air, which helps your skin’s barrier to stay hydrated.”

Look for these key ingredients

To really amp up your skin’s hydration, both Jang and Brodeur sing the praises of hyaluronic acid, a substance naturally produced by the skin to help retain moisture. Applied topically, it can plump your skin and boost your natural moisture levels. Thankfully, the ingredient can be found in many moisturizers and serums at every price point. Brodeur also suggests scanning product labels for natural humectants, like glycerin, aloe and honey, which help draw moisture into your skin. Omega fatty acids are another hydrating heavyweight to look for. Often found in face oils, they serve as the essential building blocks of the skin’s surface, creating a smoother, younger-looking and healthier complexion, no matter your age or skin type, says Brodeur. She likes sunflower seed oil, peoni root extract oil and sesame oil as they have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.