Your skincare routine really should change with the seasons. Every season brings new skincare challenges: Summer means heat rashes and sunburns, spring and fall bring allergies and changing temperatures, and winter requires protection from the wind, cold, dry air, and dehydrating heaters.
Fear not! Keeping your skin hydrated during the coldest months of the year doesn’t require a whole new cabinet of skincare products (although you might need a few). There are several options for habits you can implement to keep your skin moist all year round.
Why winter brings dry, itchy skin.
The dry, itchy skin that can’t be soothed. The painful rashes. The chapped cheeks and lips. What causes these common winter skincare ailments?
At the core of your winter skincare problems is dehydration. Yep, it may seem like dehydration is a more obvious problem during hot, sunny, sweaty summer days, but it’s actually a big problem during the winter months.
Cold weather constricts your blood vessels and makes you feel less thirsty. This response allows your body to stay warm by keeping more blood close to your core (no wonder your hands and feet are always chilly in the winter). But your hormones get tricked into thinking you’re properly hydrated, telling your kidneys to produce more urine than usual and making you even more dehydrated than you already were.
Dehydration doesn’t just affect your digestion and body functioning—it also reduces your healthy glow. Winter weather—dry air, windburn, and sun glare—just makes dehydrated skin worse, resulting in chapped, itchy skin that seems to absorb gallons of moisturizer to no noticeable effect.
Banish dry, itchy skin with these 9 daily habits.
We’ve compiled a list of 9 practices you can use to combat dry, itchy winter skin. Don’t worry—there are more solutions besides just lathering on the lotion. Follow these tips to achieve a winter glow:
- Use a humidifier. Sure, it’s dry outside, but bump up the moisture level at home by running a humidifier. Pumping up the moisture inside your home not only helps reduce stuffiness, but also allows your skin to absorb more water.
- Take shorter, cooler showers. Those long, hot showers that make getting out of the cold just that much nicer? They’re causing big problems for your skin. Turn down the temp to warm and set a timer to avoid aggravating and drying out your sensitive winter skin. And consider adjusting your bathing schedule to—dare we say it—every other day. If you’re not working out and accumulating sweat and bacteria, that daily shower isn’t really a necessity.
- Add a cream or ointment to your routine. Once you get out of the shower, conserve moisture loss by applying a rich, cream-based moisturizer immediately. Don’t even dry off first—seal that moisture in. Medical News Today recommends “creams containing hydrating ingredients, such as colloidal oatmeal, glycerol, shea butter, ceramides, petrolatum, or hyaluronic acid.”
- Bundle up. Insulating your body with winter layers has two primary benefits: It helps you stay warm, which in turn helps your blood circulate and keeps your thirst signals working, and it protects you from the elements. Bundle up with scarves, gloves, hat, and a warm coat when you leave the house to fend off windburn and chapping.
- Use a creamier cleanser. Instead of sudsy, detergent-based cleansers, try creamier solutions with natural ingredients including coconut oil and other natural oils, shea butter, and aloe. These keep your skin hydrated instead of stripping the moisture from your face.
- Try oil cleansing. It may seem counterintuitive to use oils to control oil production, but oil cleansing can benefit all types of skin: oily, dry, mixed, and normal. Instead of stripping your skin and causing increased oil production, oil cleansers and moisturizers work with your skin’s natural oils to keep your skin smooth and even. They’re rich enough to fend off winter dryness, but light enough to wear under makeup.
- Increase liquid intake. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! You might not be feeling as thirsty, but you still need to make hydration a priority when it’s cold outside, especially when you’re losing water every time you sweat or go to the bathroom. Carry a water bottle with you—choose room temperature water so you don’t shock your system—and make brewing an herbal tea a habit.
- Cut back on exfoliants. That harsh apricot scrub, the salicylic acid you smooth on every night, the frequent exfoliating masks—all of these exacerbate dryness and make your winter skin problems even worse. Fight acne by moisturizing your skin well instead of using solutions that will just make your skin a flaky, itchy mess. The harshness of exfoliating scrubs and masks might feel satisfying when you use them, but it won’t help your skin heal and hydrate.
- Apply sunscreen daily. Sunburn is just as much a problem in the winter as it is in the summer—the sun’s rays are coming right at you, and if there’s fresh snow, they’re amplified. The only difference is that you probably have less skin exposed. Use SPF moisturizers and lip balm to preempt sun damage, especially for the fragile skin of your face and neck.
Winter does a number on all of us, but it doesn’t have to. By adjusting your skincare routine to the season, you can have glowing skin all year round. Plus, following these skincare tips helps with whole-body hydration, too!