It comes around every year, winter, unlike in Game of Thrones, and each year we have to ask ourselves how to keep skin healthy in winter.
So Abigail James, ‘The Skin Coach’ who is known for her skincare knowledge, has shared some winter skincare solutions with me.
Why does skin dry out in winter?
Central heating is one of the biggest causes of sensitivity in winter, along with the cold itself.
So while the harsh cold air will strip your skin of moisture and make it sensitive, when you come home the hot air is very dry and so will, in turn, dry out your skin as well.
“Think back to when you were younger and you would collect conkers and put them in the airing cupboard to dry out, they came out hard, crisp and wrinkled,” says Abigail.
Winter skincare tip: If your house feels really warm and dry in the winter, I would suggest getting a humidifier or, if you prefer a DIY home remedy, place a small bowl of water on top of the radiator and you will find that over the course of the day the water will evaporate into the air. This increases the moisture in the air, meaning it will dry out skin less.
How to hydrate skin from the inside
Diet can really affect skin health. Be a squirrel in the winter, stock up on gnawing nuts; brazil, macadamia, pecan. “Pack in the root veg too,” says Abigail. “Things grow seasonally for a reason.”
The good fats and abundance of minerals found in nuts will help your skin to repair itself and hydrate from the inside out.
Skin can get dry and flaky in winter and while it can be tempting to reach for exfoliating products, this is likely to make things worse. This sensitivity needs to be treated before you exfoliate so as not to aggravate the problem area.
Use cleansing milks and seal in your skincare routine with oils and balms — and avoid aromatherapy as this can be an irritant. Tropical biotics are also really good as they help to support the skin’s pH levels.
“Peptides are also great as they help to support collagen production which is extremely important, as collagen acts as the building blocks for skin,” says Abigail. “Introduce little omega oil to help restore your protective barrier.”
How to stop dry lips
Lips are often the area of the face that suffers most in the cold winter air as they’re already more sensitive due to more nerve endings and a higher blood supply is rife.
People are often inclined to layer on lashings of lip balm in winter, but sometimes less is be more here.
“I think plant-based oils are the most effective types of lip balm,” says Abigail. “Mineral oils feel silky but simply coat the skin rather than treating it. They leave a film providing a little protection but also stop moisture from getting in.”
Look for coco butters, avocado oils, shea coconut and glycerine, and avoid synthetic fragrance as this can add to sensitivity.
Combination skincare tips
A really common winter skin complaint is the development of combination skin in winter. If you usually have oily skin, you might find the cold weather leads to dry cheeks with an oily t-zone left behind. This might mean you need to adapt your skincare routine.
You can multi-mask for specific areas of the face, such as clay masks on the T-zone and something more hydrating and soothing on the cheeks, like a honey moisture mask.
“I would recommend serums like hyaluronic acid, peptides and low-level retinol,” says Abigail. “All of these should be good for the whole face, you might just choose to apply less in certain areas.”
How to drink more water
“It’s so important to keep drinking water in winter! Cells need to be well hydrated; think grape and raisin,” says Abigail. “If cells aren’t properly hydrated then you are more likely to compromise the skin barrier function and be prone to sensitivity, chapping and dryness.”
In the summer the hot weather is a reminder to drink more water, but in the winter we experience water loss through the skin and so it’s just as important to stay hydrated.
Cells are 70% water so need it to function properly. Healthy cells result in a more rapid renewal rate and a more glowing complexion. A well-hydrated cell is plump and softens the appearance of fine lines.
Pale skin in winter?
“People often come to me in winter saying that their skin is looking duller and they want to know why,” says Abigail. “It’s no real mystery, we are in and out of cold temperatures. We go from being wrapped up warm to cold and then head into a house with central heating.
“Generally, the cold slows circulation as the body is keeping the vital organs pumped with blood. There are also external elements at play here. During winter, we tend to eat more hearty, heavy, and sluggish forming foods. Plus, our deep tan from summer is now a thing of the past so our paler skin may feel duller.”
Another factor is, when we’re cold the body pulls blood vessels away from the surface of the skin to keep the heat, so our skin is literally less flushed.
Winter skincare swaps
You may not need to totally overhaul your skincare routine when the seasons change but a different climate will definitely have an impact on the skin. If you have dry skin, you could try adding a water/gel-based cream in before a heavier cream at night. Or simply add in a moisture mask once or twice a week.
Get into mixing up serums; omega oils and face masks are also amazing during the colder months.