The coldest time of year is here (on our half of the equator) and with it comes dry, dry, dry skin season. Since even our warmest states are seeing crazy low temperatures right now (my thoughts and well wishes go out to all those currently without power) I thought as a Minnesotan who has been through more than enough -30 degree winter days, I’d share a few helpful tips on how to battle the elements that may be leaving you looking older, feeling itchier, and literally flaking from the face down.
The secret of winter skincare may surprise you, but to make it simple all you really have to do is imagine that it’s summer. Yes, you read that right — caring for your skin during the winter is almost identical to what we do in the summer, we just forget to do it because it isn’t as obvious and in our face.
From avoiding hot showers and drinking more water like we do when it’s scorching outside to upping our moisturizer (ie sunscreen) game, you’ll see what I mean in similarities from coming back from the beach or back from the ski slopes with the six tips below.
1. Stay Away from Hot Showers
We all know how good it feels jumping into a steaming hot shower when it’s freezing outside, but this makes number one on my list of wintertime no-nos. When we take a hot shower it can strip the natural oils from our skin which are what help to keep it hydrated.
Because hot water evaporates so quickly, if we don’t immediately moisturize our skin after drying off, the cold-weather cracks we get expose deeper layers of our skin to the air. That means the surface level of our dry skin runs deeper than it usually does, making any cracks (ie fine lines and crows feet) more noticeable and leaving us looking more “aged.”
Cranking up the heat inside will also dry out the air and have the same effect on your skin. This tip kind of sucks too, I know, but grab a sweater, keep the heat as low as you can, and cozy up — your skin will thank you.
So, no hot showers in the summer equals no hot showers in the winter, either.
2. Moist Air Means Moist Skin
Summertime can be brutally humid but all that extra moisture in the air does anything but leave our skin looking dry and cracked. So, sticking with out winter-time summer skin care regimen, it’s critical to keep moisture in the air. If you live in a cold-weather climate like I do, during the winter that comes from a humidifier.
Whether you keep your little steam machine running all day or just when you sleep you’re doing your skin a huge favor and keeping yourself looking younger by controlling the environment you’re in. I just keep one running in my bedroom and mine cost about $50 and monitors the air to keep just the right amount of moisture in it. It’s the easiest (and laziest) way to get this one right.
3. Moisturize Early and Often
Seems obvious, right? Just like we would put on sunscreen multiple times in the blistering heat of summertime, we need to stick with the program and use our (thicker) moisturizer more liberally in the winter.
Looking younger and having hydrated skin all comes from trapping as much moisture as possible inside our skin. Lipid-rich oils like coconut oil, tea tree oil, and argan oil put on before a moisturizer do just that.
Thicker moisturizers mean more moisturize. So, during winter months, it’s a good idea to swap out (or start using if you currently aren’t) your year-round moisturizer for something thicker that comes in a jar and not something with a pump. Just make sure it’s meant for your face, as moisturizers meant for the rest of our body can be too thick and clog our pores.
Always, always, always, use a moisturizer at least right after showing and drying off in the winter.
4. Use Gentle Products
What does that even mean, gentle products? Similar to when we get a summertime sunburn, winter conditions damage our skin, too. So, when my skin is burnt should I exfoliate and scrub it more often? Ouch. Nope I should not. When it comes to washing our skin in the winter less is usually more.
I know we all like smelling good, but another winter-time summer skincare must is to give up scented body soaps. Because our skin is dryer, it gets irritated much more easily, so it’s important to swap out your scented go-to for something a bit more gentle.
For those of you gentleman wearing cologne, aim for your clothes, NOT the face.
5. Remember to Hydrate
I’m a big fan of scientific approaches to problems and I know those who are skeptical about whether the most expensive skincare products on the shelves actually do anything will appreciate this one. Moisture comes from within as much as it does from any fancy product we slather on ourselves. So this tip, which is an important and easily forgotten one when we’re cold, is quite simply to drink a lot of water. We do it automatically when it is hot out, we just tend to forget to do it when it’s cold.
If you’re anything like me you may forget (and just not want) to drink cold things like water when you’re already cold and substitute it for a nice, hot, dehydrating coffee — but hydrating from within should remain as much of a focus in the wintertime as it is during summer months.
6. Try a Weekly Face Mask
I know we don’t all do the most for our skin and I only recently started using masks at all, but during the winter I have definitely found them to be one of the big game changers for hydrating my skin (and looking less aged).
I’ve yet to use a lot of the fancy masks out there, but my favorite kinds (because they’re just so easy) are “sheet masks”. They are exactly as they sound and are basically a hydrated sheet you pull out of its wrapper, with eye holes that you put on your face for for about 20 minutes. Simple enough with instantly noticeable results.
I can tell they’re really working because when I pull the thing off now vs summertime there is barely any moisture left in it and my skin looks noticeably nicer which I can only assume means it’s all gone into my face.
So, whether you’re a tough guy or not, give the sheet mask a try this winter. It definitely makes a big difference for me.
There are endless articles you can find about skincare, and I could go on and on about it, but to keep it simple — winter is the new summer (for now). So moisturize regularly, keep some steam in the air, and stay hydrated, safe, and well.
Photography: Roger Vekstein (IG: @rogerveksteinph)