Let’s be real: winter is the worst time for beauty lovers. Every time the cold season rolls around, it brings the inevitable feeling of dry, cracked skin with it. But contrary to popular belief, this is not something we just have to accept. There is a way (actually, many ways) that we can combat the dreaded “winter skin.” From sitting in overheated cars to forgetting to drink enough water, so many of the things we do contribute to the winter skin issues that many of us suffer from. We blame our bad skin on the cold weather, the wind and the lack of sunlight. But really, there’s more to it than just that.
I talked to Lorraine Willwerth, licensed esthetician and owner of Glow Skin Salon in Reading, Massachusetts, about the most important things to do (and to avoid) to keep your skin glowing and healthy throughout the season.
1. Don’t overheat your house or car
One of the primary causes of dry skin isn’t what you would first expect. Even more harmful than the freezing, dry, winter air is our heating systems; the forced hot air and hot water heating systems in many of our houses are the most drying. So, when you think it’s the cold air that’s making your skin parched and flaky, it isn't necessarily. “Even in our cars, we overheat ourselves,” says Willwerth. When we blast the heating vents on our faces (even though it feels great), “It’s like putting a hair dryer on your face,” she says.
If we just lower the heat a bit, we can do wonders for our skin.
2. Use a humidifier
Willwerth notes that heat from radiator heating systems are actually the best for our skin because they produce a moist heat. But if you don’t have any in your apartment there are some other, less expensive options.
First, try a humidifier. In the winter, the air feels so stale because all the humidity has disappeared, so a humidifier is a great solution. “That’s all I ever tell people in the winter is, yes, they have to change up their skincare, yes, they definitely have to moisturize, but [getting a humidifier] is the biggest thing,” says Willweth. “It can help your nasal passages and can help your sleep quality, too.”
But if you don’t have the time to go out and buy a humidifier (or if your campus housing doesn’t allow it), you can make one yourself by putting a bowl of water in the corner of the room near the heater so that it absorbs into the air.
3. Don’t forget to moisturize
We hear it all the time, but this really is one of the most important skin care tips no matter the time of year. “No matter who you are, if you’re an oily or a dry-skin girl, I’m always telling you to up your moisturizer—even for your whole body,” says Willwerth.
“I moisturize twice a day rather than just in the morning,” says Audrey Lent, a student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
While one good quality moisturizer is definitely enough, it never hurts to use more. Xandie Kuenning, a student at Northeastern University, uses multiple moisturizers each day. “I’ll use Clinique Moisture Surge before I put on my makeup to keep my skin hydrated during the day, and then at night I use the Trader Joe's rose water facial toner spray after cleansing my face so the cleanser doesn’t dry it out,” she says.
Whether you moisturize once, twice, or five times a day, just remember to do it at all.
4. Drink a lot of water
Again, this is something we hear constantly, but it’s especially important in the wintertime. In the summer, it’s always hot, we’re sweating, and we find it a lot easier to drink water. But in the winter, all we want is coffee, hot chocolate and other warm, caffeinated drinks to get us through the day — and we we often forget water entirely. “Try hot water with lemon or herbal teas, so you can still have that cozy feeling while still getting hydration,” suggests Willwerth.
Even if you can’t reach the recommended two liters of water per day, try to get at least some water in, even if it’s after your daily dose of caffeine.
5. Don’t forget your SPF
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean the sun hides behind clouds all day (even though some of us may beg to differ). It’s still just as important to pile on the SPF every day.
“Winter sun is just as damaging as summer sun, it’s just because we’re so cold that we don’t feel it. We love that warmth of the sun to get rid of the cold chill in the air, but honestly it’s so damaging,” says Willwerth.
I’ve you’ve ever come home from a day of skiing with a sunburn and thought, “Wow, how did that happen?” Now you know why. The sun’s rays aren’t any weaker just because the weather is colder. Plus, plenty of foundations, moisturizers, and serums include at least 15-25 SPF, so there's no need to slather on a thick sunscreen in the dead of winter.
It’s important to exfoliate to clear your pores and get rid dead skin all year round. In the summer months, we usually don’t need to as much. In the winter, though, it’s a different story. Our skin isn’t producing as much oil, which means we need to do even more work to keep it as glowy and clean as possible
“My skin gets dry AF during the winter and the Buffy or Scrubee bars at Lush are a godsend. They’re exfoliating and really moisturizing!” says Hannah Langley, a student at University of Utah. Exfoliating with a scrub, a cleansing brush, a salicylic acid or some sort of gentle exfoliant once a week in the winter will really, really help your skin.
7. Remember to get enough sleep
“Obviously if you’re sleeping better, your whole body is going to feel better,” says Willwerth. That’s also true for your skin. Sleep is important for a lot of reasons, but helping your skin is not a benefit of sleep that many people know about. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body is in a constant state of stress—we all know what stress does to our skin. (Hello, acne!) Nighttime is the perfect time for your skin to repair itself from the stresses of the day, so when you’re cutting that short, you’re increasing the likelihood of inflammation and acne.
If you follow all these steps, or even just two or three of them, you’re bound to have better, healthier-looking skin throughout the whole winter. Grab your favorite herbal tea, lather on your best moisturizer, set your thermostat to moderately-high heat, and settle in for three months of your best skin yet.
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