This blog post may contain affiliate links and *PR-Samples. Please read disclaimer.
After what seems to have been the shortest fall in history, the cold and harsh winds are upon us.
Cold and harsh are of course widely exaggerated if I compare my comfortable home in Heidelberg, Germany to where my brother in law lives, up North in Norway, but it is still cold enough for my skin to need special treatment.
So while I take care of body and soul with cozy knits and hot chocolate (a cup a day keeps the doctor away), I have worked out how to best take care of my skin in winter. And other than my hot chocolate I am willing to share these tips!
Everything is summed up nicely in the video below and again written out for further reference underneath.
Which problems does our face face (sorry, I had to) in winter?
Cold winter weather decreases the amount of fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol in our skin. As these form a protective barrier, their loss leads to an increase in Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL) and general inflammation (read more about that here).
While it is cold, sebum flows more slowly, which means that it is more likely to get stuck in your pores (aggravated by a slower shedding of dead skin cells) and that your skin looses its own natural occlusives. Occlusives are important though to stop water from evaporating (TEWL, read here about occlusives).
To make things even worse, once we turn on the heating, the humidity in the air decreases to around 24%, which means that, you guessed it, water is even more likely to evaporate.
The result? Dry, dehydrated, irritated skin that is prone to breakouts.
So what is there I can do? I am glad you asked…
Make gentle a priority
Choose the gentlest cleanser you own (I have shelved all my purifying and clay based cleansers), ditch the cleasning brushes and maybe even consider reducing the cleansing frequency.
Ah, I have heard that gasp of horror there, but hear me out! I have been an advocate for Double Cleansing for many years, but today I am here to tell you I actually decided to try cleansing only once in the evenings (and once in the mornings).
Why? Because I have read interesting things about that and enjoy being a human guinea pig. Any chance you would like a video update once I have done it long enough?
Gentle Cleansers I recommend
Exfoliate (but with the right stuff)
As I mentioned above, when the weather gets colder, the dead skin cells don’t shed as easily. But as I also mentioned above, the skins barrier is already weakened and the skin irritated.
To exfoliate or not to exfoliate is the question now. No need to channel your inner Hamlet and ask a skull for answers though, I have your back.
I recommend chemical over physical exfoliant for more mature skin all year round, but feel like that is especially true in winter. There are different strengths, different molecules, basically the right one for every skin type and concern. My pick is The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (Review, perfect for spot prone skin and congestion), used twice a week. Once a week I add a Glycolic Acid, for example the pixi Glow Tonic* (Review), to combat texture and overall dullness.
Less is more here make sure not to overexfoliate. Depending on your skin type once a week should be suffice, twice a week if your skin is oily and congestion prone like mine.
Other acids you could consider are Lactic Acid if your skin is more sensitive or Mandelic or Azelaic Acid if acne and hyperpigmentation are your main concern.
Acids I recommend
Layer on hydration
Just like we layer longsleeves under our thick knit jumpers and a cashmere cardigan on top of that (just me?), it is possible (and recommended) to layer hydrating ingredients. Humectants are what you should look for – Hyaluronic Acid is the best known one, but I have others listed here – and to really get the most out of them, you should work in layers. Working in layers will give your skin time to absorb the products and will prevent the heavy and suffocating feeling thicker products can give.
I start with a face spritz (pixi Rose Glow Mist*, read here), follow up with The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B 5 (Review), add another layer of face spritz and then use THE INKEY LIST Q 10 on top, filled with humectants and emollients to keep the moisture inside the skin.
Hydrating products I can recommend
Use soothing ingredients
Even if you can’t see redness, inflammation in your skin is something that should be prevented. Why? Because inflammation leads to premature aging and can play a role in the development of hyperpigmentation.
Other than not further destroying your skins barrier (see points above), opt for ingredients that are specifically designed to repair and reduce inflammation.
A long standing favorite of mine here are Zelens Power D Treatment Drops (Review) which saved my skin numerous times already when I got too enthusiastic with retinoling.
Other ingredients to look for would be Allantoin, Aloe Vera and of course ceramides. You will find a few product recommendations below.
Another ingredient not directly aimed at soothing, but at strengthening the skins barrier would be Squalane in your face oil. Squalane is a precursor of cholesterol and thus will replenish your skin.
Soothing and repairing products I can recommend
Change your moisturizer
When the cold has arrived and you have switched to the thicker duvet, you should also swap your moisturizer. Go from waterbased to oil-based for that extra layer of protection or, if you like me need months to even go through one pot of cream, mix in a facial oil with your regular one.
I am a huge fan of rosehip or jojoba oil as they never feel heavy or greasy on my skin.
Face oils I can recommend
Don’t stop wearing your SPF
Yes, the sun has much less power in winter, but UVA is present all year round, so protection is a must if you are outside.
Sunscreen is the last step in my morning routine no matter the season, and it should be yours too.