How To Take Winter Skin From Blah To Beautiful (Yes, It's Possible!)

The thermometer's dropping, the wind is blowing, and you can't even remember what humidity feels like. Yep, it's the gray dead of winter, and chances are, your skin is feeling it. The rough weather can wreak major havoc on skin, lips, cuticles — you name it, and it's probably in a dry, flaking tailspin right about now.
Anyone can slap on some moisturizer, but to get the real deal on winter's biggest skin gripes, we reached out to Scottsdale, Arizona-based dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Linder (who also happens to be PCA Skin's chief scientific officer). Dr. Linder is full of smart, scientifically-based advice that might surprise you (bet you never thought that acne might be caused by a lack of fatty acids in the skin). Read up on her genius tips; they'll help you get — and stay — super-soft for the rest of the season!
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You want: a hydrated, healthy complexion
You need: a moisturizer with the right stuff

To counteract the drying effects of winter cold and wind, it's important to pick not just the right product, but to check the ingredient list as well, says Dr. Linder. "There are a few excellent ingredients that are able to actually penetrate inside skin cells to provide intense hydration," she explains. "Glycerin, water and urea are the only ingredients that can pass through these aquaporins (water channels) into the cells."

For maximum benefit, Dr. Linder recommends starting with a good hydrating serum and sealing the deal with a thick moisturizer.

Photographed by Erin Yamagata
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You want: a clear complexion
You need: an oil change

When it comes to breakouts, Dr. Linder has a surprising solution for fighting acne. "Believe it or not, acne-prone skin is thought to be deficient in essential fatty acids," says the derm. "These beneficial oils are crucial to healthy skin, and when they are lacking, the skin compensates by producing excess sebum, which is irritating to the skin and can exacerbate breakouts." What to look for? Scan the ingredient list for sources of Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids, such as borage oil and evening primrose oil. For body breakouts, a soap with salicylic acid will clear skin without causing irritation.

Photographed by Ryan Koopmans
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You want: that lit-from-within glow
You need: regular exfoliation

"Skin can appear dull if the surface cells are not turning over and being exfoliated properly," says Dr. Linder. The best way to brighten skin at home? An exfoliant with synthetic beads, not natural grains. "Use gentle exfoliants to remove this impacted surface," she says, "but avoid scrubs that contain crushed nut pits, as these can cause irritation," she says.

Photographed by Ryan Koopmans
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You want: soft, chap-free lips
You need: ingredients that lock moisture in

The chill in the air can take a major toll on the delicate skin of your lips. "Saliva can contain elements that are irritating to the lips in the winter," Dr. Linder explains. "It is important to use both humectant and occlusive ingredients on the lips, so you can hydrate and trap the moisture within. Some good ingredients to look for are shea butter, aloe, and safflower, sunflower and castor oils."

Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
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You want: smooth skin from head to toe
You need: the ol' buff-and-slough

One of the most dreaded winter-skin conditions? Keratosis pilaris, otherwise known as that red, bumpy skin that can occur on the backs of your arms. "The best option for treating keratosis pilaris is a regimen that removes excess surface cells, keeping the follicles clear," Dr. Linder says. In addition to using a salicylic acid soap, she recommends a gentle exfoliating lotion — preferably one with lactic acid, which is safe for sensitive skin.

Photographed by Maia Harms
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You want: flawless hands
You need: extra protection

For baby-soft, young-looking hands, you'll want to use a moisturizing hand cream with an SPF — yes, even in the middle of winter. Dr. Linder recommends a cream with at least SPF 30 to moisturize and prevent UV damage, which can be especially conspicuous on the hands.

Photographed by Nina Westervelt / MCV Photo