For most of us in the U.S., the past couple weeks have been brutally cold. Blizzards, freezing rain, record low temps and the like can do a number on our overall well-being (no one has ever wished me a “happy winter” like they do in the summer months!). But, they can also mess with our skin in a bunch of different ways. With these arctic blasts come a severe lack of humidity in the air, and most likely, some visible flakes, dry patches, dullness, redness, or peeling on your skin. Wonderful!
You’ve all heard that we should tweak our skin care routines with the changing seasons, but there’s a little more to it than just reaching for a thicker, more emollient moisturizer (which could lead to breakouts and congestion if it’s the wrong one for your skin type). There are ingredients like retinol or glycolic acid that can work wonders on your skin one month — then, with a drop in temperatures, suddenly turn on you! So, while there’s little we can do to warm up our days and nights, we can improve the health of our skin with a few easy additions and subtractions to your current routine.
Start from within
As we dive deeper into winter, look at your diet and how it might be affecting your skin. As I mentioned in January, your diet (especially if it’s high in sodium, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol) can play a huge role in what’s going on with your skin. If you lean toward having more of a sensitive, pink cheeked, pre-rosacea type of skin, steer clear of foods that make you “blush and flush," like red wine, tomatoes, spicy foods, and dairy. To combat dry, flaky skin in the winter, reach for foods or a supplement rich in omegas 3’s and GLAs to replenish lost lipids in your skin — walnuts, salmon, sardines, flax seeds, and evening primrose oil all nourish skin from within.
If you suddenly notice your skin has dry, scaly patches, it’s peeling in places, or stings or bites when exposed to the cold, then it’s time to switch your cleanser. Anything highly foaming, artificially fragranced, with scrubbing beads, glycolic acid, or high levels of acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide may over-strip natural oils, remove too many cells, and compromise the skin’s barrier. Switch to a creamy, fragrance-free gentle cleanser for the winter months. Your skin should not feel tight, look red, or sting once you’ve toweled off. And, if it is, consult with a skin care professional on finding a more suitable option.
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It’s a myth that you should avoid exfoliating completely when temperatures drop. In fact, gently sloughing flaky cells will brighten skin and aid your soothing serum and moisturizer to get in and do their jobs. Be sure to choose a micro daily exfoliation product rather than using power tools (like at-home dermabrasion gadgets and spinning brushes), crushed nut shells, or concentrated acids. Choose a renewal serum that you can mix with your moisturizer to buffer the effects — or, pick an exfoliating fluid applied beneath your moisturizer that hydrates and calms with aloe and hyaluronic acid but stimulates new cells from below with ingredients like lactic acid, salicylic acid, hibiscus, apple, and citrus fruit extracts.
Radiant orchid pink maybe Pantone’s pick for 2014’s color of the year, but it’s never in style for your face. Reduce the red by using a calming spritz throughout the day when your skin feels itchy and hot. For serious sensitivity and irritation, add a concentrated calming serum to your regimen, or a weekly masque. Look for one with skin soothing botanicals like oat kernel, ginger, panthenol, sunflower, and avocado oil. These also work wonders for any skin irritation emergency from bug bites and nickel allergies, to eczema ailments like itchy inner elbows and knees, all exacerbated in winter months. Dry, sensitive types have a higher tendency toward redness and fragile capillaries, so it’s best to neutralize and diminish the appearance of pink cheeks and red noses with a green tinted primer or concealer applied beneath your makeup. Look for one that does triple duty of hiding, treating, and protecting with SPF from natural earth minerals, zinc oxides, and extracts of chamomile, green tea, and licorice to tone down redness.
So, what happens if you’ve followed my recommendations to a T, but are still struggling with redness, flakiness, or dryness? Start investigating your products’ ingredients. Retinoids, retinol, benzoyl peroxide, and hydroxy acids can be tolerated in warmer months when oil production is optimum but not in lower humidity times.
Figure out your skin care needs and choose ingredients that foster skin’s integrity, rather than compromise it.
As Dermalogica's in-house skin care guru (oh, and their Director of Global Education), Annet King is an invaluable trove of beauty know-how. Luckily, she's letting us pick her brain on everything from hyperpigmentation to the best supplements for your visage. Prepare to get schooled.