You probably know all too well the havoc that winter can wreak on your complexion, especially if you're prone to sensitivity. Cold wind, a drop in humidity and cranking up the central heating at every opportunity can leave skin dried out, tight, dull and all-round stressed – a far cry from that covetable summer glow.
At this point, you might go from a relatively low-maintenance routine to slathering your skin in thick creams and enlisting harsh exfoliators to keep flaky patches at bay. And I get it. Even though I'm a skincare obsessive, I’ve given in to the urge to try abrasive scrubs and mechanical brushes to get rid of dryness followed by cloying creams which kept the cold at arm's length but were incompatible with my twentysomething skin.
One thing that I found helped was a good, hydrating facial every now and then, but during the winter months (when Christmas and New Year parties always drain your wallet) it's hard to keep on top of them. Luckily, I realised that I could actually give myself a twice-weekly winter facial with products which were already part of my skincare routine. Even better? Everything costs a fraction of the price of a professional treatment, and my skin has never looked better.
I personally prefer to use a chemical exfoliator as I find that it is gentler on my sensitive skin than a physical version (like a face scrub), which experts argue can cause small tears in the skin. This will often make dry, painful patches worse. There are two common types of chemical exfoliators: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). After cleansing with micellar water to get rid of all traces of makeup, I like to use a lower percentage AHA, like the Lacura Healthy Glow 5% Glycolic Acid. Available in various stores, it acts like a toner and glycolic acid gently exfoliates the top layer of skin. This one does so without irritation. If you can't find it in store, R29 recommends Soap & Glory 'In The Glow How' 5% Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Tonic, £12, as an alternative.
When it comes to acids, though, it pays to do your research. If you want to even out your skin tone and texture, opt for acids like glycolic or lactic acid. Salicylic acid is better for skin gripes like blackheads, as it exfoliates deeper inside the pore. It's all about trial and error and the key is finding one that works best for your skin specifically. Also, don’t forget to apply sunscreen during the day, as acids can make skin sensitive to UV.
No winter skincare routine is complete without hyaluronic acid. If you’ve tried it before and didn’t think it worked for you, it’s important to carry out step one and exfoliate your skin before using a serum like this. Dead skin cells may prevent formulas absorbing properly and working their magic.
You might be asking what's so special about hyaluronic acid. Well, it can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water and has the ability to disperse this moisture evenly to skin cells, upping hydration levels, smoothing lines and making skin appear plump with continued use. I apply this serum, which also contains vitamin B5 (a humectant that attracts water), to a damp face so that it can draw that moisture in. I pat rather than rub it into the skin. It's suitable for all skin types but is particularly great for people with dry or combination skin as it can just be applied to the parched areas. I like to avoid my nose, as it’s fairly oily. Instead, I concentrate it to my cheeks and forehead which are the areas that need the most help retaining moisture in the cold.
Mists can seem like a bit of an unnecessary step, but I'd say it's pretty important if your skin is craving moisture. I spritz this on and let it sink in for about five minutes before applying a moisturiser. Look out for mists that contain glycerin, a humectant that attracts water, similar to hyaluronic acid. Glossier's face mist does the job perfectly and also contains rosewater and aloe to soothe and hydrate further. If my face feels particularly dry during the day, I may enlist Pixi's Rose Glow Mist, £16, for an extra boost.
You only have to read a couple of reviews to know that Glossier's Futuredew oil in serum hybrid is good. It prevents my skin from feeling tight during the day and helps it to retain an Instagram-worthy dewiness. Not only does it make my skin look incredibly glowy, but the combination of plant-based extracts and nourishing oils lends a moisturising effect.
You might have read that I'm a huge fan of Superdrug's Vitamin E + SPF 15 day cream, which is brilliant, but for this type of facial I like to follow all of the above products with a richer moisturiser which absorbs quickly. I really rate Pai's Avocado & Jojoba Hydrating Day Cream, £36. It's a little pricier, but it was designed specifically for sensitive skin, which has me sold. It's incredibly nourishing thanks to avocado oil (brimming with vitamins A, C and E to encourage cell turnover and protect against pollution) and jojoba oil, which leaves my skin feeling silky. Combined with the above, it's the perfect addition to my routine in winter.
I've been following this amped up facial routine twice a week since the cold hit in early October, and I must say that my skin is in much better condition than it was this time last year. Not only is everything affordable compared to a spendy professional treatment, which can soar well into the hundreds (and by all means switch and swap things out depending on your budget or how dry your skin becomes), but I can do it in the comfort of my own home.
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