How To Tailor Your Skincare Routine To Winter Without Breaking Out

Photographed by Kate Anglestein
When the weather changes, so does our skin. Cold wind, central heating and other environmental factors have the ability to knock it out of whack – cue dry patches, tightness and fine lines, among other bugbears. These new concerns often mean the skincare products we used religiously over the summer and into autumn might not be cutting the mustard when it comes to delivering adequate hydration and moisturisation.
At this point, it's probably a good idea to switch things up, swapping lighter, gel-textured products for something a little more substantial in terms of ingredients and texture. But according to Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and author of The Skincare Bible: Your No-Nonsense Guide To Great Skin, many of us are making the mistake of overhauling our entire skincare routine in one go – and this could be a recipe for disaster, especially if your skin is reactive.
"Cold weather and central heating result in less humidity in the environment and more evaporation of water, otherwise known as increased transepidermal water loss from the skin surface, leading to dryness," explained Dr Mahto, which is why it pays to invest in products that keep moisture under lock and key when the temperature drops. But whatever you do, don't introduce them all at the same time. "Making a large number of changes to your skincare routine in one go has the potential to disrupt your skin barrier which can result in further dryness, irritation, sensitivity and even eczema or dermatitis," said Dr Mahto. "Start with one product and gradually build it into your routine as tolerated before, adding in extra steps or layers. This will minimise irritation and dryness."
So what should you look out for? "With moisturiser, ingredients tend to fall into one of three categories: humectants (an ingredient which retains moisture in the skin, eg. hyaluronic acid), emollients (which sit on the surface of the skin and prevent water from escaping) and occlusives (which form a protective layer over the skin to trap in moisture)," Dr Mahto continued. "Some ingredients have more than one function. For those with dry, very dry or mature skin, using moisturisers high in occlusives or emollients, for example, glycerin, can be beneficial." R29 recommends La Roche-Posay's Toleriane Riche, £16, and CeraVe's Facial Moisturising Lotion, £12, over serum or on their own after cleansing.
"It can also be helpful to layer skincare and use a hyaluronic acid serum underneath a regular moisturiser if the skin feels dry or tight," added Dr Mahto, who also pinpoints being particularly careful when supplementing your skincare routine with active ingredients such as AHAs, retinoids and antioxidant serums, which have more of a potential to cause irritation if not used carefully.
And if your skin gets dry and tight when it gets colder but you also deal with acne, ditch the emollients and occlusives, which could further clog pores, and stick to humectants. "Those with acne-prone skin can benefit from humectant-containing moisturisers such as hyaluronic acid or the use of products with additional ingredients such as salicylic acid or niacinamide." For a niacinamide hit, try Medik8's Breakout Defence + Age Repair, £35. Alternatively, Dr Frances Prenna Jones' Formula, £49, contains glycerin and salicylic acid to moisturise and exfoliate simultaneously (apply this before moisturiser) while The Inkey List's Hyaluronic Acid Serum, £4.99, shuttles moisture into the skin and is best layered underneath moisturiser.
Finally, remember the golden rule: introduce layering or any new, thicker products into your winter skincare routine gradually.

More from Beauty

R29 Original Series