When the cold weather hits, out come our winter coats, trusty ankle boots and heavy-duty skincare. Whether you're swapping your foaming cleanser for a hydrating version or factoring in an ultra nourishing moisturiser, it really does pay to tweak your skincare routine to combat the elements. But of course, things are a lot different this year.
In the age of coronavirus, when masks are mandatory, stress is at an all-time high and lots of us are working from home with the central heating on blast, skin is susceptible to a handful of bugbears, from winter maskne (acne caused by face masks) to atopic dermatitis or eczema. "Thanks to coronavirus, we've experienced interesting skin effects this summer," said Tom Allison, skin expert and global vice president of CeraVe. "Constant hand washing has resulted in overly dry hands, while face masks have caused pimples and irritation," he continued. "If there is a second wave, these skin issues could be worse because we haven't necessarily experienced them in the dead of winter."
Tom's answer? To winter-proof your skincare routine as soon as possible. That doesn't mean you have to give it a complete overhaul. In fact, these three simple tweaks will help.
Dry, dehydrated skin requires these two key ingredients
Hyaluronic acid is already a staple in many a skincare routine thanks to its ability to hydrate and plump up skin that is prone to feeling tight and appearing dull. It does so by attracting water wherever it can, from the environment or the deeper layers of the skin itself. In winter, the environment tends to be drier so to lock in that moisture and prevent the hyaluronic acid from drawing too much of it from the skin, Tom suggests applying skincare which boasts ceramides, too.
"Hyaluronic acid is key in the wintertime, especially as we all tend to dry out," said Tom, "but you should try to trap or seal that hyaluronic acid in with something," he added. "I love combining ceramides and hyaluronic acid because ceramides help support the skin's barrier. They trap in moisture so you'll get a better skin benefit than just using hyaluronic acid." Ceramides have also been touted by dermatologists as a wonder ingredient when it comes to treating atopic dermatitis, a common form of eczema characterised by itchy, dry, red skin.
If you're currently using hyaluronic acid in serum form (R29 rates Eucerin Hyaluron Filler Moisture Booster Serum, £25), applying a ceramide product like Holika Holika Good Cera Super Ceramide Cream, £24.95, Sunday Riley ICE Ceramide Moisturizing Cream, £60, or Pai Instant Kalmer, £49, over the top is effective. Or try CeraVe's Facial Moisturising Lotion, £13, which is a triple whammy with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and moisturising glycerin to keep skin soft, supple and hydrated. Plus, it's non-comedogenic, so is less likely to clog pores.
If your dry skin doesn't show any signs of improvement or if your skin is cracked and painful, make an appointment with your GP.
How to exfoliate your skin gently in winter
Maskne, aka acne while wearing a face mask, is caused by clogged pores as a result of friction from certain materials, alongside heat and humidity. To prevent breakouts, exfoliation is key, but exfoliating ingredients such as acids and retinol have the ability to dry skin out and that's the last thing you need in winter, when skin is already susceptible to parched, flaky patches. According to Tom, the answer isn't to skip exfoliation or spot treatment entirely but to buffer any strong ingredients with a gentle moisturiser first.
"Usually, you apply an exfoliator or spot treatment before moisturiser," said Tom, so that it penetrates the skin deeply, "but in the cold weather, it pays to apply a layer of moisturiser to your skin first, so it provides a barrier. You'll still get the exfoliating effect, but it isn't as harsh." Tom mentions that this is a trick lots of dermatologists tell their clients when using potent ingredients like prescription-strength retinol, which can cause sensitivity and flaking.
If you don't like using too many products, try Mario Badescu AHA & Ceramide Moisturizer, £18. Available at Beauty Bay, it features both alpha hydroxy acids for exfoliation and ceramides to moisturise deeply.
Follow this simple winter skincare routine
Cleansing should be the lynchpin of your morning and evening routine. "What cleansing does is normalise your skin's pH, which helps repair the skin barrier," making dry, irritated skin a thing of the past. It also eradicates dirt, pollution, SPF and oil, therefore unclogging pores and helping any skincare ingredients you apply to penetrate further, so you get the most out of your products. If your skin is prone to maskne, Tom suggests inserting a speedy afternoon facial cleanse into your routine using a gentle cleanser, such as CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser, £15, which is slightly alkaline so won't strip the skin. Also try The Organic Pharmacy Antioxidant Cleansing Jelly, £38, which transforms into a silky milk on contact with water, or the very gentle Dr Hauschka Cleansing Cream, £16.
Then it's on to the rest of your routine. "This has to consist of moisturiser to seal in moisture and stop harmful things from getting in," said Tom. And it's so important to use sunscreen. Yes, even inside. "When you're inside your home, you're still getting UVA and UVB radiation," said Tom, especially if you're sitting or working by a window, and even when it's cold and cloudy.
"The whole cleanse, moisturise and protect mantra is something that I would definitely recommend," said Tom, "and I would say that the evening routine is the biggest step." Tom continued: "When you're wearing a mask, you are onslaughting your skin. We should really prep our skin at night so that it can handle the next day's aggressions. Putting on a nice layer of moisturiser before bed is key, and you can factor in an acid exfoliator a few times a week."
Try Revolution Skincare 2% BHA Salicylic Acid Toner, £10, a gentle leave-on exfoliator which combats under-the-skin bumps, spots and blackheads. R29 also recommends PCA Skin Rebalance Moisturiser, £42, for its soothing effects and AHC Aqualuronic Face Cream, £32, which combines hydrating hyaluronic acid and glycerin.
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