This Simple At-Home Facial Has Transformed My Dry Winter Skin

Photographed by Kate Anglestein.
Unless you live somewhere where it's 70 degrees year round, 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 tight, dull, and all-around stressed — a far cry from that coveted 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 skin-care obsessive, I’ve given in to the urge to try abrasive scrubs and mechanical brushes to get rid of dryness, followed by cloying creams that kept the cold at arm's length but were incompatible with my twenty-something skin.
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Photo Courtesy of Ellen King.
Before my DIY home facial...
Photo Courtesy of Ellen King.
...and after.
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's parties are already draining your wallet, it's hard to keep on top of them. Then, I realized that I could actually give myself a twice-weekly winter facial with products that were already part of my skin-care routine. Even better? Everything costs a fraction of the price of a professional treatment — and my skin has never looked better.

The Exfoliator: Pixi Glow Tonic

I personally prefer to use a chemical exfoliator as I find that they're gentler on my sensitive skin than a physical version like a face scrub, which can cause small tears in the skin and make dry, painful patches worse. After cleansing with micellar water to get rid of all traces of makeup, I like to use a lower-percentage alpha-hydroxy acid like this one, which has 5% glycolic acid. You can use it like a toner for gentle exfoliation without irritation.
When it comes to acids, it always pays to do your research. If you want to even out your skin tone and texture, opt for alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic or lactic acid. Salicylic acid, or beta-hydroxy 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. And don't forget to apply sunscreen during the day: Acids can make skin extra sensitive to UV rays.
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As far as I'm concerned, no winter skin-care 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 more 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, patting rather than rubbing 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 reserve it for 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 in my experience, I'd say it's pretty important if my skin is craving moisture. I spritz this on and let it sink in for about five minutes before applying a moisturizer. 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 for an extra boost.
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The Facial Oil: Glossier Futuredew

You only have to read a couple of reviews to know that Glossier's new 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 moisturizing effect, too.
I like to follow all of the above products with a rich moisturizer that absorbs quickly, like this one from Pai. It's a little on the pricy side, but it was designed specifically for sensitive skin, which has me sold. It's incredibly nourishing thanks to vitamin-rich avocado oil 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... and did I mention it's winter?
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