Winter Skincare Routine: What Dermatologists Want You to Know

Come winter, it’s not only your closet that needs switching but your winter skincare routine too! Those lightweight moisturizers you’ve used the entirety of September might not work as well during December.

With colder temperatures, expect moisture being suck out of your skin and essential oils stripped. These unfortunate conditions can cause sensitive skin, redness, and irritation. 

To keep your skin healthy and happy throughout the winter, follow these recommended skincare tips by certified dermatologists from New York City, Doris Day, MD, Joshua Zeichner, MD, and Hadley King, MD. 

Don’t Overhaul

When we say switch up your winter skincare routine, we don’t mean completely changing the entirety of your products. All you might need is some swaps and additional products to combat the bleak winter skin. 

Dr. Day advises, “Take a look at how your skin changes and adjust or switch out the products accordingly. In general, you need to be careful to use more gentle cleansers and richer moisturizers.” 

Keep a lookout on your skin and see how it reacts to the environment and weather changes. Instead of completely shifting to whole new skincare products, make simple product changes that help the skin adapt to the change. 

Cleanser Swap

Foaming cleansers are fun to apply to the skin but they are not doing that much to protect it. 

Dr. Zeichner says, “Foaming or salicylic acid-based cleaners are great at removing dirt and oil, but contain sulfates that can be more drying than other types of cleansers. Cleansing creams, balms, and oils can effectively wash the skin while keeping the skin hydrated and not disrupting the skin barrier.”

If you are prone to pimples, you might have to think twice with your acne-focused skincare with ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. When excessively used, these ingredients can worsen skin dryness. 

Don’t overdo exfoliating

When exfoliating is done right, it can be the next best thing you can do for your skin. Done right, that is. Gentle (gentle!) exfoliation is a big help in removing dead skin cells from the dry winter air. This leaves the skin looking more glowy. 

But don’t overdo it. 

According to Dr. Zeichner, “While exfoliating can help brighten the skin by removing dead cells, overdoing it can disrupt the outer skin layer, leading to dryness and irritation. Exfoliate once per week, and advance to twice weekly if you can tolerate it.”

Short shower time

Wintertime seems like the perfect time for long, hot showers but don’t. 

According to Dr. King, “Take brief lukewarm showers no more than once per day. And immediately after the shower, while your skin is damp, apply rich moisturizers to lock in hydration. You should use enough to leave the skin feeling well hydrated, which means you may need to apply more than you do in summer months.” 

Prolonged hot showers can strip the natural moisture of your skin and leaves you with even drier skin. If you are flaking, try dry brushing, a method where you lightly brush your skin in a circular motion. It’s perfect for exfoliating winter-induced dry skin and promoting lymphatic drainage. 

winter skincare routine

Skincare Layering

Just like how you’ll layer your winter outfit to keep warm, your winter skincare routine should be the same way to prevent overdrying. 

“Layering allows you to address multiple skin concerns with different products at the same time,” says Dr. Zeichner.

A quick guide to skincare layering is to go from lightest product to heaviest. For example, water toner then serum, and lastly moisturizer. 

Dr. King also recommends looking for these essential ingredients: ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, bakuchiol, and botanical oils. When combined, they soothe inflammation, restore hydration and strengthen the skin barrier. 

SPF is important over the summer for the damaging UV rays but it’s just as important for the winter skincare routine as well.

“Even incidental sunlight exposure adds up over a lifetime,” says Dr. Zeichner. “While the effect of the sun may be stronger over the summer, you are not immune from potential UV damage during the winter. In fact, UV light reflects off of snow so you can get a bad sunburn even in the dead of winter.”

Use overnight masks

Face masks are everyone’s cup of tea now. But if it weren’t for you, the wintertime is the best season to start. There are a lot of different types of skincare masks, the pretty common ones are those you put on and leave for 15 to 20 minutes tops and it brightens and hydrates your skin. 

But don’t underestimate the power of overnight masks and what it can do for your winter skincare routine.

Overnight masks are specifically designed to be the final step of your skincare routine. One of their main function is to lock in all those products you’ve applied before. 

According to Dr. Zeicher, “Your skin undergoes circadian rhythms. Skin hydration levels start to decline in the afternoon and continue overnight, so p.m. masking is extremely helpful to keep the skin hydrated.”