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How to Keep Dry Skin Hydrated in The Winter

When you combine colder temperatures, drier air, and a compromised skin barrier, it’s common to experience dry winter skin.

Article Overview

  • Colder temperatures, drier air, and a compromised skin barrier can lead to dry skin, which is usually caused by dehydration when moisture evaporates from the skin.
  • Harsh winter weather, both outdoors and indoors, can strip the skin of its natural moisturizing oils and damage the skin barrier, resulting in dry and uncomfortable skin.
  • Moisturizers with humectants like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin can attract moisture to the skin and help seal it in.
  • Emollients derived from plant-based sources can replenish the natural oils that dry winter skin lacks, maintaining the skin's moisture balance.
  • Occlusive ingredients like petrolatum can create a physical barrier on the skin's surface, sealing in moisture and repairing extremely dry or cracked skin.

Dry skin is a skin type, and if you have it you’re daily routine is likely comprised of hydrating skincare products year-round—but all types of skin can experience heightened signs of dryness during the wintertime. Unlike dry skin that doesn’t produce enough natural oils, weather-induced dry skin in winter is usually due to dehydration, which occurs when moisture evaporates from the skin.

What Causes Dry Skin in Winter

Seasonal changes can have an impact on the skin, and harsh winter weather can be particularly challenging. Cold air outside lacks humidity and blustery winds can strip the skin of its natural moisturizing oils, leading to chapped skin that may become uncomfortable and inflamed.

Indoors, artificial heat creates a dry environment that can cause the skin to lose moisture as well. And if you take hot showers or baths to warm up, this extra heat depletes skin lipids and contributes to “winter skin.”

The combination of these outdoor and indoor conditions impacts the skin barrier, which is a main cause of dry skin in winter. You can think of a healthy skin barrier as a brick wall, where the skin cells are the bricks and lipids (including ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids) hold everything together. When functioning optimally, the skin’s barrier creates a tight seal that helps keep moisture within the skin while preventing environmental aggressors like irritants from entering. Whether due to winter environmental conditions, over-exfoliating, or a professional procedure, a compromised skin barrier can lack essential lipids, which allows moisture to escape.

Signs of Dry Skin in Winter

The skin can experience a variety of side effects when cold weather damages the barrier. Flaking and rough patches are among the most common, and skin on the entire body can be affected. This can also lead to a dull complexion and interfere with makeup application. If dry winter skin goes untreated, painful cracks can develop, especially on the lips, hands, and heels.

Other signs of winter skin can include redness, which is more likely in those with lighter skin tones. Skin-barrier damage may also lead to itching and stinging—and make already-sensitive skin more reactive and uncomfortable.

How to Keep Skin Hydrated in Winter

The good news is, it’s rather easy to improve the symptoms of “winter skin” with an effective hydrating skincare routine. Moisturizers are key, since these products supplement the skin with moisture while helping to seal it in. There are three main types of ingredients to look for in a moisturizer for dry skin in winter, and many effective moisturizers are formulated with a combination of them.

Humectants: These ingredients help attract moisture to the skin and include hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin.

Emollients: The role of these ingredients is to replenish the natural oils that dry winter skin lacks. Oils derived from sunflower seeds, grape seeds, and other plant-based sources are effective for maintaining the skin’s moisture balance during cold winter months by filling gaps in the skin’s barrier.

Occlusives: When the skin barrier is compromised, occlusive ingredients such as petrolatum create a physical barrier on the surface of the skin to seal in moisture. Moisturizers that are highly occlusive are essential for repairing extremely dry or cracked skin.

How to Keep Skin Hydrated in Winter

Improving dry skin during winter can be as simple as incorporating more hydration into your skincare routine with cleansers, serums, and moisturizers. If you currently use a gel or foaming cleanser, a creamy formula such as our Gentle Cleanser can help soothe and comfort the skin.

Gentle exfoliation can also help improve dry skin in winter, since a buildup of dead cells can limit the skin’s absorption of hydrating ingredients. Retexturing Activator is an effective skincare solution for winter skin because it provides both exfoliating and hydrating benefits while reinforcing the skin barrier—and it’s suitable for sensitive skin.

SkinCeuticals offers several moisturizing options for dry winter skin. Hydrating B5 Gel is a serum that provides an intense surge of moisture that can be incorporated into any skincare routine. With a high concentration of hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5, it helps bind moisture to the skin without clogging pores.

For intense hydration and anti-aging benefits, Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 features a patented ratio of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids to replenish these essential components of the skin’s barrier, visibly improve radiance and smoothness, and support the skin’s natural self-repair.

To help protect the skin barrier and minimize dry skin in winter, it’s especially important to make a broad-spectrum sunscreen part of your morning skincare routine. UV rays can impair skin-barrier function, even while driving or walking to and from your car. Remember, the sun reflects off of snow and water, which makes sunscreen imperative regardless of the season.

Lifestyle Tips for Improving Winter Skin

A skincare routine that provides hydration and protection from the elements is the ideal first step for improving dry skin in winter. However, a few simple lifestyle adjustments can help counteract the effects of winter weather and support the skin barrier as well.

  • Stay hydrated: When your environment lacks humidity, it’s important to drink plenty of water to keep your body and skin hydrated.
  • Use a humidifier: Infusing extra moisture into the air in spaces you spend a lot of time in (such as your bedroom or office) can help enhance the skin’s hydration levels. If you have a radiator, you can also place a bowl of water on top so as heat rises, it takes water vapor along with it.

To discover the ideal skincare routine for dry skin in winter that meets your skin’s hydration needs and addresses your primary concerns, use our online Routine Finder, visit one of our SkinCeuticals SkinLab locations, or schedule an appointment with a SkinCeuticals Skincare Professional for a one-on-one consultation.

Next: How to Choose the Moisturizer for Your Skin Type

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