Even if winter is your favorite time of year, you have to admit that it can be a little harsh on your skin. From the cooler temperatures to the whipping winds to the lack of humidity in the air, your complexion faces it all and shows it. So, what can be done? We asked a few dermatologists in New York City to dish on the four biggest winter skincare hang-ups and how to help your complexion glow all season long.
Psst…For more self-care reads, check out A Mom’s City Guide to Self-Care in New York City
1. Dry and Flaky
Go right ahead and blame the cold weather for your dry patches but don’t stop there. We hate to say this but you’re most likely the culprit for your dehydrated skin. Taking long, hot showers (when you can!) and over-cleansing can have your face begging for moisture, according to New York City dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, Josh Zeichner, MD. These habits can disrupt the skin barrier and lead to dryness and inflammation.
Dr. Zeichner recommends keeping your shower routine to 10-minutes or less using only lukewarm water, never hot. Then, always apply moisturizer immediately after. Skin can be slightly damp, to seal in hydration.
When it comes to selecting a facial lotion, “look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which binds up to 1000 times its weight in water or one that contains ceramides to help strengthen the surface of your skin,” says Dr. Zeichner.
In the winter, you’ll also want to limit the use of retinols, manual facial scrubs or chemical exfoliates to once or twice a week. Exfoliating more often, especially when experiencing dryness, will cause irritation and redness.
2. Dull Complexion
Remember a few months ago when you were basking in the sun at the beach or enjoying a walk through Central Park? Well, as nice as it was, all that excess sun exposure and environmental pollution has a habit of catching up with your skin. “It causes uneven tone, texture, plus, it breaks down collagen adding wrinkles,” says cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, Y. Claire Chang, MD.
When winter hits, your skin starts to dry out and this highlights the appearance of those fine lines making your complexion look like you haven’t slept in weeks.
But before you throw a pity party for your skin, there are ways to fight back and get your glow on.
Before applying your daily moisturizer with SPF, add a light layer of facial serum enriched with antioxidants like vitamin C or niacinamide to your regimen. “These ingredients help your skin stand up to the elements while evening out pigmentation and ultimately brightening up your entire face,” says Dr. Chang.
She also recommends exfoliating at least once a week with an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) like glycolic acid or a Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) like salicylic acid to gently dissolve dead skin cells that clog pores and bring down your radiance.
3. Stressed Skin
Sure the holidays might be over but they’re probably still affecting your skin. One of the biggest factors is psychosocial stress, which increases cortisol levels and causes inflammation in the skin. “Add the many nights of poor or lack of sleep and you’re left dealing with unhealthy looking skin,” says Dr. Chang.
What’s worse is that these culprits can cause inflammatory skin conditions, like acne, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis to flare up.
Chronic stress also has been shown to accelerate aging of the skin, adds Dr. Chang. So yeah, the holidays take a toll on you in more ways than one.
She recommends practicing regular de-stressing techniques (go ahead and book that yoga class!), sleep well (if only the kids would!), and eat a healthy diet (you can do it).
You can also try anti-inflammatory ingredients like tea tree oil and green tea to soothe and calm skin from excess stress.
4. Cracked Lips
“Unlike the rest of your body, your lips have no sweat or oil glands, meaning they lack the protective layer that keeps them smooth and moisturized,” says New York City dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weil Cornell Medical College, Marnie Nussbaum, MD.
The skin upon your lips is also extremely thin and delicate. So it’s no wonder you have more issues with them during the colder months. The constant change from cool outdoor temperatures and dry indoor heat causes your lips to dry out fast.
When you’re battling cracked lips, never pick or peel them. This can make them feel worse, advises Dr. Nussbaum. Also, avoid licking your lips since the saliva quickly evaporates and makes them even drier (it’s a vicious cycle!).
The best way to prevent or treat dried out lips is to apply a hydrating lip balm after you cleanse your face, brush your teeth and before going to bed at night. Invest in one that’s formulated with oil and wax. These occlusive ingredients give you a better chance of sealing in moisture.
Pamper Your Skin
Hit up your local drugstore to score one (or all!) of these complexion heroes.
Remove a days worth of dirt and oil with Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser ($10) without drying out your skin thanks to the built-in glycerin, a humectant that attracts water to boost hydration.
Protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun (yes, even in the winter!) with La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid and SPF 20 ($36). The combination of hyaluronic acid and glycerin will keep your skin looking plump.
Bring balance to your face while you sleep with Aveeno Ultra-Calming Nourishing Night Cream ($19.50). Within a week you’ll notice softer skin and a lot less redness thanks to the oat and calming feverfew complex. Bonus: It’s fragrance-free!
Carve out 15-minutes and apply the Garnier SkinActive Moisture Bomb The Super Hydrating Sheet Mask ($3). There’s half a bottle of serum packed with hyaluronic acid and pomegranate extract in each packet to help you look radiant, instantly.
The magical mix of beeswax, sunflower seed oil, coconut oil and shea butter found in eos Super Soft Shea Lip Balm Sphere ($3) will treat your lips while sealing in moisture.
Vitamin C doesn’t just ward off a common cold, when applied topically it boosts radiance and neutralizes aging free radicals. Wake up your skin with a daily dose of L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum ($30).
Eat Your Way to Better Skin
“To keep your skin healthy and hydrated, try the Mediterranean diet,” says Dr. Zeichner. Eating fish, like salmon, provide the body with omega fatty acids to help reduce inflammation. Also eating powerful antioxidants like green leafy vegetables (think spinach and kale) and colorful fruits (like pomegranates and grapefruit) help to fight cellular damage to keep your skin looking youthful.
• Run a humidifier while you sleep to help parched skin look supple.
• A daily dose of Aloe Vera gel will soften dry patches.
• After a workout use micellar water, which helps remove impurities without stripping your delicate skin, to freshen up. One to try: Simple Kind to Skin Micellar Cleansing Water ($5)
• Avoid excess consumption of alcohol and coffee, which can cause your body to lose water.
Splurge on Your Skin
Treat yourself to a facial at one of these three top spots
1. Kate Somerville Clinic – Midtown
235 W 57th St.
2. L’appartment Caudalie – Upper East Side
819 Madison Ave. #4A
3. Organic Pharmacy – Greenwich Village
353 Bleecker St.