For all those in favor of healthy and intact skin this winter, here are a few suggestions for keeping your skin from falling off (at least until April).
Ahh winter. A time of swirling snow, cozy nights by the fireplace, carefree jaunts through an iced-over wood and mugs of steaming cocoa. Right…if you live in a Disney movie. For the rest of us, winter typically means pushing through heavy wind and dodging freezing snow for the shelter of a room that will be full of hot, dry, moisture-sucking air. So much for those visions of carefree snowball fights and rosy cheeks.
And as if battling arctic weather weren’t bad enough, you’ve also got to contend with what it can do to your skin. Because the thing about winter skincare is that it’s not just a case of, “oh I’ll deal with it once I notice a problem.” No, this isn’t a haircut you get on a whim because you woke up after having a dream about pixie cuts. Winter skincare is about being proactive and then maintaining so you don’t have to chase a problem and hope you can figure out a way to fix it.
Put your trust in oil.
The true power of a great face oil is that it will prevent moisture from evaporating from the skin. Since moisture is in short supply during the winter, and the moisture your skin does manage to retain will likely be sucked up by dry air from a heater, keeping as much of it in as possible is crucial. If you’re game, try swapping your standard daytime moisturizer for a lightweight oil like rosehip to ensure your face is ready for the day’s elements. (Oil under makeup will also impart a lovely, soft dewy-ness if that’s something you’re into.)
And at night, definitely incorporate an oil into your skincare routine if you haven’t already. Not only will the oil be able to work its restorative magic while you sleep, but it’ll also seal in everything else you put on your face before it, securely locking it all in for the evening. Just be sure to apply the oil last (remember, lightest to heaviest) or else anything you put on next won’t be able to reach the skin.
To get the most out of your oil, you’ll also want to pay attention to how you’re applying it. If your skin is raw or sensitive from the weather, the last thing you want to do is haphazardly slap product on your face and vigorously rub it in. (Actually, you never want to do this, even if you have the healthiest skin in the world.) Instead, add a few drops of oil to your palms and gently rub ‘em together to warm up the oil and wake up the active ingredients. Then place both of your hands against your face and push, like you’re giving yourself a very gentle hi-five, and repeat over your whole face for 30 seconds. Why the elongated application? It’s kinder on your delicate skin, it helps with blood flow, and it pushes the oil deeper into your skin without disturbing the carefully layered products you’ve already applied.
Choose your moisturizer wisely.
If your skin needs it, by all means add a moisturizer to your routine as well. A great, lightweight moisturizer applied beneath an oil is an unstoppable combination. The moisturizer gets to the heart of the skin’s hydration needs while the oil locks it all in. That said, be sure to choose your moisturizer carefully: opt for one that’s free of petroleum-based ingredients like paraffin wax, mineral oil and anything that ends in -eth. Ingredients like this can actually do more harm than good by temporarily hydrating skin, only to block pores and cause skin to suffocate. Instead, find a moisturizer with nourishing, gentle plant-based ingredients and an oil base. Water-based creams are fine in warmer weather, but a moisturizer that has an oil base will help keep the good-for-you ingredients in the skin (see the first point for why!).
Though it may seem counterintuitive to scrub your skin when you’re trying to get it to stay put, exfoliating is an integral part of winter skincare. As we try to get as much moisture as possible into the skin, we need to clear a path for those products to penetrate. If there’s a bunch of dead skin cells hanging around, that path is blocked and our skin stays thirsty. Using oil and moisturizers regularly won’t do you any good if you’re not starting with a primed surface, so remember to exfoliate at least once a week.
If you like a physical exfoliant, opt for a powder you can add moisture to. These will effectively get rid of dead skin without stripping your face of natural oils, and offer a choose-your-own-adventure scenario when it comes to the moisture component. If you’re feeling particularly flakey, adding less water will force a bit more elbow grease. Want to use it as a mask, too? Swap Manuka honey for water and let it sit for a while before gently sloughing it away. You can also use this type of exfoliant on your lips, neck, chest, hands…anywhere you want to feel smoother.
Rethink your cleanser.
Your skin is already dealing with enough dehydrating factors — don’t willingly add another to the list with the wrong cleanser. If your standard face wash contains an acid (glycolic or salicylic) or is super foamy, consider a cleanser rotation. Use a hydrating, non-drying milky cleanser that contains hydrating ingredients in the morning and your standard one at night. Or go every other day. Find a pattern that works for you, or just listen to your skin and wash it with a product that makes sense given how it’s feeling at the time.