Oprah’s skincare oracle Paula Begoun has something worldly wise to say about preparing your skin for winter:
“Simply put, weather is not a skin type. Buying skincare products based purely on the season is not only a waste of money, but also can make your skin concerns worse. As is always the case, you have to pay attention to what your skin is telling you, no matter what time of year it is. if going from summer to autumn and then winter changes your skin, then you do need to tweak your skincare routine; if it doesn’t change your skin, then there’s absolutely no reason to do anything differently.”
With that nugget of good old common sense digested, if your skin stops playing ball as soon as the clocks go back (this weekend FYI), there are a number of tried and tested tweaks you can adopt to tune it back up again…
Swap scrubs for a topical exfoliant
Grainy scrubs often quite literally grate on already sore, sensitised winter skin. Put the chunky stuff away and whisk away dead skin cells and flakiness with an exfoliating toner . Your skin will look brighter, healthier and smoother for it. Apply the same logic to your body if you’re noticing stubborn lumps and bumps; a rough scrub is better tolerated by the thicker skin on your limbs, but not always the answer, especially if your skin looks more than a little like a chicken’s (a condition known as keratosis pilaris). I have particularly persistent patches of KP on the backs of my arms, and have just started to treat them with localised application of Ameliorate Skin Smoothing Body Lotion , £27.50. Cheap it ain’t, but if those chicken bumps are grinding you down, the lactic acid in the cream’s formula will break down the keratin ‘plugs’ blocking you follicles that lead to lumpy limbs. It’s not sexy, but it is effective. Good exfoliation is not only efficient at seeing off rough, dry skin, it also makes any products that follow work harder, including your choice of moisturiser…
Swap or combine cream with oils
As most of us know, a good moisturising routine comes into its own as the weather gets colder, and rightly so in the view of dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto:
“Your skin forms a protective barrier against the elements and one of its main functions is to prevent water loss. In the winter months, there is less production of natural oils (eg, ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids), resulting in increased dryness, scaling and flaking of the skin.”
“It’s so important to moisturise regularly to combat winter dryness. Moisturisers will bind and retain water, in addition to forming a protective seal preventing further water loss. For best effects, this is ideally done after showering and then throughout the day as needed.”
Sandwich a nourishing oil between your serum and cream of choice for the ultimate in winter layering. Nude Skincare Progenius Rescue Oil, £58 is aptly named for purposes such as this; it’s light enough to layer yet is rich in protective antioxidants. Follow in the evening with Vichy Idélia Skin Sleep Night Time Gel Balm , £26.50, and you’re winning.
Swap mousses and liquid cleansers for creams, oils and balms
Stay very far away indeed from foam; your face rarely appreciates a foam party, as it can make skin look and feel dry, weirdly squeaky and generally red raw. Find a cream, oil or balm cleanser suited to your skin type (and a toner too if you use it) and skin will feel soothed and balanced post-cleansing, rather than stripped. Clinique has a lovely range of fragrance free, skin kind cleansers (try buttery Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm , £22, if you’re as much of a makeup maniac as I am).
Swap gel nails for gloves
Okay, you can still indulge in a glossy gel nail for winter, but prioritise taking care of your hands at this time of year and your skin will thank you for years to come. Dr Anjali backs me up on this one:
“Get into the habit of moisturising immediately after washing your hands and keep a good hand cream on you at all times. Don’t forget to wear gloves when doing the washing up at home either. For a luxurious hand treatment when you’ve got a bit more time, use a thick hand cream before putting on a pair of thick cotton gloves for an hour or so. This will really soften hands up.”
Our hand cream of choice is Prismologie Pink O’Clock Hand and Cuticle Cream . Its clever combination of antioxidant rich botanicals encourage cell communication and optimise cell turnover, making hands not only feel well cared for but also look as youthful as possible, which is handy for when the gloves come off.
Swap flip flops for proper foot care
During the summer months chances are a sandy beach or salon based therapist will buff away hard skin, but when the temperature drops many of us forgo fancy footwork completely, despite the fact that this is probably when our toes need TLC the most. Dr Anjali advocates maintaining a simple routine for soft, healthy extremities:
“Gently scrub the feet with a pumice stone or foot file regularly to remove any dead skin. After you shower, don’t forget to moisturise your feet.”
A Prismologie pedi will take care of Hobbit hooves; just massage in a blob of Indigo Interlude Foot Cream, £28 to feel light footed once more.
Swap suds for scalp soothing shampoos
Think ‘skincare’ and paying heed to your scalp may not immediately occur, but many people suffer with dry, itchy scalps when the cold sets in. Dr Anjali recommends trying ‘an oil treatment on the scalp’ followed by an appropriate shampoo to ease symptoms. Philip B Rejuvenating Scalp Oil , £33, quite literally gets to the root of the problem, and for the ultimate in winter indulgence treat yourself to a Philip B Hair and Scalp Facial, £80, at DryBy and pray for a Christmas bonus. Failing that, a hat won’t go amiss on blustery days.
Swap coral lips for caring balms
By all means keep the summer colour palette alive if you so wish, but that Costa Del Sol coral won’t look quite so hot on cracked, painful lips. Buff off flakiness with a warm flannel or lip scrub if you’re feeling fancy, and reapply balm whenever you notice dryness or chapping. Dr Lipp Miracle Balm, £12 hydrates without stickiness, and thankfully doesn’t reek of strawberries or cupcakes either.
Swap wool for cotton or silk
Dr Anjali may be a dermatologist, but she’s a sartorialist too in the sense that she knows her fabrics:
“Wool can be extremely irritating to dry, itchy skin. It may be better to layer your clothing with natural fabrics such as cotton or silk. These prevent overheating and allow the skin to breathe.”
If you ever needed an excuse to splash out on that silk shirt, you’ve got professional accreditation right here. It’s basically skincare.
Swap self-diagnosis for specialist treatment
When the mercury drops, skin issues can be magnified. Dr Anjali urges you not to suffer in silence:
“Many underlying skin conditions can get worse in the winter months, for example eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. If you suffer with any of these or notice any skin problems becoming significantly worse in the cold weather, arrange to see your family doctor or a dermatologist to discuss a suitable treatment plan.”
Don’t swap sunscreen for anything
Dr Anjali stresses that SPF is non-negotiable:
“Sunscreen isn’t just for the summer months and should be worn throughout the year, as there’s damaging UV radiation around no matter what month we’re in. Sunscreen should be broad-spectrum, offering UVA and UVB protection with an SPF of at least 15. This is particularly important if you enjoy outdoor hobbies such as running, hiking or snow sports. Regular sunscreen use all year round is like insurance: it will help prevent against the development of skin care and premature ageing.”
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Follow Dr Anjali on Twitter @DrAnjaliMahto