5 tips to avoid dry skin and breakouts in the cold

  • Winter can be a drying time for any skin type.
  • Wash with warm — not hot — water and apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp to lock in hydration.
  • Different skin types can opt for gel versus ointment, but hyaluronic acids and ceramides are essential for everyone.

Moisturizer is an essential part of any skincare routine year-round, dermatologist Ife Rodney told Insider.

But the cold, dry winter air will only make your skin dry out more quickly, so applying creams and lotion is especially vital when the temperature drops.

For people with inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, the change of seasons can also trigger flare-ups.

Whether your skin is red and flaky or just drier than usual, here are a few easy ways to update your daily skincare routine for winter.

Wash your face with lukewarm water and a gentle cleanser

Even if you’re someone who washes your face with soap and water, half of that equation can dry out your skin.

While it may be tempting to warm up in the hot water, the high temperature can break down your skin’s natural protective barrier. Rodney recommended using lukewarm water in the shower and especially when washing your face.

As far as products go, Rodney recommends sticking with a gentle cleanser to remove any grime on the skin. Anything harsher, such as a toner or other alcohol-based products, can strip the skin’s natural oils and cause dryness.

Apply a moisturizer while your skin is still damp

To prevent skin from drying out after a shower, dermatologist Marisa Garshick suggested applying a thick layer of moisturizer after gently patting skin dry. This helps to seal moisture into the skin.

Rodney also said she likes to apply moisturizer when her skin is still damp.

“It completely melts in,” she said. “You’ll see that the moisturizer is so much more effective and your skin just feels softer and nourished.”

Choose a water-based moisturizer if you’re concerned about acne

Even people with oily skin can suffer from a dry winter. Overdrying from wintry air or harsh acne products can trigger the skin to produce even more oil, fueling the cycle of pimples.

“I’ve found that by consistently moisturizing the skin, you can also have fewer breakouts and less severe breakouts from your acne,” Rodney said. “It can really help prevent not only dryness, but the overproduction of oil that sometimes occurs when our skin is dry.”

The key to hydration for acne-prone skin is choosing a water-based gel or cream, Rodney said. While most oil-based products stay on the skin’s surface and can potentially clog your pores, a water-based moisturizer will “melt into the skin” without making it shiny.

People with naturally dry skin can tolerate a heavier ointment or cream, Garshick said. Dr. Muneeb Shah, another dermatologist, previously told Insider that he recommends “slugging” with a thin layer of petroleum jelly to heal dry or cracked skin.

Look for ingredients to attract and retain moisture

Regardless of your skin type, you should pay attention to hyaluronic acid and ceramides when choosing a moisturizing product. Hyaluronic acid attracts a lot of moisture and ceramides help lock it into the skin.

Hydrating with ceramides is especially important for people with darker skin because they have less of the skin’s natural glue. Ceramides restore that protective barrier and help skin retain other essential ingredients, so people of color are more prone to dryness.

Dryness on dark skin also appears white or ashy instead of red, and the light patches may take longer to heal, Rodney said.

Don’t hesitate to apply again

After applying moisturizer in the morning, Rodney said to “listen to your skin” and reapply if necessary.

People need different levels of hydration, so there’s no point starting with a specific plan to hydrate five times a day if your skin doesn’t call for it. Scaling, redness, and other color changes can indicate that your skin is thirsty.

Regardless of your skin type — be it dry, normal, combination skin, or your skin tone — everyone just needs to practice these gentle skincare habits and incorporate a good moisturizer into their daily routine,” said Rodney.

5 tips to avoid dry skin and breakouts in the cold

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