When the winter chill sets in, your skin requires extra care and attention. This colder season can be particularly harsh, leading to skin concerns like dryness, peeling/flaking, irritation and eczema. To get a better understanding of what happens to your skin during winter, we asked dermatologist and SLMD Skincare founder Sandra Lee, MD (aka Dr. Pimple Popper). Here is her guide to help you navigate the winter months with confidence.
What happens to your skin in winter?
During winter, your skin faces a battle against cold, dry air, which can lead to dehydration, sensitivity, and a dull appearance. “The air inside is often drier than the air outside — we have the heater on and the air is being recirculated,” explains Dr. Lee. “Drier air leads to drier skin.”
Here’s what’s happening:
- Moisture loss. The cold weather and indoor heating systems can significantly dehydrate your skin.
- Irritation and sensitivity. A weakened skin barrier during winter can lead to increased sensitivity and redness.
- Dull complexion. The lack of natural moisture and harsh conditions can leave your skin looking less vibrant.
Dr. Pimple Popper's Winter Skin Picks
Dr. Pimple Popper’s winter skin hacks
Winter skincare is all about maintaining hydration and protecting the skin barrier. As the weather changes, so should your skincare approach. But it doesn’t have to be complicated, notes Dr. Lee — these simple adjustments to your routine should do the trick.
Upgrade your moisturizer
Ensure your moisturizer is rich in both humectants, which draw moisture, and emollients, which seal it in. This dual-action approach helps keep skin hydrated and protected. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, squalane, colloidal oatmeal, and ceramides.
“A lot of people make the mistake of completely drying off before applying lotion, which is going to dry you out and irritate skin right when you get out of the shower.” says Dr. Lee. “I highly recommend applying your moisturizer right when you get out and are still damp to lock in that moisture right away!” She also encourages dialing back the water temperature, since very hot water can lead to moisture loss.
Instead of one heavy cream, layer multiple lightweight products to build hydration. Start with a hydrating serum, follow with a lotion, and seal it in with an oil or heavier cream if your skin is super dry. This layering technique allows each product to be absorbed efficiently and provides deep, lasting hydration. “When my skin is feeling particularly parched, I go for a serum with hyaluronic acid and squalane which are super moisturizing ingredients,” notes Dr. Lee. “I also apply this serum to my cuticles, chapped lips — even my hair.”
Use a humidifier
You can help combat the drying effects of indoor heating by using a humidifier in your home or office. A humidifier adds moisture back into the air, which helps prevent your skin from drying out. This is especially beneficial for sensitive skin types prone to dryness and irritation in winter. As a bonus, the moist air is also beneficial when you’ve got a cough or wintertime sniffles — just make sure you change the filter regularly and keep your machine clean.
Make healthy choices
When the weather outside is frightful, it’s tempting to slack off on your skincare routine and spend more time on the couch with comfort food. While junk food doesn’t directly cause acne, what you eat — along with how much sleep and exercise you get — does play a role in your skin health.
If you’re prone to the winter blues, stress hormones can compound skin issues, and even exacerbate skin picking. “Touching your skin constantly and picking at it can also definitely exacerbate skin conditions or create irritation,” Dr. Lee explains. “The goal is to try to break that habit. Cover the area with a bandaid, or better yet, a spot treatment, and stay true to your skincare regimen.”
Dr. Lee's Last Word
Keeping your skin healthy during the wintertime doesn’t have to be complicated. Stick to your routine, make sure your skin is well moisturized, and don’t take super hot showers that damage your skin barrier.