Winter feels like it’s well and truly here, bringing with it knee-high boots, an excuse to cuddle up on the sofa watching reality TV on a Saturday night and Christmas presents. And also, for many of us, an emergency skincare regime to mend skin ravaged by the cold, humid weather and the annual switching on of the central heating.
“Cold snaps and central heating can all contribute to a break down in the barrier function of the epidermis,” explains Dr Darren Mckeown. “The epidermis is the top layer of skin and its main function is to act as a safety barrier between us and the rest of the world. When it gets broken down, it doesn’t retain water properly and the result is dry, flaky skin.
“It also means bacteria and pollutants can affect the skin more, creating redness and breakouts.”
To prevent this happening, winter skin needs a little extra care and a lot of extra moisture.
[Related: The 10 best body exfoliators for winter skin]
Follow our seven steps to keeping your complexion glowing all winter long:
1. Hot cloth cleansing
Though many dermatologists advise washing your face in water to ensure a proper cleanse and to avoid unnecessary pulling of the skin by cotton wool pas, in winter water can actually dehydrate your skin. Step up Eve Lom balm cleaner with muslin cloth.
This critically acclaimed technique has the best of both worlds during the winter. Soak the muslin (or use a cotton flannel) in hot water while you apply the balm to the face. Wring out the muslin and stretch it over your face to allow the warm to open the pores. Gently remove the balm with the wet material. This gives you gentle exfoliation and the balm doesn’t dry out the skin, both of which will make break outs less likely.
Follow with a gentle toner to remove any residue and to return the pH balance of the skin to normal. This technique means you exfoliate every day but you may also see the benefit of using an exfoliator designed for your skin type once a week.
For a cheaper version, any cream cleanser will do the trick.
2. Use a different night and day cream
Dr McKeown recommends moisturising creams that combine occulusives – ingredients that form a layer over the skin and keep water in – and humectants – that attract water into the cells. Day and night moisturisers are blended differently to include these properties.
It may sounds decadent to have two pricy pots but they do different jobs. Day moisturisers are designed to protect your skin from the elements, which is particularly important in winter. Many contain sun protection to fight the signs of aging and are lighter to be worn under make up. While you sleep your skin does most of its repairing so night creams tend to be designed to help moisture penetrate the skin over several hours to help with recovery. They are also more likely to contain higher levels of anti-aging ingredients such as AHAs that can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.
3. Wear sunscreen and if you’re out in the elements, protect your face
“Sunscreen in the winter is just as important and it’s the first thing I’d recommend,” says aesthetic nurse Lee Garrett from FreedomhealthSKIN. “It also protects against wind and pollutants and is vital if you’re using any ingredients, such as AHAs, that make your skin sensitive to sunlight.
If you do anything active that involves being out in the elements, protect your face physically as much as you can with a scarf. There are now some not-completely-unstylish balaclavas and face protectors available for cycling and other sports if you’re worried about looking like a ninja.
Serums contain a higher concentration of active ingredients than moisturisers, so can make all the difference to tired winter skin. Common ingredients include hyaluronic acid for hydration, glycolic acid for exfoliation and vitamin C to brighten and fade pigmentation and brown spots. They’re usually gel and should be used before moisturiser or sun protection but after toning.
[Related: 10 of the best vitamin C serums]
5. Keep hydrated
Hydrate your skin from within by drinking plenty of water, (especially if you’re out partying) herbals teas that don’t contain caffeine and fruit and vegetable juices. Soup and other water-based foods are also good to keep your skin well watered and fruit and veg contains all the antioxidants and vitamins it needs to repair itself. If you have your central heating on, place a bowl of water underneath the radiators to increase the humidity in the air.
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