Tips on looking after your skin during the cold winter months
Many of us have been blessed with relatively mild weather of late. However, the colder weather has well and truly arrived. This wintery climate has the potential to wreak havoc with our skin. The change from warm to cold, from our centrally heated homes to the chilly outside, can make our skin feel really parched, dry and dull. Is your skin feeling like this? If so read on.
Here are my tips to help relieve tight, dry and sensitised skin. They will encourage a more hydrated, comfortable and glowing complexion and, importantly, they won't require a second mortgage to cover the cost:
Avoid harsh facial washes
Don't use harsh facial washes to clean the skin. No matter what your skin type it needs so much more moisture at this time of year and unfortunately foaming facial washes will strip the skin and leave it feeling dry and tight. Never aim for that 'squeaky clean' feeling. If you get that, you're using the wrong product. And the least said about facial wipes the better! Instead, choose something more comforting and kind to your skin i.e. a cleansing balm, gel or milk. Any skin type will benefit from choosing these during the colder months. Aim to clean your face once in the morning and twice in the evening (a double cleanse) to effectively remove make up, dirt, sweat, pollution, sunscreen etc. (Cleansing once in the evening is fine if you haven't been outside, worn make up or applied sunscreen) Many problems start when we don't clean our faces properly. A thoroughly cleansed face creates a beautiful clean canvas for subsequent products.
You can read more about double cleansing by clicking on the link below:
Our skin is continuously renewing and part of this process is the culmination of layers of dry dead skin cells settling on the surface. An exfoliator will remove some of these to reveal a smoother, more even complexion which is more receptive to subsequently applied products i.e. serums and moisturisers. If you are used to using scrubs that contain physical grains try a very gently one that contains natural particles. You don't want anything that is going to scratch or damage your skin. I personally prefer a liquid exfoliator containing acids such as Glycolic, Lactic or Salicylic acid. Don't be scared by the name, I'm not talking about harsh acids that leave your skin sore and irritated. These acids are often derived from plants etc and work well with our skin. They nibble away at the dead skin cells. Apply them to a cotton pad and sweep over the face, neck and décolleté avoiding the eye area. They are generally more effective than physical exfoliators. The advice on how often to use them during the colder months varies but I'd say don't be tempted to overuse them. A few times a week in the evening will be enough to start with.
For more details on toners and exfoliators (including which ones are right for your skin type) click the links below:
Spritz and spritz again
Consider using a facial spritz, one that contains hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin, and spritz throughout the day. This may feel weird as you might associate facial spritzers with warm weather but they are incredibly hydrating and you will notice a difference within hours. Spray onto bare skin or over make up. I keep one by my desk and the sofa! I love them.
I talk about facial spritz's in the following blog, click the link to read:
Apply a hyaluronic acid serum
Incorporate a serum that contains hyaluronic acid and apply after cleansing, toning/liquid exfoliator and eye product. This ingredient is one of the best ways to achieve hydrated skin. It's estimated that hyaluronic acid can hold up to one thousand times its own weight in water molecules and has the ability to bind moisture to the cells within our skin. It's most effective in serum form and is therefore pretty lightweight, so perfect for any skin type (it won't make skin oily). I use a hyaluronic acid serum every morning at the moment before my moisturiser.
For more information on serums click the link below:
Facial oils are your friend
Integrate a facial oil into your routine. Plant oils can bring great comfort to dehydrated, irritated and parched skin. There are oils available for all skin types, even oily. Using a facial oil on oily skin will not make it oilier, it will help to regulate oil production whilst hydrating. I love the feeling of an oil on the skin and tend to use one most evenings before a moisturiser/balm. I sometimes use them during the day too if my skin is feeling particularly parched or I am out walking.
You can read more about facial oils by clicking the link below:
Don't skip moisturiser
Always moisturise, even if your skin is naturally oily or combination. This helps to protect your skins natural barrier, acting as a shield against the negative effects of this cold weather and central heating, therefore keeping it hydrated. Observe your skin - is your current moisturiser being absorbed super quick once you've applied it? Is your skin still feeling tight, dry, uncomfortable? If you wear make up do you feel like it disappears or slides off? If this is the case, it might not be rich enough. You could apply another layer of the same moisturiser once the first layer has sunk in or you could choose a richer cream. Look for ingredients such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid and fatty acids which will help to lock in moisture. You want to minimise trans epidermal water loss where water is lost from the skin and all of these steps will help. Just be careful not to overload with too many heavy products (this is another reason why cleansing properly is so vital).
Find out more about moisturisers (day and night) by clicking on the links below:
Treat the skin
Using a hydrating mask a couple of times a week will not only feel like a real treat for your skin, it will provide a hit of much needed nourishment. Choose a hydrating mask instead of more clay based masks. Although if you do have oily, spot prone skin, apply a clay mask first and then follow straight afterwards with a hydrating one. It's quite common for oily skin to be dehydrated too. I often apply a mask and either get some chores done around the house whilst it's doing its magic or simply sit with a cup of tea before washing the excess off.
I am currently writing an article about treatment masks so watch this space as you'll find the blog available soon.
Avoid products containing alcohol
Avoid any products which contain large amounts of alcohol. When checking the ingredient listings you really don't want alcohol as one of the first on the list. There is an exception to this with exfoliating acids where alcohol is used to keep the formula stable.
Key ingredients to look for
Ceramides - These naturally occur within our skin but skincare that contains ceramides will contribute to moisturising and preserving the protective barrier.
Hyaluronic acid and Glycerin - These are examples of humectants which work by attracting moisture from the air around us into the skin or keeping water from escaping from the skin which attach to the skin barrier. They are amazing sources of hydration.
Squalene and fatty acids - These are emollients which cover the skin with a protective barrier. They also help to reinforce the skins natural barrier.
Water & Supplements
Don't forget to drink water. Even though it's cold we still need to keep our bodies hydrated and look after our skin (and everything else) from the inside. I find the easiest way to drink the required amount is to carry a water bottle around with me which I drink two or three times over during the day.
Supplements - Opt for omega oils, fish oils are the best, to support your skin from the inside. However if you've never taken these before check with a healthcare professional first.
Don't forget body care too
Don't forget to look after the skin on your body in addition to your face. This can become dry, itchy and generally more sensitive during the winter.
Opt for gentle body washes that don't contain harsh detergents such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS). This is used as a foaming agent and has the potential to irritate the skin.
Try not to have your water too hot.
Exfoliate once or twice a week to remove dry dead skin cells which will allow body moisturisers to absorb more effectively.
Moisturise every day after showering or bathing. If you are short on time choose a body oil which absorbs quicker than a cream or lotion.
Apply a thick hand cream before bed. If your hands are particularly dry apply another layer once the first has absorbed. Try to apply a lighter cream throughout the day and remember to exfoliate your hands a couple of times a week too. This will help dry skin enormously.
By building a skincare wardrobe containing different products for different issues, concerns and seasons, you can choose what to layer onto your face to keep it comfortable and at its best. This doesn't need to cost huge amounts of money. Spend what you can afford, there are so many incredible products out there that don't cost the earth. So remember, during these colder months layer up your skincare much like you would your clothes. Look at your skin, feel your skin, is it drinking up the products you are applying? If so, apply a little more. This process will allow dry, dehydrated or irritated skin the ideal environment to heal. Just what we are seeking to do.