Winter Skincare Essentials

As we move into the coldest time of the year the increasingly dry air and low humidity coupled with indoor heaters can rapidly rob your skin of moisture. It doesn’t matter if you are dry, oily, acne-prone, young, mature, or some other combination, the shift in climate requires you to adjust your skincare routine to ensure you can maintain a healthy glow. In the order of our skincare routine, below are tips and recommendations for healthy winter skin.

Cleanser| Irrespective of skin type it is important to use a hydrating cleanser during the winter. The last thing you want to do is strip your skin of its natural oils. If you have dry skin this would mean encouraging dry spots and peeling. If you have oily skin this would mean encouraging the over-production of oil. Ideally, you want to remove excess dirt, oil, and makeup without leaving your skin with that parched tight feeling. When you have on makeup it is tempting to use heavy duty astringents to strip it away, particularly for those who are acne-prone and fear clogged pores. Resist! All you will be doing is filling those pores with excess sebum and oil and inducing inflammation. If you appreciate a “full beat” for the holidays but don’t want clogged pores, opt for an emulsifying cleansing oil to remove makeup and cleanse without dehydrating your skin. If you are a fan of double cleansing then make sure the second cleanser is creamy and nourishing.

Toner| This step will help rebalance your skin and prepare it for the subsequent skincare steps. Personally, we prefer to use hydrating toners year-round irrespective of skin type. We even opt for the 7-skin method during the winter. However, we know that those of you with oily skin value astringent/clarifying toners. To ensure you don’t overly strip your skin, which will only lead to more oil production, we recommend doubling up and using a hydrating toner or essence after using your clarifying toner.


Serum| Serums are concentrated treatments that target your primary skincare needs. As such, it is a great step to rotate products based on whatever mood your skin is in that day. During the winter we cycle between hydrating serums and chemical exfoliants; or some combination of the two. Chemical exfoliants are formulas that use alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), or enzymes to gently dissolve the top layer of dead skin and wash it away. This is critical in the winter time when we are more prone to dry flaky skin.

DIY Tip: Unless you’re lactose intolerant, there is a good chance you have Greek yogurt on hand or can easily acquire it at your neighborhood grocery store. After cleansing and prior to toning opt for a yogurt and honey mask. Yogurt is a great source of lactic acid (AHA), which aids in exfoliation. It is also high in vitamin E, which calms irritation and or inflammation. Honey is a natural moisturizer and full of antioxidants. It also has antibacterial properties and helps with irritation and acne.

 Hydration vs. Moisturization| Dehydrated skin lacks water and therefore needs to be hydrated. Dry skin lacks oil and needs to be moisturized. It is important to distinguish between these two skin conditions because they can often be treated incorrectly. While hydration is what makes our skin soft, it won’t stay that way if there is no oil protecting that hydration from evaporating and abandoning the skin, which would leave it dry and flaky.  Conversely, to put oil on top of already dehydrated skin may smooth it, but it will still lack the hydration that makes it feel soft and elastic. Dehydrated skin that is moisturized without receiving the amount of hydration it needs will still look dull and feel uncomfortably tight. Dry skin that is hydrated but not moisturized will still flake and have a rough texture. These “rules” hold true irrespective of your overall skin type. Particularly in the winter time, it is possible to have oily skin that is parched and flaky.

For a hydrating boost, sheet mask are your new best friend! Popularized by the Korean skincare boon the past few years and by far one of our favorite imports. They allow rejuvenating ingredients to really soak into your skin. Hyaluronic acid is by far the gold standard for hydration. Your body produces it naturally but its production depletes as we age. Check out Part 2 of our Bible of Acids blog post to learn more about hyaluronic acid.

Next swap your lightweight moisturizer for a richer cream. Look for one that contains fatty acids and ceramides, which will help skin lock in moisture and maintain its protective barrier. Ceramides are our skin’s natural protection barrier. They are composed of intercellular lipids that act as skin’s defense against environmental aggressors and maintain moisture levels. After hydrating the skin, opt for a ceramide-based moisturizer. Alternatively you could use a product that has both hydrating and moisturizing properties. For example, something that has both hyaluronic acid and ceramides.

The idea of a rich cream will make those with oily and/or acne-prone skin types cringe. However, keep in mind that no two creams are created equal. Opt for one that is oil-free and includes AHAs, which will help control oil while providing moisture. An alternative we also love are sleeping masks/packs. They are usually light in texture but lock in moisture keeping you hydrated and moisturized all night long. You wake up with baby soft skin. Even our dry skin friends love using them! Lastly, you can always follow your moisturizer with a facial oil for extra protection

Ok so we couldn’t narrow this list down! In fact, we could have kept going. So just enjoy the many options!

Photo by Stuny/iStock / Getty Images

Sunscreen| It still matters in the snow! Not only do you need to worry about the sun light during the winter but also lower doses of ambient and infrared light, emitted by your computer screen or overhead lamps. As any snow bunny will tell you, snow doubles your exposure to UV rays because it reflects back 80% of UVA rays. So you have the sun’s rays hitting you from above PLUS an additional 80% hitting you from below. Also, in the northern hemisphere, we’re closest to the sun about two weeks after the winter solstice. We’re the furthest from the sun about two weeks after the summer solstice. It seems counterintuitive, but effectively managing sun exposure in the winter can protect your skin while also giving you the mood boost needed from vitamin D.

Inside-Out Beauty| All of these tips and products are great but you have to help them along. Small dietary changes can do wonders for your skin. Our top 5 dietary tips for great winter skin are:

  1. Drink more water! We say this all the time (mostly to ourselves) because it is the simplest yet oft forgotten cure-all for many skin concerns. If your body is adequately hydrated that will be reflected externally as well.

  2. Eat more fish and or foods rich in omega-3s. If you can’t eat fish, you can take fish oil supplements or opt for plant based sources. The best plant-based sources are: chia seeds, brussel sprouts, algal oil (derived from algae), hemp seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, and perilla oil (derived from perilla seeds).

  3. Avoid coffee and alcohol! Coffee and alcohol are diuretics, which accelerate dehydration by encouraging the body to release water (read: urinate a lot). If you need a caffeine boost then opt for green tea, especially matcha. Green tea polyphenols are potent antioxidants that will help reduce inflammation, help prevent oxidative stress, and will also help reduce acne flare ups.

  4. Avoid sugary, starchy foods, which cause an inflammatory response in the body and exacerbate skin concerns from wrinkles to dry skin to acne, eczema, and rosacea.

  5. Embrace adaptogens! Adaptogens assist with your body's natural defenses to reduce inflammation, promote faster wound recovery, and protect against a variety of other skin stressors, including circulatory, oxidant, and UV aggressors. Some of our favorites include: turmeric, ashwagandha, maca, reishi, chaga mushroom, and ginseng.