MAR 29 2016

Cold Weather Skin SOS

Cold weather wreaks havoc on our skin. Rare is the woman who lives through winter weather without feeling or seeing its effects on their skin . Our skin is more dry, feels tight and can become flaky. Recreating that warm weather glow - or any glow for that matter - takes more work.

As someone who has dry skin at the best of times, winter really takes a toll on me. Over the years, I’ve developed a skincare routine that keeps my skin looking and feeling (almost) as good as it does in the warmer months. Here are the 5 skincare principles I follow when the temperature drops:
1. Avoid "sulfate" cleansers. Most facial and body cleansers that foam up contain some form of "sulfate". The most common form is sodium laureth sulfate.  Less common but still found in many products are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium coco-sulfate. All of these are detergent cleansing agents that make products bubble and foam, and are common in shampoos, shower gels, facial cleansers and dish soap. The problem with sulfates is that they are drying, irritating and can cause rashes and allergic reactions - none of which you want on your already unhappy winter skin. 

See my post on ditching sulfate cleansers here.

2. Use an essence or toner. Add an essence or alcohol-free toner to your post-cleansing skincare routine. Spray it over your face and neck immediately after cleansing or showering; this will maintain hydration and enhance your moisturizer's ability to lock in moisture. Believe me, it will make a big difference in how your skin feels. Follow with sunscreen during the day and moisturizer at night. It's also a great way to revitalize your skin throughout the day: carry it in your purse or keep one at your desk and spray over your face and neck whenever your skin starts to look dry or tired. It will instantly give you a dewy glow.

3. Moisturize within 3 minutes of cleansing or showering. Applying moisturizer to still-moist (but not wet) skin traps moisture on the skin. This applies not just to your face but also your body. Start with the driest area first and work from there. Right after I shower in the morning, I spray an essence over my face and neck, then I apply my facial moisturizer with SPF, then balm to my feet, and then body oil or lotion where needed. At night after cleansing, I again spray the essence over my face and neck, then follow immediately with my nighttime moisturizer. 

4. Exfoliate. When skin is dry, it can appear uneven and become flaky. Exfoliating regularly will remove the dead skin cells that cause these uneven and/or flaky patches, and reveal smoother skin underneath. I use the term "physical" exfoliation to distinguish from "chemical" exfoliation.

How frequently you should exfoliate your face depends on the state of your skin and whether you use a retinoid. For me, twice a week works best: it removes any dry patches, without irritating my skin. However, if you're not a regular retinoid user and don't have sensitive skin, you may find that more frequent exfoliation works best to ward off dry/flaky skin. Experiment to find your ideal frequency. And please don't scrub these areas or use much pressure! Use gentle, circular motions.

See my post on physical exfoliants here.

5. Continue daily sunscreen use. Here's a shocking fact: UV rays can be even more damaging in the winter months than in the summer. Skiing, snowboarding and otherwise spending time in high altitudes increase the risk of sun-induced skin damage. Why? First, because UV radiation exposure increases 4 to 5 percent with every 1,000 feet above sea level. Second, snow reflects up to 80 percent of the UV light from the sun, meaning that you are often hit by the same rays twice. This only increases the risk for damage. So not only should you keep up your sunscreen use in the winter months, but make sure to be extra vigilant about applying enough and reapplying whenever you're up on the slopes or just outside in the snow. 

To sum it up: a consistent routine of gentle cleansing, applying an essence or toner, moisturizing while skin is still moist, exfoliating and using sunscreen will maintain the integrity of your skin and help you “weather” the assaults of winter!