January is probably the most challenging month for our skin, with the post holiday-binging and being blasted by the full force of winter. For years now, I’ve been wanting to write a post about winter skincare, but somehow I never got around to it. This week though, I woke up with a real urge to create this post, which is going to be a departure from my usual product reviews, but really a sharing from my heart. I don’t consider myself a beauty guru, and I’m not one for whipping up my own masks and remedies at home. But our skin is the largest living organ in our bodies, whose sole purpose is to protect us from the extremities of our environment, and when it is exposed to sub-zero weather it is only right we honor and do what we can to protect it. So here are 5 tips that work for me (and a few product recommendations along the way), and I hope they help you too!
Skin often looks dull and uneven in the winter, and if you are facing freezing winds outside it is more likely due to dehydration than a build-up of dead cells. Acids as a form of chemical exfoliator has been very popular of late, but it is probably the worst possible thing you can do when your skin is already stressed out! If your skin is peeling and cracked from the cold, exfoliating may seem to help in the immediate, but in the long run will only make your skin even more irritated and worsen the condition. So keep those acids and exfoliators at the back of your shelf for now, and tackle the real problem head on (we’ll get to it in a moment).
Do you know that it is quite common to find acids and other forms of chemical exfoliators hidden in your toners, lotions, serums and facial oils? Take a good look at the ingredient list, or just listen to your skin. Don’t believe everything the marketing folks pitch, and as a general rule, avoid anything that stings! For example, the Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Toner stings my skin when it is stressed out, but works nicely to remove excess oil and impurities in the summer. In contrast, my skin absolutely loves the Pixi Rose Tonic whenever there is redness and it actually rehydrates my skin. By Terry Cellularose City Essence is also a great one for soothing and hydrating the skin.
Sounds so obvious, but do you know what items to change and what to replace them with? I have 2 rules for winter skincare – hydrate and protect. When you pick items in your winter routine, look for products that help to rehydrate your skin with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Avoid things that strip moisture – consider switching your foaming cleanser for cream or balm cleansers. I am currently loving the Pixi Rose Cream Cleanser which cleanses my skin thoroughly but super gently. Micellar cleansers in general sting my skin and even the gentlest of them dry my skin out. Even if you swear by micellar cleansers, why not just try switching to oil or balm makeup removers for this season, and see if it makes a difference?
Just as with clothing, it is more effective to layer your skincare than if you went with just 1 rich cream. It is a misconception that a “rich” cream is more hydrating than a fluid or lotion. Hydration is not directly correlated with texture, instead a thicker texture is generally harder to absorb. It does, however, remain on the surface to act as a barrier. We will return to this point later, but for now, let’s focus on getting maximum hydration into the deeper layers of your skin. The best way to do this is to use light textured products, and layer them. Think of the 10-step Korean routines! My suggestion is to start with a moisturizing toner immediately after cleansing, and follow that up with a hydrating essence. Next layer on those hydrating serums and moisturizers (yes plurals here because there’s no reason why you can’t use more than 1 of each!). My favorite hydrating skincare range is the Chanel Hydra Beauty collection [reviewed here], which is one of the most effective and comprehensive in my experience.
Protecting your skin goes lock-step with hydrating. A healthy barrier function prevents moisture loss which in turns keeps your skin running at optimal levels. This is where a richly textured product comes into play. If you can bear it, I suggest using both a fluid moisturizer as well as a thicker cream to act as a barrier. This helps keep the blistering wind away from the surface of your skin, and lock moisture in. It is a must for me whenever I go skiing. I find it unfortunate that high end products don’t market themselves as barrier creams, and drugstore barrier creams are usually devoid of any sensorial appeal. If you have a penchant for luxury, I highly recommend the recently reformulated La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream. Alternatively, the original Creme de La Mer has been a staple in my arsenal for over a decade now, and there is now a new Regenerating Cream Intense which is even better.
Facial oils are also a great way to seal all the preceding layers in, although be very careful to avoid oils that contain any form of retinoid which is again very common these days, but not what you want this time of the year. I recommend Chantecaille Rose de Mai Face Oil and Chanel Le Blanc Huile Healthy Light Creator. Or go to bed with a sleeping mask such as the Chanel Hydra Beauty Night Mask and Chantecaille Jasmine and Lily Healing Mask.
It seems incongruous to lavish so much attention to the skin, that we forget the final touches such as the eyes and lips! The skin around our eyes is so thin that it does not stand up well to all the extras mentioned earlier, so definitely choose products that are specially formulated for the eye area. Clarins recently launched 2 new additions to their Hydra-Essentiel range, and so far I’ve really enjoyed them. The Moisturizing Reviving Eye Mask has helped soothe away the beginnings of a bout of eczema on my eyelid, and even wears well under makeup, so I highly recommend you check it out.
When I was living in the US, I would break out with cold sores whenever I went skiing. The trigger points, I realized, was not only blistery cold winds, but also exposure to strong UV. When it gets this cold, we often embrace the sunlight with all our souls, but we forget that snow reflects UV like a mirror, and that UV does horrible things to our skin. My best bet is Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment with SPF15, in their many tinted variations.
Lastly, while we are on the topic of UV, don’t forget to finish up your skincare routine with a good SPF if you’re heading out. Like I said, even if there is only 3 hours of sunshine, or even on a gloomy day, UV is still out there. I rather like layering a creamy sunscreen as an additional emollient barrier for my skin. However, if you are suffering from a Vitamin D deficiency, please consult your doctor about the best course of action.
Good luck, and I hope you survive this winter fabulously!