Skin + Hair Basics

Winter Skin Concerns and How to Treat Them

Every winter brings cooler temps and drier air, which can easily dry out skin, too. Read these winter skincare tips to learn how to treat these seasonal concerns.
Winter Skin Concerns and How to Treat Them

Your skin and complexion are always going to be influenced by your surrounding environment (that includes both indoors and outdoors). The humidity levels in the air play a pivotal role in how much moisture your skin is able to retain, or how much is lost to that dry climate around you. While hot and humid weather tends to give you clearer skin and a more “glowy” radiance, dry environments (like the winter air) will dehydrated skin by pulling that moisture out of the deeper dermis. 

So, on the one hand, this emphasizes the need for hydrating and barrier-reinforcing products to preserve that moisture, as well as a scaling back (or corrected course) when it comes to skin-dehydrating habits. (Read more about dry skin and how to avoid it.) Adapting your skincare routine, head to toe, becomes imperative as temperatures decline, so that you can counteract the adverse effects of winter's dry and cold conditions.

Read on for the most common skin conditions caused by winter weather, and for solutions to each one.

Dry Hands and Elbows

What Causes It: Of course, any excessive exposure to cold air and low humidity leads to moisture loss, causing dryness and cracks. That’s going to be a common theme throughout this list. But also, frequent handwashing with harsh soaps exacerbates the condition, as do long, hot showers.

How To Treat It: Apply a rich, emollient hand or body cream regularly to restore moisture to any dry, cracked, chapped, and ashy areas. Protect hands with gloves whenever you go outside, and use mild, hydrating soaps to prevent further dryness. Sleep with a humidifier in the bedroom, too.

Chapped Lips

What Causes It: Those cold wintry winds and all that cozy indoor heating will do a number on your lips, which have the thinnest and most vulnerable skin on your face. These elements strip lips of natural oils, leading to dryness and chapping. Physical dehydration will also play a role here.

How To Treat It: Use a hydrating lip balm with ingredients like cactus extract and ceramides. Apply it generously and often, especially before bed and before going outside. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and avoid licking lips, since your saliva can worsen dryness.

Itchy, Flaky Scalp

What Causes It: Surprise surprise—that cold and dry winter air (with its low humidity) is a big culprit behind dry scalps, and flaky ones too. Ditto for hot showers. If you are prone to dandruff in the first place (specifically if your flaking is rooted in seborrheic dermatitis), then you are especially susceptible in cold weather.

How To Treat It: Choose a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. Limit hot showers (take shorter, milder ones), and wear a cap whenever you go outside. Consider using a nourishing scalp treatment too, which can be administered as a serum, cream, or a mask.

Increased Acne

What Causes It: No, it’s not just you. Those of us with acne-prone skin tend to have our “worst complexion” in the winter. That’s because the dehydration from cold weather and the use of heavy, occlusive moisturizers may lead to clogged pores and increased acne. Friction from scarves and hats can exacerbate the issue, too. (It’s strange how both excessive dryness and excessive oiliness can lead to acne, and same for dandruff.)

How To Treat It: Use a gentle, deeply detoxifying cleanser to unclog pores (but make sure the face wash also has nourishing properties to keep skin soft, like Cardon’s clay cleanser). Also, stick with your usual lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizers (like Cardon’s SPF30 moisturizer and hydrating gel moisturizer).

Rashy Skin

What Causes It: Cold, dry winds can give you “wind burn” during the season; once you have experienced that phenomenon, you’ll never look straight into the blowing wintry winds again. Sensitivity to indoor heating can also result in rashy skin, and those hot showers can also play a factor here.

How To Treat It: Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize, and crank up the humidifier when you sleep.

Cracked Heels

What Causes It: Your dry, cracked heels are likely resultant of the indoor heat being cranked too high, the naturally drier air that enters the house, or overly hot showers. If you have a physically laborious job or workout a lot, then there’s a chance you can worsen the situation due to increased activity.

How To Treat It: Soak your feet in warm water and then use an exfoliating tool (like a pumice stone) to remove any dead skin that has built up. Do not scrub anywhere with open wounds. Immediately apply a thick moisturizing cream afterwards, as well as thick socks. And before bed each night, do this same moisturizing and sock-wearing routine on freshly washed feet. Sleep with a humidifier on, and always wear supportive, comfortable shoes. Moisture-absorbing foot powders can also help to keep feet dry during the day, but a good kind of dry (like, sweat free), as the key ingredients (tapioca starch, corn starch, or arrowroot powder) are nourishing in nature and won’t compromise natural moisture levels.