I’m a dermatologist and these are my winter skin care tips

I’m a dermatologist and these are my winter skin care tips

Winter weather effects on your skin

When winter rolls around, our skin can do a 180 on us. I’m going to walk you through how to best take care of your skin and my winter skin care tips to combat skin woes like dehydrated skin.

First off, what makes the winter so harsh on our skin? Winter weather usually brings with it cool, dry air, more indoor heating, along with changes in eating and exercise habits. So especially during winter months, common changes to the skin tend to include dryness, skin dehydration, acne, and irritation.

During winter months, the five-product, dermatologist-recommended winter skin care routine is still a must, but before we get into extra winter skin care tips for how to specifically combat winter weather effects on your skin, let’s dive into what’s exactly going on.

Dry vs. dehydrated skin? Which do you have? 

First off, what is dry skin? And how does that compare to dehydrated skin? Depending on which you have, you’ll want to treat your skin accordingly. Without knowing whether your skin is dry or dehydrated, you could be treating your skin without the results you want to see.

Dry skin is a skin type. It occurs when the skin lacks oil and is due to decreased oil production. It surprisingly is not caused by lack of hydration or water retention.

On the other hand, dehydrated skin is a skin condition. It occurs when the skin lacks moisture and water. Dehydrated skin lacks water due to external factors like dry weather. Thus, it’s more common in the winter due to the cold, dry air.

Note, it is possible that you can have both oily and dehydrated skin at the same time. To combat winter skin dehydration, but not overdo the oil, it is important to choose products that moisturize the skin but do not clog the oil glands and create acne.

Skin dehydration can lead to acne? 

This issue can be worse in individuals who are acne prone, and some may find that acne worsens due to winter skin care changes. This may be due to an imbalance of oil and water on the skin or due to lifestyle changes, such as changes in diet and exercise during the winter months.

There is also some evidence that decreasing ultraviolet light exposure and increasing cold weather can alter immune system function and result in acne.

If we hadn’t already experienced enough, skin irritation can occur…

Skin irritation can occur during the winter months too. Dry wind can take moisture out of the skin and cause dry, flaking rashes. Skin irritation may also be worse in the winter due to indoor heating, which changes humidity levels and can dry the skin. Skin irritation can take the form of dry, flaky patches or red, scaly areas and can make it harder to use products, as the skin may be more sensitive.

So, what are some winter skin care tips to keep skin hydrated, minimize acne breakouts, and minimize irritation?  

On top of the five-product, must-do skin care routine, here are some additional tips for a healthy winter skin care routine.

Winter skin care tips to combat dehydrated skin and/or irritated skin

  1. Use a gentle, oil-free moisturizer that you apply to your skin right after coming out of the shower, while the pores are open.
  2. Aim to use products with hyaluronic acid as it can draw moisture into the skin and help retain it.
  3. Cover your face with a soft, natural fiber mask when going out in the cold, dry air.
  4. Refrain from using holiday scented or fragranced products that may irritate the skin.
  5. Use vaseline or a hydrating balm on the lips at night to prevent overnight dehydration.

Winter skin care tips to combat dry skin 

  1. Use a gentle, oil-free moisturizer that you apply to your skin right after coming out of the shower, while the pores are open.
  2. As amazing as they are, avoid long, hot showers.
  3. Steer clear of toners, which reduce oil in the skin.
  4. Avoid harsh or drying cleansers like foam cleansers and try cream or oil cleansers instead.
  5. Again, it’s good to avoid scented products that are likely to irritate the skin.

Winter skin care tips to combat acne 

  1. Continue using any acne medication; stopping treatment may result in a breakout.
  2. Avoid oil based and thick moisturizers. It’s always a safe bet to use an oil-free moisturizer.
  3. Try your best to maintain good eating habits, including low glycemic index foods that prevent acne.
  4. Keep up the exercise; blood flow is good for the skin and can decrease the risk of breakouts.
  5. Take time to relax and keep holiday stress to a minimum.

Don’t forget, even with these winter skin care tips, it’s still important to stick to your five-product, must-do skin care routine and make sure that your products are nourishing and non-comedogenic. Try to keep your skin routine simple and stress levels low–your skin will thank you!


Ishikawa J, Yoshida H, Ito S, Naoe A, Fujimura T, Kitahara T, Takema Y, Zerweck C, Grove GL. Dry skin in the winter is related to the ceramide profile in the stratum corneum and can be improved by treatment with a Eucalyptus extract. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2013 Mar;12(1):3-11. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12019.

Ohno H, Nishimura N, Yamada K, Shimizu Y, Nishimura R, Iwase S, Sugenoya J, Sato M. Water nanodroplets make a greater contribution to facial skin moisture levels in air-conditioned rooms during winter than in summer. Skin Res Technol. 2015 May;21(2):207-13. doi: 10.1111/srt.12178. Epub 2014 Aug 11.

Pappas A, Kendall AC, Brownbridge LC, Batchvarova N, Nicolaou A. Seasonal changes in epidermal ceramides are linked to impaired barrier function in acne patients. Exp Dermatol. 2018 Aug;27(8):833-836. doi: 10.1111/exd.13499. Epub 2018 Feb 19.

Meyer K, Pappas A, Dunn K, Cula GO, Seo I, Ruvolo E, Batchvarova N. Evaluation of Seasonal Changes in Facial Skin With and Without Acne. J Drugs Dermatol. 2015 Jun;14(6):593-601.

Engebretsen KA, Johansen JD, Kezic S, Linneberg A, Thyssen JP. The effect of environmental humidity and temperature on skin barrier function and dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016 Feb;30(2):223-49. doi: 10.1111/jdv.13301. Epub 2015 Oct 8.