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Skincare 101

10 Ways to Look After Dry Skin in the Winter

Winter is a beautiful season; snowflakes sparkling, hot chocolate with friends, warm blankets, clear, starry nights––and dry skin.

Okay, so there are some downsides to winter, but you don't need to let dry skin get you down. You can not only improve your complexion during the cold season but also avoid some of the more common winter skin problems, including dry skin.

Let’s take a look at some actionable tips you can use to keep your skin soft, supple, and glowing when the temperature drops. 


  • During winter months, cold air does not retain moisture well. Indoor heating systems also contribute to dry air.
  • Dry air draws moisture out of your skin, leaving it more dry, sensitive, and even irritated during cold winter months.
  • Combat and prevent dry skin during the winter with the right skincare routine and lifestyle to improve your home and body's ability to retain moisture.

What Causes Dry Skin in Winter?

So many things can zap your skin in the winter. What causes dryness of your skin? Why is your skin ashy during the winter? 

Generally speaking, air holds less moisture during the cold winter months. Cold air doesn't retain moisture well.

During winter, this dry air actually pulls moisture out of your skin. The cold air is actively trying to sap your moisture!

Low humidity is often made worse indoors by heating systems. Modern heating systems are often based on pushing warmed air from your basement furnace throughout a living space. When that air is heated in the furnace, it loses what little moisture it once held, and this now-dry air then circulates throughout the house. If you live in a home with “forced air” heat, you may notice your throat is dry when you wake in the morning for the same reason. And while a cozy fire beats all after a cold day, open flames like that are doing the same thing to suck moisture from the air.

Cold outdoor air and harsh winter wind can leave your skin feeling tight, dry, and uncomfortable, too. Wind is also actively sapping your skin of moisture.

Whether you suffer from flakiness, redness, itchiness, or a combination of everything during the winter, you need to look after your skin even more during cold months. 

What Can You Do To Avoid Dry Winter Skin? 

The good news is that dry skin isn't inevitable. Making some smart changes to your skincare routine and choosing the right products can help to restore glow and radiance in your skin all winter long. 

Here are 10 tips that will leave everybody guessing how you're beating the winter skin blues. 

1. Moisturize At the Right Time

Did you know that the best time to moisturize your skin is right after cleansing it or showering? Probably, but this is even more true in the winter, when we all start to spend a little more time in the hot shower.

When you cleanse your skin it can become tight and dry almost instantly. By following up your cleansing routine with a good moisturizer you can help to lock in and restore moisture when your skin needs it most to stay hydrated and bright. Look for products designed to protect the skin's barrier, such as those containing hyaluronic acid. 

2. Yes, Don't Forget Sunscreen

While the days may be shorter and there may be less sunlight, sunscreen is just as important during the winter as it is during the summer. Even during the coldest days, harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin and cause damage and dryness. Of course, there’s less exposed skin to cover… now you’ve got no excuse. 

On top of preventing dryness, sun protection is the single biggest thing you can do when it comes to preventing premature skin aging.

Apply a layer of sunscreen every morning after you've applied your moisturizer for the best protection. For convenience, check out moisturizers that contain SPF. Ideally, you should be using SPF 30 or higher.

3. Use Overnight Treatments

One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect your skin from winter dryness is with an overnight moisturizing and repair treatment. Look for emollient creams that can be applied to the face and body after cleansing and before bed. These will replenish and protect dry and irritated skin as you sleep. You can also use these creams on your hands, feet, lips, elbows, and anywhere else that you feel dryness. 

4. Skincare For the Seasons

The skincare routine you use in the summer may not be the most effective for the winter, and vice versa. 

Some smart adjustments to your routine to match the seasons can ensure your skin looks and feels its best all year round. For example, in the winter, you might need to use a richer moisturizer than normal. You might also want to consider using products that are free from fragrance, alcohol, and colors if your skin becomes irritated or sore during cold days. A gentle cleanser and balm at night will help to repair damage caused during the day. 

5. Invest in a Humidifier

During the winter, we spend a lot of time indoors. Due to heating systems being on most of the time and a lack of moisture in the air, our skin can become dry, ashy, flaky, and tight. 

Humidifiers put moisture back into the air, which can have a really profound impact on your overall health and the health of your skin. With so many people working from home these days, too, a humidifier may be able to help 24/7.

Look for portable humidifiers that you can move from room to room. These can be used in any part of your home and also overnight. Some use heat to create steam, while others simply create vapor that goes back into the air.

6. Take Care With Heat

At the end of a cold day, there’s nothing like sinking into a hot bath. But high temperatures could be doing your skin more harm than good. 

Skip the 15-minute soak, folks.

To keep your skin hydrated and nourished, warm water for less time is much better for you. Hot water strips natural oils in the skin faster than warm water. Too hot, and you may also cause capillary damage that can appear as fine red lines across your nose and cheeks. 

Enjoy a warm (short) relaxing shower, and use a good moisturizer on your face and body after. 

7. To Scrub Or Not To Scrub

Gentle exfoliation is great for your skin. There's no doubt; however, it's possible to over-exfoliate, and this can be bad news for winter skin. 

If you exfoliate too frequently or use the wrong products, you could break down the skin's natural moisture barrier and leave it at the mercy of the elements and moisture-sapping dry air.

Consider gentle exfoliants like glycolic acid peels rather than aggressive physical scrubs, and pare back the frequency of your exfoliation routine.

8. Banish Dry Skin With Occlusives

If you feel your skin needs a little extra help, products that are occlusive in nature could be a solution for severe dryness or flakiness. They work by physically blocking trans-epidermal water and moisture loss

Occlusives like petroleum jelly, shea butter, beeswax, rosehip oil, and cocoa butter provide a physical barrier that helps to lock in moisture. You can apply these after moisturizing. Look for natural oils, especially when looking for something suitable for use on the face. 

9. Keep Hydrated On the Inside to Help Your Outside

We've spoken a lot about keeping the skin hydrated with the right moisturizers, but one of the best ways to keep skin healthy and glowing is to stay well-hydrated yourself! Aim to drink 8-10 glasses of water throughout the day to keep skin looking its best. Over the winter months, without excessive summer heat, it’s easier than ever to skip the water and become dehydrated without knowing it.

Eating foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can also help your skin to get the nutrients and moisture it needs to stay hydrated. 

10. Wear Natural and Non-Irritating Fabrics

Scratchy and itchy materials can play havoc with the skin during dry months, especially if they come into contact with the chin and neck. Skin can become red, irritated, and sore after repeated contact, and this same irritation can lead to dryness. 

Opt for soft wool and cotton garments that allow the skin to breathe and don’t chafe in prominent spots like your chin. Wool, silk, and cashmere scarves are great for keeping out the chills, you just need to pick high-quality fabrics that won’t lead to irritation. 

Also, look for detergents that are formulated for sensitive skin as these can help to avoid unnecessary irritation and protect the skin's natural barrier. 

Final Thoughts

Dry and flaky skin is a common winter skin complaint. It can affect your face, hands, legs, feet, and any other areas that might be exposed to the elements. 

It starts and ends with your environment: consider a humidifier for long dry nights if your home is particularly dry, and embrace a cleansing/moisturizing routine that doesn’t leave your skin devoid of natural moisture. Get plenty of water yourself, and use sun protection just like you might in the summer months.

Molding your skincare routine to fit the dry realities of winter can keep your skin healthy, smooth and supple. 


Blaak, J., & Staib, P. (2022). An updated review on efficacy and benefits of sweet almond, evening primrose and jojoba oils in skin care applications. International journal of cosmetic science, 44(1), 1–9.
Byber K, Radtke T, Norbäck D, et al. Humidification of indoor air for preventing or reducing dryness symptoms or upper respiratory infections in educational settings and at the workplace. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021;12(12):CD012219. Published 2021 Dec 10. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012219.pub2
Kono T, Miyachi Y, Kawashima M. Clinical significance of the water retention and barrier function-improving capabilities of ceramide-containing formulations: A qualitative review. J Dermatol. 2021;48(12):1807-1816. doi:10.1111/1346-8138.16175

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency