How to Combat Dry Skin in Winter - VITAL+ Pharmacy

Do you suffer with dry skin in winter? We spoke to skincare guru Matt Huxley, to get his expert advice on how to protect your skin during the colder months.

In the immortal words of Jon Snow, “winter is coming.”

With the inevitable onslaught of chilling breezes, morning frosts and increasing temperature extremes, our skin really suffers. If you thought your light gel moisturiser would be enough to cut it, we’re sorry to say, you thought wrong.

Think of your face like your wardrobe: it’s time to pack away the short shorts and switch to jeans and knitwear instead. Much like your wardrobe, your skincare requires a little more coverage than you would give it in summer. Just as you’d layer up to leave the house, you need to do the same for your face. The colder temperatures in winter will strip the hydration from your skin, and potentially compromise your skin barrier. So you need to switch up your skincare products to avoid any potential damage or irritation.

How do I know if I have dry skin?

Dry skin can present itself in a number of ways. It could look physically dry, with cracks and flaking, or it could show as redness, tightness or itchiness. Dryness can be inherited, so if your parents have it, there’s a chance you could inherit the condition too. It also gets worse as you age — older skin has fewer sweat glands and oil glands. This can make the skin more prone to dryness, roughness and itching.

Environmental dryness is caused by temperature extremes, and is usually accompanied by dehydration. When skin is dehydrated, it will show up in the form of dullness, increased fine lines and an uneven complexion. That’s right, winter doesn’t do our skin any favours at all!

So what can I do to combat dry skin in winter?

The easiest option, and I’m aware that there will be a chorus of groans in your head upon reading this, is to turn down the heat in the shower. Extremes in temperature strip moisture from the skin. That scalding shower and those clouds of steam might feel utterly incredible, but they’re turning your body into the skincare equivalent of the Sahara Desert. At least turn the water down to lukewarm, and face away from the shower nozzle. That way the steam will hopefully avoid settling on your face.

A nice gentle body wash here wouldn’t go astray either. The Ego QV Dermcare Eczema Daily Wash With Ceramides is a good choice – packed full of cholesterols and ceramides to nourish the skin. Petrolatum helps to protect the skin barrier and niacinamide provides antioxidant support.

Ego QV Intensive With Ceramides Wash 350mL

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A thick body cream should also be on hand for winter – apply on damp skin for the best effect. Again the Ego QV Dermcare Eczema Daily Cream With Ceramides is a great option with similar ingredients to the wash. A body oil could be a possibility for those of you who are feeling particularly dry and sore – the The Jojoba Company Australian Jojoba is quite nice.

Vatea Pure Body Oil 250mL

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Which are the best skincare products for dry skin?

In terms of skincare, changing your cleanser is another easy thing to do. Overly foaming cleansers are not your skin’s friend in winter. Reaching for oils, balms, creams and milks will reduce that tight feeling post-wash. The La-Roche-Posay Effaclar H Cleansing Cream would be a great option, as would the Natio Rosewater Hydration Gentle Face Cleanser. Both contain a great mix of humectants and nourishing ingredients that won’t be too stripping.

Natio Rosewater Hydration Gentle Face Cleanser 100mL

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If your cleanser contains the words “purifying,” “scrub,” or “foaming,” put it down and back away now. Chances are, it’ll be too harsh and will leave your skin feeling squeaky and tight. As much as I love a morning cleanse, it can sometimes be too much in winter. Keep an eye on your skin and if you notice an increase in redness then skip the morning face wash.

Reducing the strength of your actives is another way to avoid skin irritation. I would personally avoid strong percentages of any acids, but particularly glycolic. Look for lactic or mandelic based formulas, or (even better), a PHA formula such as the Neostrata Skin Active Tri-Therapy Lifting Serum. PHA stands for PolyHydroxy Acid, a newish subset of acids which are both gentle exfoliants and humectants, of which the most commonly used is gluconolactone. On the topic of exfoliation, I’d also avoid clay masks as they can overly strip your skin during winter.

Neostrata Skin Active Tri-Therapy Lifting Serum 30mL

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What about moisturisers and serums for dry skin?

Even if you follow all the steps I’ve mentioned above, if you don’t add in hydrating serums and moisturisers, your skin will still experience dryness. It’s more beneficial to apply layers of skincare product, rather than a rich layer of ointment. This isn’t just a marketing ploy to get you to purchase more items — the lighter layers will help the heavier layers sink deep into your skin.

A really nice serum option would be something like the Cemoy Renew Serum. This has all the ingredients you’d want in a humectant serum – propanediol, butylene glycol, Oat extract, glycerin, allantoin, Centella extract and a peptide complex. Apply this on damp skin. You can use a smidge of water, or a spritz like the Avène Thermal Spring Water.

CEMOY 21 Day Renew Serum 1 Kit

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Follow with a nourishing oil like The Jojoba Co Jojoba Oil to further lock in the hydration, thus forcing those humectant ingredients from the serum to sink further into the skin. This is also a great trick during the day. The oils will provide a layer of protection against the biting wind and cold. Not only do you need to replenish the hydration from the skin, but you need to attempt to prevent the loss of more water too.

Which are the best eye creams for winter?

You can use hydrating serums up around the eye area, but you won’t want to apply thicker face moisturisers in this region. If the corners of your eyes are a bit dry and weepy, I can understand the motivation to pop a thicker cream around there, but I implore you to opt for a dedicated eye cream — they’re designed for this sensitive area, and your eyes really do need a little more TLC than the rest of your face.

Something like the Antipodes Kiwi Seed Eye Cream will both hydrate and nourish the sensitive eye area. This one is loaded with avocado oil, fatty acids and alcohols, and sunflower oil. All ingredients to keep an eye out for.
Antipodes Kiwi Seed Eye Cream 30mL

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A simple trick with eye cream is to apply a light amount around the orbital bone (under your eye and over the brows). The cream will travel by itself and if you put it too close to the mobile lids you could be in for some discomfort should it get into your eye. Avoiding cream on the top eyelid in particular will help to avoid any extra puffiness; always good, no matter what the season!

Which are the best moisturisers for winter?

If your skin is feeling a smidge more sensitive (or if you’re vegan), then the Bioderma Atoderm Intensive Baume is a good option to go with. As with most barrier creams it has a glycerin and mineral oil base along with zinc gluconate and ceramides for skin healing and repair. Otherwise if you’re suffering with any sort of dryness at all, your best friend is the original Weleda Skin Food. Sweet almond oil, sunflower oil, lanolin and beeswax form the base of this iconic ointment. It’s thick, it’s rich, it’s greasy, it’s unctuous and it’s an utter joy to use. You will absolutely feel it — you’ll need to warm it between your fingers to use it, and it will feel remarkably like you are plastering your face with a thick layer of margarine. But believe me, it really works.

Do I still need to wear sunscreen in winter?

As always, you still need to use an SPF during the day. Just because the sun may not be visible doesn’t mean the UV isn’t there. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra Facial Sunscreen will be my forever and ever. But any broad spectrum SPF 50+ will do the trick. There are many organic and inorganic filters on the market, but my advice is to ignore the marketing. Just find one that you enjoy and that you won’t begrudge using daily.

Loved our advice on how to treat dry skin in winter? We've got plenty more women's health and beauty advice on our Health & Wellness Edit, guaranteed to give your body a well-deserved boost. Is your skin prone to blemishes? Here are 11 skincare mistakes that could be seriously damaging your skin. Suffer with UTIs? Here are some helpful tips on how to prevent them.

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