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How to Prepare Your Skin for Winter, According to a Dermatologist

As the days start getting shorter, chances are it’s more than just your body clock that’s being thrown off-course. Dealing with dry skin, rough hands and chapped lips? Don’t worry, we have answers for all your winter skincare woes.

By Adarsh Soni
01 Nov 2021

Winter’s biting chill doesn’t just put your mood on a downer—it can wreak havoc on your complexion too. It’s a well-known fact that cold weather can cause skin to be dry, flaky, inflamed, and red in all the wrong places. But it is possible to keep your skin plump, healthy and glowing throughout the winter months—you just need the expert know-how. Those gel-based moisturisers and potent exfoliants that worked just fine up until last month might not cut it come December. As colder temperatures approach, dry air and constant exposure to indoor heaters extract the moisture from your skin and strip it of oils essential for healthy skin barrier function. These conditions can also spark skin sensitivity and irritation and worsen pre-existing conditions like eczema and rosacea. Bottom line: you need to make some essential changes to your skincare routine.

To make things easier, we turned to Dr Aanchal Panth, MD, a Surat-based dermatologist with over ten years of experience in skincare. Here, she tells us everything we need to know about keeping our complexion happy throughout the cold months. From your face to your feet, here’s how to winter-proof your skin with minimum effort.


Transition your cleanser to a balm, oil, or cream

While your lightweight cleanser might be great at removing oil during the sticky summer and monsoon months, you might have to retire it temporarily. “Salicylic-acid based cleansers are great at removing dirt and pollution but they often end up drying your skin excessively,” says Dr Panth. “Both oil-based cleansers and cleansing balms can effectively wash the skin while keeping the skin hydrated and not disrupting the skin barrier,” she adds.
If you use salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide as an acne treatment, remember to apply them in moderation and don’t forget to hydrate your skin immediately afterwards.


Load up on moisturisers

Investing in a good quality, nourishing moisturiser during the winter months should be a no-brainer. “When the skin is still moist from your serums, apply a liberal amount of moisturiser on your face. This will help with locking in the hydration. Moisturise once before sleeping as well. If you sleep with heaters on then the chances of drying the skin out is higher,” says Dr Panth. “As soon as you get out of the shower, make it a habit to apply a layer of moisturiser or body lotion all over your body,” she adds.


Take lukewarm baths

While winter might feel like the perfect time to take long, hot baths—try to resist the urge. “Hot water tends to strip the skin of its moisture, thereby making it more dry. Which is why you should take brief, lukewarm baths,” says Dr Panth. “To take it a step further, add around four tablespoons of coconut oil to your bath water. This will form a nourishing layer on your skin and will protect it from drying out,” she adds. If you prefer showers, simply apply the coconut oil all over your skin right before and let it wash away naturally.


Do not use soap everyday

In order to protect your skin, sometimes all you need to do is cut down on a certain product. Case in point: soaps. “No matter how mild a soap is, it will strip the skin off oils. Which is why I advise people not to use soap every single day during winter months. You can apply it on certain areas that are prone to oil buildup, but other than that, soaps should only be used 2-3 times a week,” says Dr Panth. “Make sure that they are glycerine-based and sulphate-free and stay away from antiseptic soaps as they tend to be harsh on your skin,” she adds.


Avoid artificial fragrance and alcohol

This step is especially important for people that have sensitive skin and suffer from rosacea or eczema. “Artificial fragrances tend to inflame your sensitive skin, which is why you should switch to unscented formulas during the cold months—be it your cleanser or moisturiser,” says Dr Panth. “I would also advise staying away from alcohol-based toners as they can lead to dryness and itchiness,” she adds.


Pay extra attention to your hands

With constant hand-washing becoming the norm, the skin on your hands is bound to suffer. And this problem might get even worse during the cold winter months. “Hand-wash and hand-sanitiser formulas are loaded with antiseptic ingredients that are extremely harsh on your skin,” says Dr Panth. But this doesn’t mean that you should stop washing your hands. Instead, take extra measures to hydrate them. “Invest in a rich hand cream or balm and keep reapplying it each time you wash your hands,” Dr Panth adds.


Take care of your lip area

The skin on your lips is thinner than the rest of your face and has little-to-no oil glands to protect itself. This is why chapped lips are such a common sight during the cold season. “A good rule of thumb is to keep lips moist throughout the day by regularly applying a lip balm rich in occlusive ingredients like lanolin, white petrolatum or beeswax,” says Dr Panth. “One must also avoid licking or biting their lips as that can further aggravate dryness and inflammation,” she adds.


Pay attention to your clothing

Taking care of your skin is not limited to what you apply on your skin. It also includes what you wear. “Opt for light, soft layers next to your skin, rather than synthetic fabrics that may cause itching,” says Dr Panth. “Wear cotton clothing underneath your woolen attire as wool tends to irritate the skin and cause itching,” she adds.


Incorporate an overnight mask

A nourishing face mask is essential for any skincare routine but winter is an even better time to start investing in this relaxing self-care activity. “Designed to be the final step of your night-time regimen, overnight masks help lock in all those serums, creams, and oils that were applied before,” says Dr Panth. “Look for ingredients that are generally missing from your everyday routine so that you can get their benefits in the form of a face mask,” she adds.


Don’t skip the SPF

Most people have a misconception that sunscreen is only reserved for hot summer months, but that notion is absolutely incorrect. In fact, your skin is even more prone to sun damage during winter as there’s a higher chance that you will expose your skin to the warm sunlight during cold weather. “Sunscreen is a must even during the winter months. You may want to switch over to a cream-based formulation as that will provide necessary hydration,” says Dr Panth.




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