Oftentimes, the change in seasons also means a change in our skin. As the air chills and those winter winds roll in, our skin may become extra dry, flaky, and even cracked. It’s frustrating—but it makes sense if you live in a temperate climate. “Unlike summer air that is full of moisture, cold winter air is lacking in moisture, so it steals it from another source: your skin,” explains board-certified aesthetics physician assistant Blair Hayes, PA-C, founder of Skin By Blair. “And, when you have dry skin that lacks the oil necessary to lock in your moisture, your skin’s water freely evaporates into the dry air, causing it to become even drier.”
It’s not just cold temps that cause our skin to dry out, though. A number of other factors, both expected and surprising, can leave you slathering on bottle after bottle of lotion in desperate attempts to pump some life back into your parched skin. Avoid the following common moisture-thieves to keep your skin as supple as possible, even when the weather outside is frightful.
1. Taking long, hot showers
Few experiences are more satisfying on a cold winter morning than taking a nice long, hot shower. However, skin experts often warn that the steamy indulgence is a recipe for dried-out skin. “Hot water strips the skin of its natural oils, leaving it more susceptible to dryness and irritation,” explains Hayes. Instead of lingering in the hot shower to unwind after a long day of work, she recommends opting for a quick warm or lukewarm shower followed by relaxing under a heated blanket with a good book or your favorite playlist instead. This way, you can still accomplish all the same things (read: getting clean and cozy) without your skin paying the price.
2. using The Wrong products for your skin type
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), there are five main skin types: sensitive, normal, oily, combination, and dry. Your skin type is mainly influenced by your genetics, as well as other factors such as hormones, explains Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., New York City-based dermatologist and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council. Knowing your unique skin type is important because it influences the types of products you should (and shouldn’t!) use.
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“Some products can actually dry the skin out more, which may be ideal for someone with oily skin, but not so much for someone prone to dry skin,” Garshick says. “If you have dry skin and find your products are leaving your skin feeling tight and sensitive, it may be an indication that your products are worsening the dryness.” She recommends that those with dry skin opt for hydrating or cream-based cleansers as well as thicker moisturizing creams and ointments.
3. Exfoliating too often
Exfoliating your skin, either chemically using ingredients like alpha and beta hydroxy acids, or physically using tools like brushes, sponges, or scrubs, can work wonders for your skin by sloughing off dead skin cells and revealing smoother, younger skin cells underneath. Exfoliating can be a tricky balance, though, with many people with dry skin believing they need to exfoliate more than two to three times a week (which is the maximum recommended) to get rid of the flaking, Garshick. However, instead of banishing the flakes once and for all, exfoliating too often can actually dry out the skin more.
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“While exfoliants may be helpful to eliminate dead skin, if used too often or too aggressively they can lead to microtears in the skin barrier that then contribute to moisture loss and worsen dryness,” she says. “It is best to opt for gentle exfoliants, instead of abrasive scrubs, and to limit exfoliation to once or twice per week.”
4. Skipping sunscreen
Most people with dry skin probably don’t chalk it up to a lame SPF routine—but there is a very real connection there. “Regardless of the time of year, UV rays disrupt your moisture barrier, which is responsible for maintaining your skin’s hydration,” says Hayes. “Whether it’s summer or winter, rain or shine, indoors or outdoors, be sure you’re applying a minimum of SPF 30 daily.”
5. Not switching your skin-care products based on the season
Often, your skin needs some extra TLC in the colder months, which means having a seasonal rotation of skin-care products is a good idea. “While gel or water-based face moisturizers are great for the summer, when skin tends to be less dry because of the amount of humidity in the air, they may not hydrate the skin as well in the winter months,” says dermatologist Brendan Camp, M.D., of MDCS Dermatology. His recommendation: Switch to an oil-based face moisturizer in the winter months, especially if you have dry skin. “Oil-based moisturizers help trap water into the skin and are ideal for colder temperatures.” You might also want to look for products formulated with ceramides, fatty acids that naturally exist in our skin to keep it hydrated. (This Mad Hippie Eye Cream contains ceramides to support the extra-delicate skin around your eyes all year long.)