Dry skin and winter shouldn’t be best friends. But here we are. If cold weather seems to zap your skin of moisture, you’re not alone. “In the winter, the humidity decreases in the air. As a result, our skin tends to lose more of its moisture than it normally would,” says Kavita Mariwalla, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in West Islip, New York. Indoor heating, temperature swings going from inside to outside, and even heavy clothing can aggravate parchedness.
In addition to flaky skin, one of the most disruptive symptoms associated with dryness is itchiness, Dr. Mariwalla says. Properly moisturizing from head to toe will go a long way to keeping the skin’s barrier intact, which will keep moisture in — and potential irritants out. This is true for everyone, but especially those with skin conditions such as eczema who have a compromised skin barrier, as research notes. For these individuals, moisturizing with lipids and ceramides will help restore and protect this skin barrier, and that will assist it in holding onto needed water and reducing potential sensitivity to allergens or irritants that lead to flare-ups, notes the National Eczema Association.
Other general lifestyle tips for combating dryness include skipping fabric softener or dryer sheets completely, using “free and clear” detergent, using a humidifier during sleeping hours, and wearing cotton fabrics (and avoiding wool), she says.
You can also turn to the following three skin-care bloggers and influencers for their take on how to hydrate. These smart and stylish experts are focused on sustainable beauty, organic options, and skin-care hacks that are actually doable. Here’s how they stay smooth, no matter the weather.
1. Adjust Your Shower Habits to Keep Your Face Flake-Free
Danielle Gray, a beauty expert and the founder of the?Style and Beauty Doctor (@stylenbeautydoc), is no stranger to winter — she lives in New York City. To battle the facial dryness that’s all too common this time of year, she recommends taking lukewarm showers. “Hot showers seem logical because it’s so cold out, but that temperature can really rob the skin of the moisture it’s already fighting to maintain during the colder months,” she says. After stepping out, when skin is still damp, apply moisturizer, which will enhance absorption of the active ingredients. Smooth on a hydrating serum first, followed by the rest of your routine, and finish with a sunscreen, she says.
Try No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Day Cream SPF 30, $26.99, Ulta.com.
2. Banish Crow’s-Feet With Hyaluronic Acid
Right now, you might be looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking: When did the lines around my eyes get so obvious? That’s another thing you can blame on winter. “The majority of fine lines around the eyes aren’t necessarily wrinkles; more commonly, they're due to dehydrated skin,” says Katie Sobelman, an aesthetician and skin-care educator at the Organic Esthetician (@the_organic_esthetician). She favors facial products with hyaluronic acid. “This is a humectant [meaning it draws water into the skin] that holds up to a thousand times its weight in water,” she says. (Research backs up this superpower claim!) Apply a hyaluronic acid serum all over the face. On top, dab on an eye cream that contains ceramides. “These create a protective barrier on the skin, increasing moisture and locking in hydration,” she says.
3. Address Upper Arms by Building Back Your Barrier
Florence Williams, a content creator focused on natural hair care and cruelty-free beauty in Atlanta (@theblendedbeauty) has eczema, and often experiences flare-ups on her upper arms. To help restore her skin barrier, she turns to a cream called Skinfix Barrier+, which contains lipids and proteins. “Over time, it repairs my skin and helps it become healthy again,” Williams says.
She also has made?changes to her diet that she’s found mitigate her breakouts. This includes reducing the amount of gluten she eats (over the years she’s discovered that wheat protein aggravates her skin), increasing probiotics through a supplement and via fermented foods like kimchi, and focusing on anti-inflammatory foods like salmon, blueberries, and cherries.
Try Skinfix Barrier + Triple Lipid-Peptide Face Cream, $50, Sephora.com.
4. Up the Ante in Moisturizing Knees and Elbows
Knees and elbows can be prime places for dry, cracked skin, because, as mentioned, skin is thicker here, says Mariwalla.
A heavier hand with hydrating products is required. In addition to applying your regular body moisturizer all over, follow up by applying “a thin layer of something like petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or Aquaphor Healing Ointment,” recommends Gray.
Try Aquaphor Healing Ointment for Dry, Cracked, or Irritated Skin, $17.59, Target.com.
RELATED: 10 Natural Dry Skin Remedies to DIY
5. Slough Off Dead Cells to Soften Feet and Heels
There’s nothing quite like winter heels, which tend to lead the way in cracking, despite being stuffed in socks all day. Areas with thicker skin, heels, show dryness more readily, says Mariwalla.
“The best way to address dry feet is to start by exfoliation,” says Sobelman. “This removes any dead skin that might prevent products from penetrating properly,” she says. Her go-tos are oil-based scrubs because scrubbing ingredients will take off the dead skin, and the oil base will help moisturize. (Your choice does not have to be specifically marketed toward feet, but can be any body scrub.) After, apply foot cream and top with socks — the warmth will help the ingredients seep into the skin, she says.
6. Consider CBD-Based Spot Treatments for Thighs
When Williams has an eczema flare-up on her thighs, she spreads on a layer of CQuell Spot Treatment. It’s a steroid-free cream that contains 200 milligrams (mg) of CBD, plus terpenes (another chemical found in the hemp plant) to quiet angry skin. “I put it on the one area on my thigh and my itch is relieved in minutes,” she says. Williams will also apply an ice pack for several minutes to lessen any inflammation. While the use of CBD in skin conditions, including eczema, is promising, as these products may have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, ultimately more research is needed to determine their role in treatment for these skin conditions, per an article published in December 2020 in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology.
Buy CQuell Spot Treatment, $34.99, CQuell.com.
7. Give Lips a Quick Scrub
You might feel as if you’re addicted to lip balm right now. Just going outside in the whipping, windy snow is enough to make you red around the mouth. The best way to banish lip flakiness? “Routine exfoliation,” says Gray. If you’ve found a lip scrub you love, then go ahead and use that. But there’s no need for a separate product. The genius trick she uses? “I just gently rub a wet toothbrush over my lips,” she says. Follow up with a lip balm. That said, don’t go overboard — as the American Academy of Dermatology warns, exfoliating any part of the skin too much may cause irritation and redness.
8. Maintain a Good Whole-Body Routine for Silky Skin
To keep your skin hydrated overall, you’ll want to be more vigilant with your skin-care routine in winter, and that can pay off for areas that are especially prone to dryness. Case in point: your legs. “Due to the distance from the legs to the heart, circulation here is slower. When you do get very dry, the skin tends to recover more slowly,” says Mariwalla.
That’s why prevention pays off. “My body routine involves a body oil wash, body oil, and body butter to seal everything in. This ensures my skin is getting the moisture it needs so I can better handle eczema breakouts,” says Williams. To support general skin hydration, she also likes taking a daily fish oil supplement, specifically OMG! Omega the Great by HUM.
Try OMG! Omega the Great, $30, HUMNutrition.com.