winter dry skin

Winter dry skin: The dermatologist’s guide to building a hydrating skincare routine

21 Feb 2024 | Updated on: 05 Mar 2024 |By Annie Lewis

Struggling to manage your dry skin this winter? We get the expert low-down on how to keep your skin hydrated during the colder months

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As the weather gets colder, an inevitable reality is that our skin gets drier. And, while this may not be news to you, few of us actually know the reasons why. Put simply, cold air holds less moisture – and given the latter is essential for a strong skin barrier, a lack of moisture can result in dryness and irritation. Add to that central heating, which dries out the air indoors, and adverse weather (think wind, rain and those seemingly weekly storms) and it’s no wonder our skin is having a tough time. The good news is, there are things you can do to rescue it. A leading dermatologist tell us how to build an effective skincare routine to tackle winter dry skin – and the best products to add to your regime. 

Rethink your cleansing routine

“During winter I recommend cleansing twice a day while avoiding hot water as it can strip the skin of its natural oil barrier, meaning it will dry out quicker and become more itchy and flaky,” explains Dr Ross Perry, leading skincare expert and medical director of Cosmedics skin clinics. “For those who tend to have dry skin, a cream cleanser can help your skin’s top layer retain more moisture. Start by applying a small amount of cleanser into the palm of your hands and apply to the face, massage into the skin remembering the neck and décolletage area, rinse with lukewarm water or use a muslin cloth.” 

Elemis Pro-Collagen Rose Cleansing Balm

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Pai Skincare Middlemist Seven Gentle Cream Cleanser

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A good moisturiser is key

Next up is moisturising. While this may be obvious, the key is finding the right formula for you. Many moisturisers which boast hydrating properties can actually be so rich and dense that they clog pores, which can cause havoc to the skin if you wear make-up every day too. 

"Your cleansing routine shouldn’t change because you’re stuck inside. If anything skin might be more dry and congested during winter because central heating, the weather and skin irritations have a tendency to flare up more during the colder months," says Dr Perry. "Therefore, dry to go make-up free at home, drink plenty of water to keep skin hydrated and don’t skimp on the moisturiser."

Byoma Moisturising Gel Cream

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Elemis Pro-Collagen Rose Micro Serum

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Add Vitamin C

Renowned for its rejuvenating properties, vitamin C helps minimise the effects of ageing, reduces hyper-pigmentation and brightens the skin. If your skin is looking as dull as it is dry, Dr Perry says it could be worth incorporating a vitamin C serum into your routine. He explains: “In addition to your normal skincare regime, I’d recommend using a vitamin C serum that’s rich in antioxidants and therefore hydrating for the skin, making it appear brighter, firmer and smoother whilst tackling enlarged pores. 

“It will also target uneven skin tone and helps with anti-ageing. Molecules in serums are smaller than molecules in a moisturiser which allows the product to absorb much deeper into the pores, again creating a fresher, more youthful appearance. To get the best results from a serum, cleanse and tone as normal before applying a few drops of serum into the palm of your hands then gently pat or moisturise into your skin.” 

Neal’s Yard Vitamin C Brightening Booster

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Beauty Pie Vitamin C C-Suite Rapid Action Power Brightener

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Don’t forget the SPF

We all know that we should be wearing SPF even on the greyest of days, but does it help tackle dryness? Apparently so. "While I'd recommend taking advantage of getting some vitamin D in the garden when the sun is shining, remember to wear at least SPF 30 even during winter as the harmful UV rays can still penetrate the skin," adds Dr Perry.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios UVMune 400 Hydrating Suncream SPF50

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Make time for night creams and oils

An overnight skincare routine is extremely underrated, especially in winter. It’s during this time your skin has hours to absorb ingredients without being affected by external factors such as weather, pollution and UV – but it can also be when it becomes the most dehydrated if left bare. Therefore, a rich, repairing night cream can help keep skin moisturised all night, and therefore more flexible and comfortable in the morning.

Beauty Pie Plantastic Overnight Miracle Face Oil

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Neal’s Yard Nourishing Orange Flower Night Cream

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