Underneath all the glitz and glam of the holiday season often looms the threat of dry, flaky, itchy skin. It's like a little secret we're all concealing, but here at Who What Wear, we're dedicated to providing a solution-oriented approach to skincare that allows us all to live more comfortably in our own dermis.
That's why we called in the experts to give us the scoop on the must-have products and practices to keep dry winter skin at bay. We consulted Marnie B. Nussbaum, MD, FAADD and oculoplastic surgeon, and leading aesthetic doctor Maryam Zamani, MD, to get their top tips for keeping your skin smooth and moisturized from head to toe.
"Dry skin is extremely common during the changing of the seasons, particularly from fall to winter. The harsh weather and drops in temperature combined with the dry indoor heat sap the skin of its natural moisture, creating flaky, dry cracked skin," Nussbaum explains.
And there are way more gems where that came from. Read on for the doctor-approved tips.
Tip #6: Cleanse Cautiously
"In summer, women may need to double cleanse as skin can become more greasy, but in winter, it's best to have a lighter touch and cleanse more gently so as not to strip the skin of vital moisture," Zamani explains.
This dermatologist-approved facial cleanser is gentle on the skin without compromising a deep-clean.
This La Roche-Posay cleanser isn't just gentle; it's also deeply hydrating. It'll effectively clear your skin of makeup and debris while delivering nourishing ceramides and niacinamide into the skin.
Tip #5: Exfoliate from head to toe
"Physical exfoliation can cause the skin to feel drier and stripped; however, it's important to continue exfoliating your skin during the winter," Zamani says. But don't go overboard! Nussbaum adds that over exfoliation can lead to redness, inflammation, dryness, and tearing in the skin. We love this daily physical exfoliating cleanser that's gentle enough to use daily, but we suggest that you listen to your body and use it only as often as it feels right for you.
"Improper mechanical exfoliation with rough, irregularly shaped particles can cause micro-tears of the skin, causing cracks, inflammation and even infection," Nussbaum says. "I recommend that patients start out exfoliating once or twice per week, and gradually increase depending on the product and skin sensitivity." Lancer's The Method: Polish is an intense physical exfoliator, but the pure minerals and pumpkin and pomegranate enzymes aren't too harsh for sporadic use.
And of course, the physical exfoliation should extend to your entire body, not just your face. This C & the Moon option is so luxurious, smells heavenly, and leaves your skin feeling baby-soft.
"Chemical exfoliation using ingredients such as lactic acid helps to turn over skin cells whilst maintaining hydration," Zamani offers. But again, exfoliating, especially during the winter, should be done in moderation, and only as often as your skin can handle without becoming red, raw, or irritated.
This budget-friendly chemical exfoliator is another one of our absolute favorites. It combines glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids for a vigorous exfoliation of the top layer of the skin, as well as the deeper layers.
Tip #4: Defend against the drying effects of drinking alcohol
According to Zamani, alcohol is one of the biggest instigators of dry skin during the winter months. "Alcohol is incredibly dehydrating because it's a diuretic, forcing the water out of our bodies," she says. "The presence of alcohol also makes it more difficult to rehydrate afterward, so you'll be left with dry, flaky skin, and your fine lines and wrinkles will be more visible due to the lack of fluid in your skin." (Yikes!) "If you do want to indulge in a few extra drinks during the holiday season, ensure that you're giving your skin a helping hand by incorporating retinol to encourage cell turnover to renew your skin’s glow," she adds.
We love this all-natural product, too. It's great for sensitive skin types, since it employs bakuchiol, a plant-derived retinol alternative.
Tip #3: Hydrate from the inside out
"Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate—I cannot focus enough on the importance of hydration," Zamani implores.
"For immediate topical hydration, opt for hyaluronic acid rich MZ Skin Lift and Lustre, which will help restore immediate moisturization to your skin," she continues.
Zamani also loves the MZ Skin Brighten & Perfect Vitamin C serum, and not just because she created it! She says that with 10% vitamin C, it really will help reveal a brighter, smoother, and luminous skin tone, even if you've been indulging in extra holiday cocktails.
BeautyStat's vitamin C serum has created a lot of buzz recently because it's formulated with 20% pure, stable vitamin C. That means the product is just as potent by the last pump as it is at the first one.
Zamani also says that ceramides are essential to maintaining a healthy skin barrier. The waxy lipids prevent moisture loss in the skin. "They're particularly useful for those with dry and weakened skin types, but all will benefit from use of ceramides due to their skin-protecting properties," she notes.
"Ceramides are naturally produced by the skin; however, this reduces with age and exposure to environmental aggressors such as cooler weather," Zamani explains. "Therefore, it's vital to incorporate them into your skincare routine in order to maintain a supple, glowing complexion."
Tip #2: Switch to pH-friendly bath products
"Many of my patients don't realize the power of the bodywash they choose, especially during the dry winter months," Nussbaum says."Traditional bar soaps throw off the pH of the skin and strip the skin of its moisture, creating a tight, dry, itchy effect. Choosing a pH-balanced, moisturizing bodywash specially formulated to alleviate dry skin; it's essential in repairing the epidermal barrier and creating a healthy, hydrated, supple feel."
"This unique formula contains shea butter, petrolatum, and a special Lock-In Moisture Technology that infuses moisture 10 layers deep so that an added lotion may not even be necessary. Shea Butter is a vitamin-rich moisturizing ingredient and combined with petrolatum, they serve as occlusive agents on the skin. They work together to help seal in moisture, creating a protective barrier and preventing transepidermal water loss," says Nussbaum.
We love that this option is scented with natural essential oils instead of artificial additives, so it won't disrupt your skin's natural processes.
"Daily or even twice daily hydration is key," Nussbaum goes on. "Use gentle bodywashes containing proven hydrating ingredients, and be consistent! Glowing, supple skin isn't created overnight. The more diligent you are with your moisturizing, the better results you will see."
Tip #1: Ditch long, hot showers
Above all, Nussbaum believes that the number one culprit of dry skin is scorching shower temperatures. "I know that after coming in from the cold after a long, hard day, all you want is to stand in a hot, steamy shower and sing your heart out. However, long, hot showers further strip the skin of its natural lipids and paradoxically dry the skin out, creating an inflamed, red barrier," she says. Nussbaum explains that in-shower lotions like this one by Olay are great for sealing in moisture after a (not-too-hot) shower.
"Many people may not realize that in-shower lotions exist and are a great option for those who are too busy or forgetful to apply lotion after showering," Nussbaum says. "You can use an in-shower rinse-off body lotion that uses the humidity of the shower to help hydrate the skin."
Up next, These Derm-Approved Moisturizers Will Vastly Improve Your Skin's Dew Point
Courtney Higgs is a Cancer sun, Libra rising beauty enthusiast with about six years of experience in the editorial space. She was previously Who What Wear's associate beauty editor after spending many years working on the West Coast edit team at InStyle Magazine. She graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a BA in communication studies and pivoted to editorial after spending her college years working in the legal field. Her beauty philosophy is simple: She believes there are no wrong answers and that discovering our favorite beauty products and rituals is a journey, not a sprint. When she's not geeking out over products, she can be found adventuring around L.A. with her fiancé; watching reality TV with their French bulldog, Bernie Mac; or relating way too hard to astrology memes.
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