‘I’m a Beauty Editor and This Simple Winter Skincare Routine Fixed My Dry Skin’

To say I was surprised when my skin started feeling dry last winter would be an understatement. My whole life I’ve had combination skin, with cheeks that always felt fine, and a T-zone that had a tendency to turn into an oil slick by 3pm.

But as I’ve gotten, ahem, older, and my skin’s oil production has slowed down, flakiness and dryness are now things I have to deal with in the cooler seasons.

Scaly and ashy skin on my shins is fine (it’s not, but I don’t see my legs all winter, so I can pretend like it doesn’t exist), but on my face? Unfortunately, that I can’t ignore, so here’s my tried-and-tested skincare strategy that helps me get through the winter with my face intact - and it might just help save your skin, too.

A 5-Step Simple Winter Skincare Routine to Fix Dry Skin

1. Cleanse gently

I substitute my usual cleansing gels for milky and creamy ones (like CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser) that won’t strip my skin of its natural oils, put its pH levels out of whack or just further irritate it. If your skin feels tight after cleansing, you’re using the wrong one, or you’re overdoing it, so cut down to just a PM cleanse (you can splash water on your face in the AM).

Also, turn down the water temperature. This is one I struggle with because that too-hot water feels so damn good - but trust me, it’s only dehydrating your skin. 

2. Keep exfoliating

It might seem counterintuitive, but you need to buff away all those dead skin cells that are hanging around on the surface of your skin and clear the path for serums and moisturisers to get in there and absorb properly.

You have lots of options: you can go really gentle with a rice powder, like the cult Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, low-tech with a warm washcloth (use it to remove your cleanser), a chemical exfoliant to dissolve the “glue” holding those dead skin cells together (I’ve been impressed with Q+A Apple AHA Exfoliating Gel) or try your hand at a physical scrub (goop Beauty GoopGlow Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator is for advanced users only).

Try and aim to exfoliate once per week. 

3. Pile on the serums

I layer like nobody’s business and I think you should, too. Serums are designed to penetrate into the deepest layers of the skin, which is exactly where you want to deliver the hydration.

Choose either a hyaluronic acid one (these molecules hold up to 1000 times their weight in water, and The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 is an excellent budget option) or snow mushroom (another ingredient that works like a water-absorbing sponge, it holds up to 500 times its weight in water, and is in Volition Beauty Snow Mushroom Water Serum).

Apply serum as your first step straight after your cleanser. 

4. Moisturise, obviously

This is another product I swap out during winter. Your regular hydrator might no longer cut it, so consider upping your game: if you regularly use a gel, try a lotion; if you’re currently using a lotion, switch to a cream (I use a heavy-duty balm around my nostrils - the flakiest part of my face).

Look for moisturisers with hyaluronic acid, glycerin (it pulls water from the air into your skin) or ceramides (these fill in the cracks between skin cells, trapping water below the skin’s surface), and apply while your skin is still damp as this helps pull in some of the water that’s sitting on your skin, for extra extra hydration.

A couple of my faves: Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream and Neutrogena Hydro-Boost Gel-Cream

5. Top it off 

This is one of the things I only do in winter: before bed, I apply either a sleeping mask, which acts as a permeable seal so all the products and ingredients underneath penetrate the skin better; or face oil, which works like a sealant, trapping everything so no water or moisture escapes. If you’re using an oil, dispense a few drops, warm it between your palms and then press it into your skin, or try using it as a spot treatment over particularly dry patches.

Two products I have on high rotation during the cooler months are Laneige Water Sleeping Mask and Ipsum Best Skin Enriching Face Oil

Sherine Youssef is a beauty journalist and the co-founder of gloss etc, a free weekly beauty newsletter. Follow them on Instagram @gloss.etc, and sign up for the newsletter here

OK, so how long does it take for skincare products to actually work? Find your complete guide here.

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