How to Keep Your Skin From Freaking Out During Winter, According to Dermatologists

Don't let the freezing temps get you down.

woman in pink coat


Winter's dark days, biting chill, breathtaking winds, and dreary rain doesn't just put our mood on a bit of a downer—it can wreak havoc with our complexions, too. Cold weather can cause our skin to be dry, flaky, red, and inflamed faster than you can say "knitwear." But it is possible to keep your complexion plump, happy, and luminous throughout the winter months—you just need the expert know-how. Thus, we called on a host of skincare experts to reveal the tried-and-true skin tips that will keep your complexion looking its best all winter long. Keep scrolling for the 12 essential winter skin tips you need to know.

Meet the Expert

Avoid Fragrance and Alcohol

"Switch to a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser, as strong soap can worsen itchy, dry skin," suggests Dr. Ross Perry, Medical Director of CosmedicsUK. "I’d advise choosing a cream-based cleanser and use toners and astringents sparingly as quite often these contain alcohol, which can further dry your skin out."

Take Omegas

"Take a supplement with omega 3, 6, and 9," advises Dr. Sophie Shotter. "My favorite is Zenii Triple Omegas...Many people don’t realize the importance of these to skin health, but there is significant evidence that omegas can even improve eczema. Their role is to maintain a healthy cell membrane, which is what allows a cell to hold water. This healthy barrier will support softer, more supple skin."

Dr. Nicholas Perricone agrees. "A supplement I advise patients not to be without is a high-quality Omega-3," he says. "I’ve seen some of the most dramatic results in terms of skin transformation with those who have chronically dry skin who begin an omega 3 supplement regimen. They’ll quickly feel the difference in their skin and notice diminished dryness and increase in suppleness and radiance."

Moisturize Your Hands

"Hands tend to get forgotten in winter and yet can highlight signs of aging when they’re not looked after and appear dry, lined, and cracked," notes Perry. "Wear gloves if you’re cleaning or washing up to protect your hands. Frequent washing of hands in winter will also help keep cold and flu germs away, so always use a hand moisturizer afterward."

Eat More Avocado

"Eating healthy fats such as avocado has been proven to help maintain supple, springy skin," says Dr. Rekha Tailor, medical director and founder of Health & Aesthetics. "Healthy fats are essential for keeping your face and hands looking healthy and prevent them from drying out in the cold winter months." (Plus, eating avocados might help your hair, too.)



"People tend to think that once the winter months arrive, they can stop using SPF on their face," says Tailor. "However, even though the temperature drops significantly in the winter months, the sun can still be extremely strong and damaging to the skin, especially when reflecting off the snow. Therefore, it’s important to continue to wear an SPF on your face, neck, and hands (or anything that’s exposed). Doing so will help hold off premature aging for longer."

Keep Active

While there’s nothing better than snuggling up under a warm blanket in front of the fire in winter, staying active boosts circulation, gets your pulse rate up, and gives you a healthy glow. "Even just a half an hour walk three times a week will help keep your skin looking radiant," explains Tailor.

Choose Your Accessories Carefully

When the temperatures dip, most of us reach for our cozy scarves and beanies. While cold-weather accessories are essential for protecting against the elements, many knitted accessories can be uncomfortable and irritating when worn directly next to the skin. "Itchy skin, also known as pruritus, can be accentuated by rough, irritating winter fabrics," explains Tailor. "To avoid suffering from irritated skin and scalp when wearing winter clothes, try to opt for items made from natural, breathable materials. This helps the air circulate and reduces the build-up of heat in one place, which can add to the irritation."

You also need to take good care of your knitwear. Pamela Marshall, co-founder of skincare brand Mortar & Milk, notes that many clients get acne around the jawline and neck during the winter months. "This is usually due to dirty scarves and jacket collars that constantly touch our face," she says. "Make sure you're cleaning these regularly. If you see makeup around the collar of your puffer jacket, it needs to be cleaned."

Stock Up On Kale

Kale is packed with vitamin C—in fact, one cup has more than 50% of the recommended vitamin C you need in a day. "This helps your skin to grow new cells and heal—just what you need to keep skin looking bright and fresh," Tailor says.


Keep Up Your Dry Brushing

If you're a fair-weather dry skin brusher, try to keep up the habit throughout winter. Dry skin brushing stimulates the lymphatic system and supports detoxification. "Before bathing, brush your skin with a soft natural brush—always brush upwards towards the heart and be gentle with the strokes," advises Lisa de-la-Plain, co-founder and professional beauty therapist at Beauty Flash. “This helps remove dead skin cells to unclog and decongest skin, which will help it absorb more nutrients."

dry body brush set
Temeaye Bath Body Brush for Dry or Wet Brushing, Set of 2 $16.00

Get Ingredient Savvy

Shotter reveals the ingredients you should factor into your skincare regimen this winter and why:

  • Urea: This is a more gentle exfoliant. It’s a great go-to ingredient throughout the winter months for both face and body when our skin barrier can’t necessarily tolerate the strong, active ingredients it does in spring and summer.
  • Lipids: Ceramides are long-chain lipids that support your skin cells, keeping them in an orderly matrix. Our ceramide levels drop significantly between summer and winter, meaning our skin loses more water through TEWL. Studies have shown that the combination of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids is even more effective than each ingredient alone. Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore ($130) is a perfect combination for a winter moisturizer.
  • CBD: The cold winds that blast our skin during the winter months can make our skin feel more irritated. CBD has been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory.
  • Squalane is another great winter moisture ingredient. Squalene is a natural oil produced by your skin, which decreases as you age. It helps to nourish and moisturize your skin.
  • Retinol: Winter skin can feel more irritated, but it’s important to still pay attention to retinol. A healthy dose of vitamin A will help to speed up the cell turnover, which becomes sluggish during the winter months. Keeping your skin stimulated will keep it looking more vibrant, healthy, and less wrinkled.

Sleep For Glowing Skin

Dr. Murad, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Murad skincare, says getting deep sleep is one of the best things you can do for your skin and health. "Sleep has important therapeutic benefits—it may be one of your body’s most productive times for repairing every system in your body, including skin which is your largest system and the one that displays the most dramatic signs of sleep deprivation," he explains. "My top tip is eating a walnut or two before bed. Rich in antioxidants, omegas, and one of the best food sources of melatonin, they may help improve your sleep.”

Don't Overuse Oils

In the skincare world, there is a school of thought that using oils might exacerbate skin conditions like rosacea and acne. If you feel like your skin could benefit from some extra nourishment on the coldest days, esthetician Nataliya Robinson advises not to overuse pure oils like jojoba or argan. “Using pure oils on your skin daily can damage your lipid barrier. The best way to use oils is to mix the oil into your usual day or night cream.”

Try These Skin-Boosting Products Below...

Perricone Cold Plasma +
Perricone MD Cold Plasma + $149.00

Created to treat and soothe winter skin, this multi-tasking serum contains vitamin C ester and omegas 3, 6 and 9 meant to brighten pigmentation and plump out fine lines and wrinkles. It also promises to reduce redness, while leaving the complexion looking more radiant.

Epaderm Emollient For Dry Skin $28.00

This thick, emollient-rich cream is fragrance- and color-free and designed to lock moisture in even the driest skin types.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Sikora E, Bodziarczyk I. Composition and antioxidant activity of kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala) raw and cookedActa Sci Pol Technol Aliment. 2012;11(3):239-248.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. The truth about dry brushing and what it does for you. Updated November 2, 2021.

  3. Spada F, Barnes TM, Greive KA. Skin hydration is significantly increased by a cream formulated to mimic the skin's own natural moisturizing systemsClin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2018;11:491-497. doi:10.2147/CCID.S177697

  4. Baswan SM, Klosner AE, Glynn K, et al. Therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD) for skin health and disordersClin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020;13:927-942. doi:10.2147/CCID.S286411

  5. Sethi A, Kaur T, Malhotra SK, Gambhir ML. Moisturizers: the slippery roadIndian J Dermatol. 2016;61(3):279-287. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.182427

  6. Zasada M, Budzisz E. Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatmentsPostepy Dermatol Alergol. 2019;36(4):392-397. doi:10.5114/ada.2019.87443

Related Stories