How to look after dry skin in winter, according to dermatologists

As if the struggle of getting out of a lovely warm bed into freezing temperatures wasn’t enough to deal with come winter, many of us also have dry skin to contend with at this time of year. From itchy skin to rough, dry patches on the face, dry skin can take many forms and – as the dermatologists we spoke to both agree – can have several causes.

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However, overall it’s the cold temperature we have to blame, says Malvina Cunningham, consultant dermatologist at SKIN+ME. ‘A drop in temperature and low humidity have a negative effect on our skin’s barrier, meaning it becomes weaker and more susceptible to environmental stressors and allergens’ she says. ‘A compromised skin barrier drives inflammation, leading to redness, dryness and irritation.’

It doesn’t sound particularly fun, especially when we want healthy, glowing skin in time for the Christmas party season. So what can you do about dry skin in the winter? We spoke to Malvina and consultant dermatologist Dr Alexis Granite to get their expert tips.

The best routine for dry skin

It’s important to avoid any overly harsh or abrasive products on dry skin. That’s why both experts agree that a gentle cream cleanser is the best way to clean dry skin both morning and evening.

‘In the morning follow your cleanse with a moisturiser and sunscreen, and in the evening use a hydrating serum under your night-time moisturiser’ says Malvina. You’s Beauty Director Edwina Ings-Chambers has some great dry skin product recommendations here.

The best ingredients for dry skin

We’re all wising up on skincare ingredients these days, and there are certainly some you should look out for if you suffer from dry skin.  ‘Moisturisers containing barrier friendly ingredients such as glycerin, shea butter, niacinamide and ceramides or urea are great at repairing our barrier and protecting it’ says Malvina.

She is also a fan of hyaluronic acid, which has an amazing ability to hold a thousand times its own weight in water (Green People offer a great hyaluronic acid serum, £27). ‘Extra moisture can be achieved with the hydrating ingredient hyaluronic acid which can be found in many great hydrating serums that can be layered underneath your moisturiser’ she says.

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As for what to reject from your skincare routine, Malvina advises ‘Try to avoid harsh cleansers such as gel and foaming cleansers in the winter and reduce the frequency or even stop the application of strong exfoliators such as AHA and BHAs.’

What to do about patches of dry skin

Dry patches of skin, whether they are under the eyes, on the cheeks or anywhere else on the face, can be extremely annoying, particularly as they are very hard to cover up.

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Many people suffer from dry patches under their eyes, which is perhaps because this area of skin is particularly vulnerable.

‘The skin around our eyes is the thinnest of the entire body and more prone to skin barrier disruption and dryness’ explains Dr Alexis Granite. ‘Avoid applying potentially irritating ingredients such as retinol and vitamin C, to the skin around the eyes if you are experiencing dryness. Try a hydrating micellar water to cleanse eye makeup and apply an emollient twice daily.’ Again, she recommends hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to help solve the problem.

Dry patches on the rest of the face should also be treated with extra attention. Avoid applying active ingredients to those isolated areas to allow them time to settle’ says Alexis. ‘Apply a more hydrating balm or Hyaluronic Acid serum to patches as needed. If patches persist or develop into dermatitis, consider consulting with a dermatologist for prescription treatment.’

Lifestyle changes to help combat dry skin

The best way to tackle dry skin is with targeted products and the right skincare regime, but there are some lifestyle changes that may help.

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‘Drink plenty of water to ensure optimum hydration, and take an omega-3 supplement to help support moisture levels’ says Alexis. ‘Keep shower and bath water warm, but not too hot to prevent over-drying of the skin. I also like small desktop diffusers and/or humidifiers to add moisture back in the air, especially when central heating is on.’