Our skin is a very versatile organ that changes and adapts to different environments. Everything you put on your skin, every climate you’re in and every diet you maintain affects its health. As the temperature drops and we swap our wardrobe for more warmer clothes like sweaters and scarves, it is crucial to understand how we need to adjust our skincare routine as well.
What really happens to your skin when it's cold?
When the weather gets colder, humidity levels typically drop too. Between harsher temperatures, low levels of moisture in the air, and indoor heat, our skin’s natural protective barrier is stripped of hydration, resulting in dry, flaky skin. When your skin is dry, it’s also more sensitive - making it more prone to breakouts, irritability, and cracking. During periods of cold weather, it is also not unusual for skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis to flare up.
Does the weather affect your microbiome?
One great thing to note is that our skin microbiome stays mostly consistent (at least from what we know so far) throughout weather changes. This is due to the microbiome found inside our dermis (inner layers of our skin) that resurfaces as our outer skin layers flake off. However, this creates a need to take care of your skin microbiome all year round to make sure it stays diverse and plentiful.
Thankfully by paying attention to your skin and making intentional swaps to your routine (just like you do for your clothes), you can prevent the chain reaction that causes dry, damaged skin.
We’ve compiled a few great swaps in your skincare routine that are more “winter-friendly” that will help you conquer your day during the cold while keeping your skin glowing.
What does your skin need during the cold weather?
As nice as long hot showers, central heating and space heaters sound, these should be your last option to get through cold weather! These ‘protectors’ while keeping you warm, also reduce humidity and dry out your skin. So here are a few tips to get you through the cold:
Swap 1: Compensate cranking up your heater to feel toasty by wearing extra layers of clothing. Opt for warmer sweaters and blankets made from skin-friendly fabrics like cotton that keep you feeling cozy.
Swap 2: Try to take lukewarm showers instead of using scorching hot water, and try to limit how long you expose your skin to hot water in general (while cleaning your face, washing dishes etc).
Swap 3: Replace your regular moisturizer with a thicker, more nourishing moisturizer. Don’t forget to moisturize your entire body including your hands and feet. Plus, adding a moisturizing serum to your routine along with a moisturizer, will double-protect your skin!
Swap 4: Change your usual cleanser to a more gentle, soothing cleanser. Try micellar water or cleansers without fragrances, essential oils or alcohol.This will help you remove any pollutants from your skin without removing extra moisture.
Swap 5: Opt for more hydrating lip balms over matte lipsticks or any matte products. Use lip scrubs and lip balms in your night routine to make sure your lips stay plump and don’t dry out.
Keep: Continue to apply sunscreen! You may not feel the need to wear sunscreen when you don’t see the sun often, but UV rays are always present year-long, no matter the season. Even when it's raining or cloudy, wear at least an SPF 15 sunscreen before going out. This is because clouds may block sunlight but they do not block UV rays. In fact, the rays bounce off dense clouds and reflect back towards you. Wear your sunscreen before applying your makeup, even if your makeup already has SPF.
Add: If your skin is still feeling dry after these modifications, invest in a humidifier. This will restore any loss of moisture from the weather.
As you incorporate these changes over time, they’ll soon become second nature - keeping your skin balanced, moisturized and healthy no matter the season.
By Lakshika Ruwanpathirana, Chemical Engineering graduate (UC Berkeley).
Harvard Health Publishing. “How Does Cold Weather Affect Your Health?” Harvard Health, Nov. 2014, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-does-cold-weather-affect-your-health.
Harvard Health Publishing. “Out in the Cold.” Harvard Health, Jan. 2010, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/out-in-the-cold.
Liu, Kristina. “Banishing Dry Winter Skin.” Harvard Health Blog, 5 Mar. 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/banishing-dry-winter-skin-2019031416142.
Rudikoff, Donald. “The Effect of Dryness on the Skin.” Clinics in Dermatology, Elsevier, 30 Mar. 1998, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0738081X97001739.
Sethi, Anisha, et al. “Moisturizers: The Slippery Road.” Indian Journal of Dermatology, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4885180/.
Goad, Nina et al. “The impact of ambient humidity on healthy and diseased skin.’ Skin Health Alliance, 2015, https://www.skinhealthalliance.org/news/impact-ambient-humidity-healthy-diseased-skin/
Sohn, Emily. “Skin Microbiota's Community Effort.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 21 Nov. 2018, www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07432-8.