I believe it was Alexa Chung who coined the phrase ‘winter face’ in a Lisa Eldridge video a few months ago (watch it here). You know what she means: that dry, lackluster, grey skin that seems to surface as soon as the temperatures drop. Gone is your spring/summer luminosity, radiance and clarity, and left in its place: flat, one-dimensional skin. Bleugh. Despite loving winter and the accompanying roaring fires, jerseys and general cosiness, I loathe what it does to my skin. The good news is that even though winter face will try and stake its claim, you can avoid it if you follow a proper regimen and are diligent about your skincare. Just as you adapt your wardrobe for the changing seasons, so to should you adapt your skincare routine.
In order to tackle the dreaded winter face, we first need to understand how and why it happens in the first place. The winter climate is a far more harsh environment for the skin to cope with, and the additional heating, fireplaces, lack of humidity and lower temperatures all play a role in compromising the skin barrier. The lack humidity results in the skin losing more superficial hydration, and as this happens, the skin tries to prevent moisture loss by holding onto dead skin cells for longer. This leads to a build up of dry layers on the surface, hindering proper product penetration, and resulting in dry, rough skin. If the situation persists and the dehydration is aggravated, the skin may become sensitised, and this could result in redness/flushing. Conversely, the skin may also try to counteract the water loss by producing more oil to lubricate itself. This oil is then trapped beneath the layer of dead skin cells, resulting in (you guessed it) breakouts.
Ok, so now that you understand the basics, what can you do to keep your skin functioning optimally? The first step is to introduce an effective exfoliator. Avoid physical exfoliators as these typically come in the form of granular scrubs and can be too harsh for the skin, and they also tend to aggravate sensitivity. Instead, reach for a good AHA (alpha hydroxy acid), as this enzymatic exfoliator will gently dissolve the bonds which bind the dead skin cells together, thereby eliminating those dry layers of skin and allowing for better product penetration and consequently, more hydrated skin. Jules wrote a really helpful post on hydroxy acids last year, so if you want to learn more about AHA’s and how they work, have a read here. My current favourites are the Environ Alpha Toner Forte and the Environ Alpha Hydroxy Cream, but Jules has several other recommendations in her post.
You also need to ensure that your skin barrier is protected through the use of a good serum and moisturiser. The skin barrier does exactly what its name suggests: it acts like a suit of armour which protects the skin from external aggressors (pollution, sun exposure etc) and helps keep the skin functioning optimally. The barrier may become compromised during colder months due to lack of moisture and/or external aggressors, so it is important to switch up your product choices in order to protect it. In summer, it’s natural to gravitate towards lighter textures, and that’s fine because the humidity in the air will ensure that your skin is producing the right amount of oil to keep you looking peachy. However, in the winter you need to introduce more moisture, usually in the form of a serum (the smaller molecules penetrate deeper into the skin), and heavier textures in order to keep the wheels turning properly. A good quality moisturiser will provide the barrier repair and protection function, thereby ensuring the skin’s ability to retain moisture over a longer period of time. I am using several hydrating serums at the moment, but my two favourites are definitely the SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel and the Clarins Hydra-Essentiel Intensive Bi-Phase Serum – the latter is a far wetter formulation and is fantastic for dehydrated skin. As far as moisturisers ago, I am (as ever) faithful to my Environ Classic Moisturisers, although if my skin is in need of extra moisture, I will apply a layer of the Environ Super Moisturiser+ on top just before bed. If your skin barrier is compromised and you need proper TLC, Jules and I can both highly recommend the Lamelle Serra Restore Cream – you can see us chat more about it in our most recent monthly favourites video.
I hope that you have found this post helpful!