Whilst I love the idea of cosy knits and drinking hot chocolate, as we start heading into winter, cold weather can play havoc with your skin.
Blustery winds, harsh weather and constant central heating can deplete your protective skin barrier which often leads to dry, tight and potentially irritable skin. Not only can it be sore and uncomfortable, but it can also affect your ability to stick to your regular actives-based skincare regime. It can also flare up your eczema, rosacea and even acne.
Our skin barrier is the protective yet delicate outer layer of skin that’s made up of lipids to cement skin cells together. Acting almost like your skin’s security guard, your barrier works to keep out irritants, pollution and dirt while retaining moisture, but a compromised skin barrier will exacerbate several skin conditions.
Knowing how to restore your skin barrier is key to happy, healthy skin by winter. The good news is that despite the oncoming chilly months, you can train your skin for success with the right preparation. Here are 5 things you can do ahead of the cold snap to ensure your skin’s fitness is up to scratch!
1. Eat well
The notion of you are what you eat may not always run true but the right nutrition can help to boost your skin barrier. Eating for skin health and hydration is far more impactful than drinking water.
If your skin isn’t retaining hydration, drinking water isn’t the solution. The right foods can help to rebuild and strengthen your lipid bilayer which helps keep the stratum corneum intact. Drinking water for hydration when you have a damaged skin barrier is much like pouring water into an extra-leaky sieve - you want to fix the holes before you pour in the fluid.
Good fats from nuts, avocado and oily fish are ideal or supplement with fish oil or flaxseed.
2. Address your cleansing routine
Caring for your skin starts with clean skin but a harsh cleanser can leave it compromised. Over-cleansing and over-exfoliating are the most common ways our skin barrier becomes damaged as the protective outer layer is degraded - even water alone depletes it. Start your winter skin preparation by having a cleanser audit. Ask yourself:
- Are you using a foaming cleanser or double cleansing?
- How does your skin feel after cleansing?
- Did a gel or cream cleanser offer you more support last year?
These questions can help to preempt future problems as you want to get cleansing right before winter comes as it’ll be hard to adjust once it’s upon us. Flawless Cleanser is gentle yet effective and has been specifically formulated to support your skin barrier with just a single cleanse.
3. Load up on barrier repair ingredients
Certain ingredients can help to support, restore and strengthen your skin barrier so it’s crucial to integrate them regularly into your routine. Ceramides are vital to healthy skin as they hold the skin together and form a protective layer to help prevent moisture loss and visible damage from environmental stressors. They can be used day or night and are suitable for all skin types, even oily skin, as they don’t add heaviness to a product, unlike rich emollients.
Niacinamide helps boost your barrier as it increases our natural ceramide production. It’s a fantastic all-rounder that’s brilliantly well-tolerated so most can benefit from it. It’s also safe in pregnancy and during breastfeeding.
The topical application of essential fatty acids is also vital for a well-functioning skin barrier. They often also act as multi-taskers by repairing the skin barrier while also nourishing and smoothing dry skin texture.
4. Switch up humectants for occlusives
Common humectants ingredients such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid attract and retain moisture in the skin but they, unfortunately, can’t heal the skin barrier on their own. When the mercury drops, introducing occlusive ingredients will help to create a protective seal on the skin to prevent transepidermal water loss. Look for ingredients such as squalane, mineral oil, shea butter or dimethicone that are much more effective at retaining moisture in the colder months.
5. Adjust your actives
Cold weather often triggers skin sensitivity and rosacea which may affect your tolerance to certain active ingredients. I’d recommend looking at how your skin reacted last year and making a note of any changes you made. Consider lowering the potency and/or frequency of your active ingredients, especially if using prescription retinoids. You could also buffer your retinoid with a moisturiser. It’s the single most useful hack that I share with my patients - and it can make all the difference in the world to how smoothly your winter skincare routine can go. . You can always revert back to your old routine once your skin is acclimatised. Remember, with your skin, slow and steady wins the race.
Just think about it, you wouldn’t start training for a marathon the week before and it’s the same with your skin. The sooner you can implement the above steps, the better shape your skin will be in by winter.
If you need help building your simple but structured routine, use my Routine Finder tool to get your personalised Dr Sam System. Alongside your everyday essentials, introducing a regular ‘rescue’ such as Flawless Revival Mask can make a huge difference. Packed with skin-loving ingredients to boost your barrier, provides intense hydration in just ten minutes.