How to Care for the Face in Winter

Four Methods:Preparing for the WinterCaring for Your Face in WinterAdjusting Your EnvironmentTreating Winter Skin Issues

Facial skin is sensitive and delicate, but takes quite a beating in terms of exposure to weather, chemicals, and pollution. The wintertime is particularly harsh to skin in cold climates, as the skin tends to lose moisture. There are several ways to prepare for winter's effects on facial skin, as well as dealing with wintertime skincare.

Method 1
Preparing for the Winter

  1. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 1
    Hydrate. Healthy, moisturized, and supple facial skin is impossible during any month of the year without proper body hydration. By taking care of your skin's hydration needs throughout the year, you will enter winter with your skin at its optimal condition.
    • Hydration begins from the inside out. Our bodies are comprised mostly of water, and we need to take in a large quantity of water each day to replenish what we lose through sweat, waste, and energy.
    • You can calculate your water needs by taking your weight in pounds and dividing it by two. That number, in ounces, is how much water you need for a day when you are working indoors and mostly sedentary. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, you need 60 ounces of fluids (this includes the water found in foods and other drinks). Increase the amount of water if you will be doing strenuous work or exercise, or if it is hot enough to make you sweat.[1]
  2. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 2
    Protect your skin. Using sunscreen every day throughout the year, particularly in the sunniest months, helps to protect your skin from sun damage, which in turn gives you the best chance at healthy skin going into winter.
    • On days when you don't plan to spend much time outdoors, use an SPF 15 or 30[2] sunscreen as part of your daily skincare routine, especially on your face. Use an SPF 50 if you will be outdoors for more than an hour.[3]
    • If you're not sure what level of SPF to use, remember that SPF numbers tell you how many minutes you can be in direct sun without burning. Basically, if no sunscreen means you can be outdoors one minute without sun damage, an SPF of 15 means you have 15 minutes before you would have sun damage.[4]
    • Some makeup products like foundation or tinted moisturizer contain sunscreen, but the thin layer that is typically applied does not provide enough coverage on its own. Be sure you apply sunscreen before applying makeup. In order to avoid a greasy or caked appearance, let the sunscreen soak in for a few minutes before adding the makeup.[5]
  3. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 3
    Eat a healthy diet. Your skin's health depends on a variety of factors, one of which is the diet that you consume. Eating the right balance of nutrients throughout the year can help keep your skin at its healthiest as you head into winter.
    • Be sure that your diet is high in omega-3s and DHA, which you can get from eating oily fish like tuna or salmon. If you don't eat a lot of fish, supplement with DHA capsules.
    • Eat foods containing other healthy oils, like nuts, olive oil, coconuts and coconut oil, and butter. Avoid fried foods, saturated fats, and foods containing high amounts of sugar, which can wreak havoc on your skin's health and appearance.
    • Eat foods containing selenium. Selenium is a mineral, and research suggests it protects your skin from sun damage caused by free radicals. Some foods that are high in selenium include Brazil nuts, shrimp, lamb, and button mushrooms.[6] You can also take a selenium supplement, available at most pharmacies and health food stores.
    • Be sure your diet contains antioxidants, which can also reduce damage to the skin. Colorful fruits and vegetables like berries, peppers, and beets are high in antioxidants.[7]

Method 2
Caring for Your Face in Winter

  1. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 4
    Adjust your face washing technique. It may take some trial and error to learn what works best for your skin type, but in general, you should never use a harsh soap on your facial skin, especially not in winter.
    • Choose a mild cleanser that is alcohol-free and does not contain sulfates (an ingredient that strips the lipids from your skin, reducing its protective barrier). In winter when skin is at its most vulnerable, it's a good idea to use a formula for sensitive skin, even if you don't normally consider your skin sensitive.[8]
    • If the facial soap you choose leaves your skin feeling tight, dry, or with a "squeaky clean" feeling, find a different one. Those are signs that your skin is being stripped of its protective layer of naturally occurring oils and lipids.[9]
    • The best mild soaps apply more like a thin moisturizer (without foaming and in a creamy layer).[10] Try Cetaphil, Olay face wash for sensitive skin, or Burt's Bees Sensitive Facial Cleanser.[11]
    • If you do not have acne or other skin issues, using a small bit of coconut oil is enough to cleanse the skin. It is very mild and has the additional benefit of moisturizing your skin. To use, take a small amount of coconut oil in your fingers (coconut oil is solid at temperatures below 72°F or 22°C, but will melt on contact with your skin). Rub into your facial skin and gently remove with a warm, moist washcloth or tissue. Do not rub vigorously, as that can irritate your skin. Coconut oil has the added benefit of being an excellent way to remove makeup.
    • In the mornings, unless you have very oily skin or acne that needs to be treated, consider using nothing but water to wash the face. Soaps remove natural protective oils which leaves your skin vulnerable to chapping, and morning skin is not really dirty since you've been sleeping on a clean pillow all night with no make-up on.[12]
  2. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 5
    Find the right moisturizer. This will vary depending on your skin type, but in general, heavier creams are best for the dry, cold winter months.
    • Your warm weather moisturizer is unlikely to be effective in the winter months. Many people who use a light moisturizer in the spring and summer need a heavier cream or ointment for the winter.
    • Don't be afraid to use oils on your face. Years ago, many people believed that oils in face products would cause acne, but new products containing oils such as jojoba, sweet almond, primrose, avocado, argan, or coconut oil have flipped this logic on its head. Look for an ointment or cream that is "oil-based" rather than "water-based" for the best winter moisturization.[13]
    • If you have sensitive skin, look for products that are marked "fragrance free," as fragrance can cause irritation, itchiness, and dry patches.
  3. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 6
    Consider a heavier moisturizer for nighttime use. The nighttime is a great time to allow your skin to rest and absorb extra moisture to prepare for the coming day. Additionally, indoor heaters can cause a lot of dryness on the face overnight, so a heavier moisturizer can ward that off.
    • Consider an oil treatment such as pure argan oil, or a nighttime facial moisturizing mask, which is essentially a heavy cream.
    • While most nighttime facial creams will not damage your pillowcase, those that are oil-based might leave a stain, so consider sleeping with a towel wrapped around your pillowcase or using a pillowcase that you don't mind staining.
  4. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 7
    Avoid excessive facial treatments. While you may enjoy spa treatments the rest of the year, less is often more during the winter, when the skin is more sensitive to chemicals and abrasion.
    • Peels, masks, and scrubs used in the winter months can simply irritate already-compromised winter skin. Use them minimally, or not at all.[14]
    • Scrubs in particular can be damaging to the surface of the skin. Avoid those that contain jagged particles (like those made from walnut shells) as well as those that contain plastic microbeads, which do not decompose and pose a threat to wildlife as they wash down the drain.[15] If you do use a scrub, use a gentle one that contains exfoliating particles made of sodium bicarbonate (that is, baking soda), which will dissolve as you wash it down the drain. Olay's Pro-X brand is one you can try.[16]
    • Be sure if you use a toner that it is alcohol-free, as alcohol is very drying to the skin.[17]
  5. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 8
    Don't forget about your lips. The lips are more delicate and tend to become chapped due to dehydration, harsh winter winds, and dry air. Prevent these problems with the right precautions.
    • Use lip balm every day to prevent chapping, particularly those formulated with Vitamin E and beeswax. If you will be outdoors at all, especially during the hours of 10 am–3 pm in the Western hemisphere (when the sun is at its peak) or when there is snow on the ground, be sure to use a lip balm with SPF 15 or higher.[18]
    • At night, use a thicker lip treatment. A homemade mixture of shea butter and coconut oil (melted together in the microwave) is affordable and effective. Mix it with a little sweet orange essential oil, and you have a great homemade holiday gift as well!
    • Avoid "matte" lipsticks as they tend to dry out the skin (as well as accentuating every dry flake and wrinkle). Generally, glossy or shiny lipsticks tend to be the most hydrating, although you may have to try a few brands to find one that works well for you. If you do want to try the matte lipstick trend, be sure to gently exfoliate and moisturize your lips first (a soft toothbrush with a bit of coconut oil on it works great for this).[19]
    • Most important: Don't lick your lips. Although many people do it, it increases irritation by drying your lips further as your saliva evaporates. Use lip balm if you feel the urge to lick your lips.[20]

Method 3
Adjusting Your Environment

  1. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 9
    Avoid hot showers and baths. While it may be tempting to indulge in a hot shower or bath in the cold winter months, doing so will strip your entire body's skin of moisture and leave it vulnerable to dryness and chapping.[21]
    • Warm showers will save energy and preserve the natural moisture on your face and body.
    • In addition to watching the temperature, keep your shower or bath quick. The longer you are in water of any temperature, the more of your natural oils you will wash away.
  2. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 10
    Adapt your climate control settings in your home. Dry, cold winter air requires changes to your living space in order to protect your skin from damage.
    • Keep the thermostat down. Using central heating is particularly bad for the skin, as it can cause it to dehydrate which results in itchiness and dry patches. If you have a radiator heating system, use it instead.
    • Turn on the humidifier. Dry winter air causes dry winter skin, so hook up the humidifier to add moisture back to the air, which will be absorbed by your skin.[22]
  3. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 11
    Avoid environmental hazards. In addition to adjusting the way you live in your own home, avoiding other hazards can help protect your facial skin through the winter months.
    • Winter air tends to trap chemical air pollution close to the ground, making smog more of a problem in the cold months. Smog pollution in the air turns to free radicals, which researchers believe can damage the outer layer of the skin and cause premature aging.[23] Try to minimize time you spend outdoors in commuter cities and other areas with high levels of air pollution.[24]
    • Watch out for winter sunburn. Many people forget to apply their sunscreen in the winter months, but sun damage and sunburn is just as much a concern during the cold months as during the hot months. During the winter, you are likely to cover your entire body to stay warm, but your neck and face remain exposed most of the time. This can lead to increased risk of skin cancer if you don't remember to apply your sunscreen daily.[25]

Method 4
Treating Winter Skin Issues

  1. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 12
    Increase your moisturization levels. Even if you have already increased the thickness of your typical moisturizer for the winter months, you may find partway through the season that even a thick cream is not enough to prevent your skin from feeling tight or itchy. That is a good indication that you need to increase the heaviness or thickness of the cream.
    • The marketing terms used on facial moisturizers can give you a clue as to the level of hydration they provide. While there are no industry-wide regulations on the use of the terms, products labeled "serum," "lotion," "cream," or "oil," tend to contain increasing amounts of oil. That is to say, a serum is mostly water based, a lotion contains mostly water with some oil, a cream contains more oil, and a face oil tends to be mostly oil, although it often contains other ingredients as well.[26]
    • You can use more than one product for extra moisturization; just be sure to start with the product that is more water-based first, so it can absorb into your skin before applying the next product.
  2. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 13
    Treat severely chapped lips. Even if you have been diligent in applying lip balm all winter, extreme environmental conditions like winter sun and wind and dry indoor air might still result in flaky, peeling, or even cracked and bleeding lips. Treating them properly can keep the problem from escalating, and prevent future problems.
    • Try a medicated lip balm such as Carmex or Blistex. These medicated balms contain ingredients like camphor as an analgesic, dimethicone to treat dryness, and a sunscreen to prevent further issues.
    • If your lips continue to be irritated despite using lip balm regularly, consider that you might be allergic to the balm itself. Many people experience irritation using natural and plant-based oils in their lip products (like beeswax and shea butter). Try using a petroleum-based moisturizer, like Vaseline or Aquaphor, which will provide a protective layer to your skin.[27]
  3. Image titled Care for the Face in Winter Step 14
    See a dermatologist or aesthetician. These specialists will be able to diagnose your skin care needs and provide a personalized plan for treatment through the winter months, taking your area's weather into account.
    • If you have severe winter skin issues like eczema or psoriasis, you might need a steroid prescription, which is only available from a doctor.
    • A sore, dry, or irritated patch on your face or lip that will not heal despite continued treatment can be an indication of an underlying problem, including skin cancer. Be sure to visit a dermatologist and have any such issues assessed to rule out the risk of cancer.[28]


  • Remember that affordable skincare products work just as well as expensive ones, but it may take trial and error to find the ones that work best for your particular skincare needs.[29]

Sources and Citations

Show more... (26)

Article Info

Categories: Skin Care