Combat Winter Skin Woes

Written by Kat Khadija Leverette, L.E., nationally certified aesthetic specialist

As winter approaches and the weather changes, the epidermal cells are impacted by the effects of overexposure to heat sources, dry air, and cold wind. Clients begin to complain that their skin feels tight and dry. Eyebrows, hairline, and sides of the nose begin to flake and even burn.

Hair feels brittle and sheds more and scalps feel tight and produce flakes. Eczema flares, eyes get puffy, eyelids get wrinkly, mouths get dry, lips become parched, and the corners of the mouth start to crack. Skin care products and treatments seem too drying, skin tones become blotchy, arms and legs get ashy and itchy, and feet become hooves. Welcome to winter skin!

Though there is an assortment of winter skin ails, there are many preventative measures that can be taken.


Lower the thermostat! Keep heat no higher than 68 degrees during the day and evening. Layer clothes and add a down comforter. Turn the heater off or lower it no higher than 55 degrees at bedtime. Rely on heaters to warm up the car before getting in, then turn it off. Then turn it off. Wear warmer clothing and footwear. The skin, scalp, and sinuses will stay more moisturized.

Never stand close to heaters, fireplaces, stoves, space heaters, or in a hot shower just to “warm up.” Never sleep in an overheated room.


Hard water can cause the skin to become extremely dehydrated and develop a dull, darker, ashy, skin tone. Install a water-filtration system or cleanse the face in spring or distilled water.

Hydrate from within. Encourage clients to increase water intake if they drink too little water; live in a hard water area; smoke or are exposed to any kind of secondhand smoke; drink alcohol or other dehydrating beverages; or take diuretics, blood pressure medicines, antibiotics, cold or allergy medicines, antidepressants, diet pills, sleep aids, anxiety medicines, or any medication that can cause dry mouth.

Encourage clients to drink about half their weight in ounces of water. Add one extra cup for every serving of coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverage. Herbal teas, flavored sparkling water, and juices contribute to daily water intake. For those who hate plain water, try sparkling water, flavored mineral water, juices, herbal tea, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Club soda, soft drinks, tonic water, caffeinated tea, green tea, or beverages labeled “iced tea” do not qualify.

Decreased water intake, cold wind, dry air, interior heat, hard water, exposure to smoke, hot showers and baths, medications, dehydrating beverages, and other factors can cause internal and external dehydration. So, people who are tired, achy, run down, have trouble concentrating, and suffer from skin that is feeling tight, flaky, itchy, wrinkled, getting irritated and developing a darker uneven skin tone, are probably dehydrated!


No long, hot showers! Showers must be of short duration, and warm, but never hot. Instead, try a warm bath for 10 minutes, blot dry, and apply an emollient body lotion to lock in moisture while skin is still a bit damp.

Most professional spa and skin care clinic procedures, masks, and facials can be customized to gently exfoliate and rehydrate dry skin without irritation.

Adjust homecare for winter. Clients, especially mature clients and those with sensitive skin, may require different homecare products as the weather gets colder. Tweak homecare regimens so all potentially drying acne and anti-aging products are introduced very gradually used less often during the coldest months.

Try a hydrating cleansing lotion. Switch from lathering gel cleansers and those that contain exfoliants like glycolic or salicylic acids, which can strip and over-dry the skin. Use gentle, fragrance-free products, cleanse in lukewarm water, and moisturize immediately. Reapply moisturizer and lip balm often and be diligent with sunscreen.

Look to plain sunflower oil to double as both a non-comedogenic makeup remover and economical moisturizer for the face and body.

Use unscented, alcohol-free toners that contain hydrating ingredients like purified water, aloe vera juice, glycerin, sodium PCA, rose water, coconut water, hyaluronic acid, honey, and calming botanicals like cucumber and chamomile. A thermal mineral spring water tonic can be spritzed onto the skin throughout the day to add moisture without causing rebound oiliness or irritation.

Do not attempt to scrub off dead skin cells with a washcloth, spa glove, loofah, spin or sonic brush, buffing pad, abrasive scrub, astringent and cotton ball, or microdermabrasion. Over-exfoliation can cause dead skin cells to build up faster and cause roughness, scaling, uneven skin tone, and a dull appearance.

Exercise caution with clay masks. Apply masks generously and rinse them off before they start to dry out. A too-thin coat of clay mask dries fast, so leaving it on after it starts to dry will suck moisture out of the skin. Try switching to hydrating cream and gel masks during the winter months.

Encourage clients to be consistent with homecare. They should not skip therapeutic acne and anti-aging products for longer than a day or two, even if skin seems a bit dry. Instead, reapply moisturizer during the day where needed. This usually solves the problem and allows the skin to gradually acclimate to active ingredients. To avoid dryness and irritation, active skin care products should never be applied too thick, too often, or on extremely sensitive or over-dry areas.


Seborrhea, like cradle cap on babies, is caused by dead skin buildup and oiliness, and may need special attention during cold weather. For severe buildup on the scalp, an exfoliating dandruff shampoo will help control stubborn flaking, prevent thinning, and calm itching.

Seborrheic dermatitis on the face is common and often part of an “oily, sensitive skin profile” that worsens in cold weather. Choose simple products designed for sensitive skin that are low-lather, alcohol-free, and fragrance-free. A mild hydrocortisone cream can be used short- term to address itching, dead cell buildup, and flaking on sides of the nose, eyebrows, hairline, ears, and scalp until symptoms subside.

Radiant skin requires staying hydrated from within and on the outside during the winter months. At the very least, everyone should drink more water, avoid smoke and pollutants, turn down the heater, avoid heat sources, keep hard water and soapy cleansers away from the face, take short and warm showers, apply sunscreen, and moisturize often!

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