When I made the leap of moving from a place where I spent several Christmases in shorts to a place with six-foot-high snow drifts, I learned a harsh lesson about what the cold can do to the skin. Living in a place where snow tires were required by law after a certain date, I quickly found out that changes in my skincare routine were also needed as winter set in.
Those first few years were a crash course in experimenting with supplementation. Although I went through a very drastic change in locales, you needn't be in an extreme climate to see the benefits from adding some helpers to your current routine. Keeping skin healthy in winter is an uphill battle, but I've found some products that have helped me win the war on irritation and dryness.
Starting off with something as simple as not using overly hot water when showering is a good way to keep your skin from getting dried out. Hot water softens your skin's oils, which can then be stripped away with harsh soaps.
To prevent your skin from becoming a dried-out husk, use a more emollient soap. Since winter makes me want to sit about and drink hot chocolate all day, I figure my skin might want to get in on the fun. I'm fond of Klairs Manuka Honey & Choco Body Soap ($10.90). While it smells more like a chocolate cereal bar than straight-up chocolate, it is a great non-drying body soap.
If you're looking for a hydrating traditional chocolate experience, using Shea Terra Organics Shea Butter & Malawi Sugar Dark Chocolate 2-n-1 Body Scrub ($16) after the Klairs soap is absolutely heavenly. This indulgent scrub moisturizes with the shea butter as it mildly exfoliates with the sugar. It leaves your skin soft and smooth while filling your shower with the smell of intense chocolate brownie batter. I can't even begin tell you how good this stuff smells. If you're a chocolate lover and into soft skin (who isn't?) then this is the scrub for you this winter.
With the dropping temperatures and the bitter winds, it's important to beef up your skin's security by reinforcing its moisture barrier. Think of your skin as a nightclub, and the moisture barrier is the bouncer. The stronger the barrier, the easier it is to prevent breakouts and irritation.
One of the best ways to do that is with hyaluronic acid. A good quality product with high sodium hyaluronate content can help keep the moisture locked into your skin. And don't think that good quality has to mean expensive.
My favourite brand of products containing this ingredient is Hada Labo, a very affordable drugstore brand from Japan. The Hada Labo Gokujyun line is great for keeping your skin moisturized and protected. The Gokujyun Clear Lotion ($19.99) is meant to be used immediately after washing your face; a few drops of this patted into the skin will instantly plump and soothe. If you're looking for an actual lotion -- not something clear -- from this line, then the Hada Labo Gokujyun Milk ($19.99) is your friend. Those with dry skin will appreciate how emollient it is and how bouncy it makes your skin feel.
Another option, especially for those who don't like a heavy feel to their products or have an oilier skin type, is Hada Labo Tokyo Skin Plumping Gel Cream ($24.99). This is exactly what it says it is: a gel cream. It's very light in texture but packed with three different kinds of hyaluronic acid to keep your skin moisturized.
If you suffer from extremely dry skin or live in a very harsh climate, consider adding a few drops of nourishing oil to your moisturizers. A great option from Shea Terra is the African Wild Oil Collection ($26). It contains .25-ounce miniatures of their African Baobab Oil, Marula Oil, Moroccan Argan Oil, and Tamanu Oils. This little set is the perfect way to discover which one is best for you. I personally rotate between all of them, using each for about a week at a time before switching to another. The effects are wonderful; they really help amplify the effectiveness of my hydration products without clogging pores.
If you wear makeup and find yourself looking flaky and feeling wind burned at the end of the way, Innisfree Mineral Moisture Fitting Base ($7) is something to consider. Despite what its name suggests, it's not a foundation -- it's actually a moisturizing primer. Free of parabens, artificial colourings, artificial fragrances, benzophenone, ethanol or silicone, this lotion-like primer contains mineral powders to help your makeup have more staying power, as well as shea butter to moisturize and protect.
Speaking of protection, don't think that just because the sun is half-assing it in the sky that you can half-ass it on the sunblock. Even on cloudy, overcast days, those little bastard UVA and UVB rays are out to get us. Keep your sunblock right next to your moisturizer and make sure you don't leave the house without applying a liberal amount -- about 1/4 of a teaspoon.
BB creams and foundations with an SPF of 25 or more are great, but we don't apply near enough to keep us covered. My go-to sunblock for winter -- Innisfree Eco Safety Perfect Sunblock SPF 50 ($17) -- is more moisturizing than my usual summer picks and it's got some great skincare ingredients on top of the high SPF rating. With the addition of organic sunflower oil, organic green tea and orchid, it smells amazing. The herbal floral smell reminds you that warmer days are ahead, while the soothing ingredients and high SPF make it the perfect topping armour for your own skincare battle this winter.
What are your favorite skincare products for winter?