Developing a skincare regimen not only helps you look good, it helps you feel good. When you live in a cold and dry environment like Maine’s, though, many skincare credos that seem universal can suddenly fly out the window. Thankfully, there are a few simple steps you can take to care for your skin in cold, dry areas.
Cold, dry environments like Maine’s can have a dehydrating impact on skin.
“Lower temperatures and humidity levels dry out the skin, ultimately affecting its role as a protective barrier,” said Michael Noparstak, board-certified dermatologist at Acadia Dermatology in Ellsworth.
The dehydration that results from this environment can also impact the way your skin looks.
“Dehydrated skin is going to be a little more crepey looking,” said Linda Forgues, owner and esthetician at About Face Skin Care Salon and Cosmetic Boutique in Damariscotta. “I describe it like a pepper in your refrigerator that loses its moisture and gets a little crinkly. Some of our clients will complain of really dry, flaky, irritated, red, itchy skin from the cold air and the other elements we have here in Maine [like] lots of wind.”
Certain outdoor activities in the winter might also exacerbate these issues.
“People who burn wood have more dehydrated skin,” Forgues said. “If you’re an outdoors person, it’s good to keep your skin protected.”
Forgues also emphasized that, despite outdated gender stereotypes, men can benefit from a skincare routine, too.
“We’re trying to get our men to do these things as well,” Forgues said. “They need it just as much.”
Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to update a regimen rendered ineffective by the weather, here’s what you need to know about your skincare routine this winter.
If you don’t yet have a skincare routine, start with the basics.
You will need a few products to get started: a cleanser (Forgues said that there are different types depending on your skin type), a serum (vitamin C is good to help protect against sun damage and prevent premature aging, Forgues recommended), a daily moisturizer with SPF protection and an exfoliating night cream with glycolic acid that will slough off dead skin cells help the moisturizers penetrate the skin better.
“A lot of skin care lines recommend toners,” Forgues said. “We don’t push toners because we try to keep it simple. A lot of time people buy them and they wind up sitting on their shelves.”
No matter the season, Forgues said to use your cleanser, protective serum and moisturizer in the morning. At night before you go to bed, cleanse again, use your exfoliating cream and moisturize once more.
Forgues also said that when you are adding new elements to your skincare routine, it is important to go slow so you can figure out the impact of the products you are using.
“Don’t try to do too many things at once,” Forgues said. “If you start something new, try to stick with one product at a time for a few days to see if your skin tolerates it. You don’t want to use two or three [because] if you have a reaction, you won’t know what it’s from.”
Hydrating skin during the winter is extra important. Start with a good moisturizer.
“In general, if you need moisturizer, you will need more of it during the cold and dry months,” Noparstak said. “I have plenty of patients who need no moisturizer during the summer, but need to use it daily during the winter.”
Keep your moisturizers basic.
“If moisturizer is needed, I generally recommend bland and affordable products,” Noparstak said. “Avoid anything with fragrances or extra ingredients that sound fancy, but might irritate one’s skin. An exception would be moisturizers that contain ceramides, which have been shown to be of benefit in multiple clinical studies.”
Forgues emphasized that even people who have oily skin need to use moisturizer.
“They think because their skin is oily they don’t need to use hydration, but they do,” Forgues said. “It’s two different things.”
In addition to moisturizer, a hydrating serum will also help combat the dryness of the cold winter. Forgues said to put it on in the morning, after your protective serum and before your moisturizer with SPF. She said to look out for serums with hyaluronic acid.
“It penetrates deeper into the cells,” Forgues said. “Hyaluronic acid will bind [a thousand] times more moisture to the cells. It also makes them more healthy and less inflamed.”
Be careful with exfoliating
Removing some dead skin cells through exfoliation is a good practice for nighttime skincare routines. But doing so improperly can also irritate dry skin.
“In general, moisturize more and exfoliate less,” Noparstak said. “Be careful with exfoliants as the risk for irritation increases in cold and dry environments. Use them as tolerated.”
Forgues said specifically to avoid “manual exfoliators, like a scrub or something abrasive,” but instead opt for “chemical exfoliation” products like glycolic acid.
Exfoliating does not have to happen every day, either.
“Some people cannot tolerate the exfoliating products every day,” Forgues said. “We usually have people start slowly, one to two times a week.”
Adjust your home environment
When it comes to skincare, having a humidifier can help with your skin woes.
“It’s a good idea to use humidifiers in the winter time to add a little more moisture in the air,” Forgues said.
Nothing, however, replaces the benefits of a good skincare routine.
“A good skin care routine is more effective for skin protection in cold environments than devices such as humidifiers,” Noparstak said.
Avoid hot showers
As good as it might feel to take a searing hot shower in the middle of the winter, you might want to turn down the temperature a little bit.
“Avoid taking long and hot showers as they can irritate and dry out the skin,” Noparstak said. “Less than 5 minutes with lukewarm water is ideal. Moreover, use bland bar soaps. If the skin on your extremities [like your arms and legs] is getting dry, completely avoid soaps on them.”
Always use SPF
Even though the days are shorter, you should still use sun protection.
“Sunscreen [is important] as part of the morning and daytime routine has many benefits in terms of preventing sun damage from a cosmetic standpoint, as well as decreasing the risk of skin cancer,” Noparstak said.
This is especially true if you are outdoors.
“People think that when you’re skiing you don’t need sunscreen,” Forgues said. “Sunblock is going to help protect against some of the other elements as well.”
See a professional
If you are still intimidated and unsure where to start with your skincare routine, ask a professional.
“It is always a good idea to see a board-certified dermatologist who can individually tailor a skin care regimen based on each patient’s skin,” Noparstak said. “Some people can get away without using any moisturizer, whereas some need to moisturize five times a day. At the end of the day, everyone’s skin is different and an individual approach is ideal.”