We’ve all been through those winter days.
The skin on your nose is flaking.
Your lips are rock hard if not bleeding.
Your cheeks are lit up like a Christmas tree.
The whole package vaguely stings.
On the list of universal cold-weather miseries, winter skin ranks somewhere up there with drippy head colds and scraping ice off your windshield in freezing temperatures.
The good news is that for most guys, it’s avoidable. You just have to know what your skin needs this time of year.
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#1. Keep Your Skin Covered
Winter skin dryness has two main sources–cold and dryness. If you can minimize exposure to cold air and winter winds, you can prevent them from stripping away your skin’s natural oils.
Always wear gloves and cover your mouth and nose with a scarf or the collar of your jacket, especially if it’s windy. The less direct contact between the cold air and your skin (especially your lips), the better.
#2. Moisturize…Then Moisturize Some More
It’s common knowledge that moisturizing should be part of your grooming routine to prevent skin roughness and aging, but winter is the time to step up your game. Look for a thicker, richer product and keep an eye out for certain key ingredients that fight winter chapping and flaking as well as the aging effects of dryness:
- Emollients – to stop the skin losing its moisture. These include plant oils, mineral oils, shea butter, cocoa butter, petrolatum, silicones and animal oils (like lanolin). Avoid petroleum, which can prevent skin from breathing and lead to dehydration, inflammation, and breakouts. Plant oils are best–they penetrate the skin quickly and deeply for long-lasting hydration and have antioxidants and vitamins to nourish and protect skin from winter weather.
- Humectants – to attract additional external water to the skin. They include sorbitol, glycols, glycerin, sodium PCA and hyaluronic acid.
- Antioxidants – to fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules in the body that cause cell damage. Antioxidants include tocopherol (vitamin E), lycopene (a carotenoid found in red produce), green tea, coffeeberry, resveratrol (from grapes), grape seed, genistein (from soy), niacinamide (vitamin B3), and l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
- SPF – the sun still ages your skin even in the winter.
Winter is a great time to baby your skin a little bit. Try adding an intensive treatment to your routines, like a weekly mask or exfoliating treatment.
At-home microdermabrasion is a great option to consider, especially if you have a lot of buildup in your pores or rough patches due to dryness. Look for a product that lets you adjust the intensity of your treatment (i.e. the speed and roughness) to your skin’s needs and that is made of a material that will actively discourage the spread of bacteria.
Leave-on masks and peels, used once weekly, are a great way to treat issues at the deeper layers of your skin. Just check the ingredients and make certain there’s nothing that could build up or irritate your face. A leave-on treatment that’s right for you will feel great–as well as look great once you take it off.
Going the extra mile for your skin makes you look younger and gives you a healthy glow that helps you look and feel more attractive. It’s relaxing and even kind of fun, and allows you to put your best face forward.
#4. Remedy Chapped Lips
You can dodge the nagging discomfort of chapped lips entirely–even in winter–with a little proactive care.
The main cause of chapped lips is dry air whipping past them, carrying away all the moisture that should be there naturally. A coat of vaseline each time you leave the house will prevent the wind from having this effect. And if you tend to sleep with your mouth open because of winter congestion, a coat before bed is a requirement too.
If your lips do get chapped, the key is to take care of them consistently, hydrate, and protect that moisture-trapping layer. Carry your lip balm everywhere (look for one with emollients like beeswax). Make a habit of putting it on by pairing it with something else you do frequently, like washing your hands.
#5. Cool It On Showers
When it’s freezing outside, it can be tempting to crank that hot water tap up and linger under the spray–but do your best to resist. Long exposures to scalding water can make your skin more vulnerable to drying by stripping away its natural oils.
Cutting back on time spent in the shower in general (within reason) will help those oils stay put and do their job (keeping your skin soft and smooth even in the cold).
If you’re showering every day, try cutting back to every other day for a few months. Your skin will thank you for it.
#6. Make Hydration Easy
You’ve probably heard to drink plenty of water in the winter, but that’s easier said than done–when you come in from the freezing cold, the last thing you want to do is have a cold glass of water.
Still, drinking water is one of the best things you can do for your health (skin included). The latest recommendations say men should get as many as fifteen glasses every day. Short of lugging a liter or two around with you (which still isn’t a terrible plan) how do you meet that goal?
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be a glass of unflavored cold water to count. As long as it puts more water in your body than it takes out, it’s hydrating you. A cup of tea, as long as it’s not caffeinated enough to have diuretic properties, will hydrate you. Same with hot cocoa. You can even just heat up your water.
And don’t forget that foods with high water content–fruits like apples and oranges, soups, and stews made with broth–can also help keep your body and skin from getting too dry.
#7. Up Your Intake of Omega-rich Oils
Essential fatty acids, like Omega-3 and Omega-6 oils, are necessary for your skin to retain moisture. Your body, however, doesn’t make them on its own. To reap their benefits, you need to make sure to include them in your diet.
Salmon, sardines, mackerel, lake trout and other cold-water fish, flax and chia seeds, nuts such as walnuts and almonds, olive oil, and whole grains are all examples of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid rich foods.
Omega-3 and omega-6 supplements are also available, but keep in mind that they can’t replace dietary fatty acids completely.
#8. Shave Less or Shave Better
Shaving can wreak havoc on winter-dry skin.
The secret to coming out of a wintertime shave with your outer layer of skin intact? The right products plus the right technique.
The winter months are not the time for disposable razors. Get a quality safety razor or learn to use a straight razor. The reason for this is simple–you want a blade you don’t have to make three or four passes with. With a closer and faster shave, your skin suffers less.
Use a moisturizing soap or shaving cream high in the ingredients discussed above (you want one that gives a rich, slippery lather). Make sure your aftershave isn’t alcohol-based (which can be very drying) and consider swapping it out completely for a deep-hydrating cream.
Moisturizing should be your last step after shaving. Your soap or shaving cream and razor will open your pores and wear down the outer layer of your skin. Anything you put on your face during this crucial time will be fully absorbed by your skin–make sure it’s nourishing, not depleting.
#9. Use A Humidifier
If you notice your skin getting very dry when your heater comes on, a lack of interior humidity may be to blame. You can hydrate from the outside by buying a humidifier for your home. They’re affordable and good for winter colds and respiratory troubles as well as dry skin.
Keep your humidifier clean and don’t over-humidify to the point that it’s stuffy or there’s condensation on the walls. Otherwise, you’ll get mold, bacteria, and dust mites. This is especially harmful if you have asthma or allergies.
Ideally, humidity in your home should be 30-50%. If you want to measure the humidity in your interiors, you can use a hygrometer (like a thermometer for humidity). Your humidifier might have one built in, or you can buy one at almost any hardware store.
#10. Dress For Skincare Success
For many, the biggest winter skincare struggle is sensitivity. With the outer layer of the skin becoming dry and brittle, irritation and redness are often par for the course.
As a rule, shirts and sweaters with a tighter weave will be softer and cause less irritation to the skin. Soft natural fibers like cotton and synthetic weaves like polyester that feel smooth to the touch are the best choices for shirts and other items that directly contact skin.
Particularly look out for shirts that are textured at the collar and cuffs, as these are areas most prone to flaky skin.
Experimenting with these tips can help you discover the main sources of winter skin trouble for you, whether it’s cold, indoor dry heat, dehydration, or all of the above. No matter what the underlying cause, your skin will benefit from regular moisturizing and exfoliation–so if you’ve been looking for a reason to step up your routine, this season is it.