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With the onset of winter comes a frenzy of activity intended to prepare us for optimal comfort and protection as the mercury dropps. We switch our wardrobe. We weatherize our homes. We even change our diet. But the modification that we too often forget to make is to our skincare routine. As our body’s covering, skin is in regular contact with the elements and is, thus, directly impacted by seasonal changes. The result? Dry skin, acne breakouts, and general discomfort can ensue. But with a few simple changes to your daily skincare regimen, you can be sure your skin will stay in optimal health throughout the winter and, as a result, looks its very best through the holiday season and beyond.
Step 1: Evaluate Your Product Inventory
I encourage my patients to assess their skincare product inventory at least twice a year – in spring and autumn, as these are the times of year when you should be switching out key products, like moisturizers. However, by looking at all the products in your cabinet you can ensure you’ll never use one that has expired or is harmful to your skin. As you look at each product, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer “yes” to any of them, the product needs to be replaced.
- Has the product broken down in any manner? Does it smell different than it did when first purchased? Has the color or texture changed?
- Does the product contain harsh ingredients like alcohol, scrubbing “granules,” or pumice?
- If the product is open, have you had it for more than a year? Products with active ingredients start to lose their effectiveness around this time. However, products like cleansing lotions and toner can be kept for up to three years.
Step 2: Assess Your Skincare Regimen
The next step is to review how many skincare steps you implement each morning or evening. The optimal skincare routine involves just four steps – cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize, and protect with a sunscreen product. (Because sunscreen is often incorporated into day moisturizers, this regimen often requires only three steps. And despite what many believe, sunscreen really is a vital skincare step every day of the year.) If you’re doing more than this, you’re probably doing too much and that could turn your good intentions into negative results.
Of course, there are instances where additional products are necessary. If you have areas of hyperpigmentation, for example, a skin lightener may be used. Experience acne breakouts? You may want to add in a clarifying lotion. Many women like to use an eye cream, but this is only necessary for those with extreme skin dryness in this area or for those who want to give extra care to their eye area. Most facial moisturizers work just fine in the eye area.
Step 3: Utilize Products that Address Cold Weather Concerns
The changes in air temperature and humidity that accompany autumn and winter can lead to dull, dry skin that, in turn, creates inflammation that leads to a host of additional problems, such as breakouts. Therefore, it’s necessary for individuals who are particularly prone to dry skin to switch to a moisturizer that is rich in humectants to minimize water loss from the skin. The lightweight moisturizers of summer can be used during the day by those with oily skin, with heavier moisturizers only be used at night. Everyone else, however, should consider using a “night moisturizer” both night and day.
While exfoliation is essential year-round, it is particularly important during colder months when skin is drier. Exfoliating at least once per day prevents the build-up of dead skin cells and allows moisturizers to be more effective.
Step 4: Optimize Your Environment for Skin Comfort
Lack of humidity in the air causes the skin’s surface to lose moisture quickly and in large amounts, resulting in dryness. Therefore, proper humidity levels should be maintained in the home through the use of a cool mist humidifier.
Additional tips include:
- To prevent over-drying the skin, showers and hand washing should be limited in length and only a moderate water temperature should be used.
- Our lips are more prone to moisture evaporation than the rest of our skin and, thus, tend to be among the first areas of skin to dry out. Therefore, lip balm should be used regularly.
Optimizing your skincare routine for winter doesn’t need to be an expensive endeavor, or a time consuming one, for that matter. In reality, to get the best results out of your skincare routine, it’s necessary to replace only a few products. Once you get into the habit of evaluating your skincare routine several times a year and making the necessary modifications, the reward is improved skin health and beauty. And that, my friends, should most certainly make it worth the effort.
About the Author:
Dr. Ahmed Abdullah is an internationally celebrated plastic/cosmetic surgeon and a recognized expert on the restorative and medicinal effects of aloe vera. In 1996, he applied his expertise in these areas to create Lexli®, which is today the premier line of professional, aloe-based skincare products that are sold to select aesthetic practices throughout the United States and Middle East. In 2012, Dr. Abdullah authored Simple Skincare, Beautiful Skin: A-Back-to-Basics Approach, his first book written for consumers, which breaks through the myths associated with skincare and empowers individuals by educating them about skin function, the skin’s basic needs, and the most beneficial skincare steps.