8 Expert Winter Skin Care Tips You Need to Know

Saying goodbye to your soft, dewy complexion once the cold weather creeps in is never easy. But winter is here and so is its unwelcome companion: dull, flaky skin. Dry indoor heat, low humidity levels and harsh winds also contribute to this zap in moisture.[1] The war against the elements doesn’t have to be treacherous, though. Thanks to these easy and affordable winter skin care tips from Walmart Canada pharmacist Sonam Dhuna, you can restore that head-to-toe glow and make it last all season long.

In this guide

1. Assess your skincare cabinet

“You don’t need a huge skin care arsenal to restore hydration in the winter months,” says Dhuna. What’s better? She suggests it only takes a few basic products to restore your skin’s moisture barrier—and it’s likely these items already exist in your skin care cabinet.

Moisturizer

First and foremost: Moisturizer. According to Dhuna, “[Creams] provide a moisturizing layer that helps to protect skin and keep it hydrated and supple—great for dry skin types.” The thicker the cream, the better its ability to shield skin from the elements. Consider it the winter armour you never knew you needed. Any cream that includes ceramides, hyaluronic acid and petrolatum are thicker moisturizer formulas that can be used to boost hydration in the winter.

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That said, Dhuna cautions the sometimes-greasy consistency and higher oil content of creams may feel too ‘heavy’ for oil-prone individuals. Gel- or water-based lotions, which are lighter and blend into the skin quicker, are a better alternative, though they are generally less hydrating.

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If your gel- or water-based lotion isn’t providing your skin with enough hydration for the winter months, Dhuna recommends adding hyaluronic acid serum to your routine for a lightweight boost of moisture. This powerful humectant draws moisture into the skin and should be applied before your moisturizer.

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Petrolatum

Petrolatum, the key ingredient in Aquaphor and Vaseline, is most likely lurking around somewhere in your bathroom…and it happens to be a winter skincare must-have for Dhuna. While many tend to reserve this skincare staple for ultra-flaky skin, Dhuna says it’s a good option to apply at the first sign of dryness to areas like hands, feet and elbows. It may also be used to relieve dry lips and lock in moisture.

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Lip moisturizers

Chapped lips are a yearly affliction—inescapable, unfortunately, due to our lips’ low water-holding capacity and weak skin barrier that gets exposed to (and exacerbated by) the elements.[2] Dhuna recommends that lip moisturizers be applied more frequently during the colder months for this reason. Carry lip balm in your bag or in the pocket of your coat for on-the-go hydration, especially if you’re prepared to spend time outdoors.

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Hydrating face masks

Finally, hydrating face masks, especially if they contain skin-conditioning Vitamin E, can help provide an extra dose of moisture. “Since [skin masks] sit for a while, there’s more opportunity for moisture to be absorbed,” says Dhuna. Plus, they’re a relaxing way to unwind after a busy day with the kids—cup of tea in hand.

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2. Don’t forget to apply SPF

woman applying SPF

Often associated with summer scorchers and sunny days at the beach, it’s a common misconception that sunscreen application is unnecessary in the winter. “I’ve seen people who’ve gone skiing and come back with a sunburn,” warns Dhuna. It’s a reality we don’t often consider: UV rays can reflect off the snow onto our skin. Dhuna urges that SPF application is extremely important during the winter months, especially for the face, as UV radiation is invisible, but always present—even on dark and cloudy days.

For the best daily protection, Dhuna says everyone should use broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect against UVA and UVB rays. “Although UVB rays are not as strong in the winter, UVA rays still are, which can age our skin.” In general, not having protection from the sun can have cumulative damage on the skin, leading to wrinkles, aging, hyperpigmentation and, in the long term, skin cancer.

“I recommend everyone apply a minimum of SPF 30 every morning and reapply every few hours if you are actively outside—kids over six months included.” Kids should generally use a broad-spectrum physical sunscreen as well, according to Dhuna—one that contains ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium oxide, as they are minimally absorbed and less likely to cause sensitization.

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Looking for hydration and UV protection? There are many moisturizers and creams containing SPF 30, for sun protection and moisturization in one—it’s a double whammy. And for touch-ups, Dhuna recommends using an SPF spray or powder, though they may not provide 100 per cent coverage.

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3. ‘Slugging’: It sounds odd, but it really works

That’s right. Slugging. It’s the funny-sounding, TikTok-viral skin care technique that *actually* helps restore your skin-barrier. It can work wonders for replenishing skin hydration, taking winter-worn complexions from dry and textured to supple and glass-like overnight.

But what is slugging exactly and how does it work? “The purpose of slugging is to lock in the moisture that your skin care products provide.” Immediately following your regular nighttime skin care routine, you would apply a thin layer of a petrolatum-based product—like Aquaphor or Vaseline—overtop. The slimy film of petrolatum acts as an occlusive, creating a physical barrier on top of the skin that locks in hydration.[3]

According to Dhuna, “Slugging is best suited for individuals who have dry, sensitive skin or a compromised skin barrier. The frequency of slugging may vary depending on your skin type.” While those with dry skin can slug daily, oily-skinned individuals may slug less or not at all, depending on how their skin reacts to the process.

That said, Dhuna stresses the importance of slugging properly. Applying active ingredients—like prescription or over-the-counter acne creams—and following up with an occlusive product can increase the skin’s absorption of those ingredients, which may not always be a good thing. Acne products, for instance, can dry out skin; slugging, in this case, would further deplete the skin of moisture. “That said, I have seen a lot of people use slugging in the winter,” says Dhuna, “especially on dry spots like the mouth area, the corners of the nose and around the eyes—spots that tend to get dry more easily.”

4. Take shorter showers and moisturize damp skin

woman moisturizing damp skin

Save your skin by limiting your shower time. The sweet spot? “A five-to-ten-minute shower is ideal in the winter,” says Dhuna. “The water should be warm—not hot—and always try to lightly pat skin dry after taking a shower to maintain some of that moisture that gets left behind on your skin.” Hot water strips more oil and moisture from our skin than lukewarm water. Plus, the longer your shower takes, the more prolonged this process becomes.[4]

The best way to lock in moisture post-shower is by moisturizing damp skin. “Ideally, your body cream or lotion should be applied within three minutes of exiting the shower because that’s when your skin can absorb the most moisture from your products,” says Dhuna. “Steam from the shower causes your pores to open, allowing the products applied to your skin to penetrate.” What’s more, “It also helps to lock in the moisture your skin gets from taking a shower.”

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5. Use a humidifier

The optimal indoor humidity level for winter is between 30-50 percent.[5] This level drops in the winter months…and our skin suffers the brunt of it. “The drop in humidity and the use of a heater in your house can cause the air to be dry.” The best way to combat this issue? According to Dhuna, it’s investing in a humidifier. “A humidifier will help replenish that humidity back into the air.” In turn, you can enjoy supple skin, while also reaping other benefits like congestion relief.

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6. Go easy on exfoliants

One way you could be unknowingly draining your skin of moisture? Over-exfoliating. According to Dhuna, while exfoliants help remove dead skin cells, “It’s important to use a gentler formula and exfoliate less often in the winter to prevent stripping of the skin’s natural moisture barrier, which leads to even more dry skin.”

In general, exfoliating is still important, as it helps to remove dead skin cells, which, in turn, can help some moisturizers soak into the skin even better. Dhuna’s recommendation? Use a chemical exfoliant versus a physical exfoliant. “Physical exfoliants can be harsh on the skin, as they contain microbeads, which provide that exfoliating factor. A more calming chemical exfoliant, like glycolic acid toner, is a better option to use in the winter months for gentle exfoliation.”

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7. Check skincare ingredients

There are a handful of powerhouse skin care ingredients that Dhuna swears by for a wintertime glow. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of each:

  • Ceramides: These lipids—or fatty acids—help with your skin barrier function. They are important for retaining your skin’s moisture. When your skin’s ceramide content decreases, it can become dehydrated.[6]
  • Colloidal oatmeal: For people who love taking baths, colloidal oatmeal is gentle and calming on the skin—a great option for sensitive skin types year-round, but especially during the colder months.
  • Glycerin: This ingredient is a humectant, meaning it is a formulation that helps draw moisture from the environment into the skin. Say hello to plump, dewy skin all winter long!
  • Hyaluronic acid: It’s a gooey, slippery substance that the body naturally produces and helps skin maintain its elasticity. When applied topically, hyaluronic acid helps skin retain moisture and can aid in reducing fine lines and wrinkles, too.[7] “It’s a great option to use during the day or under makeup, as it is lightweight and doesn’t appear greasy on the skin,” says Dhuna.
  • Petrolatum: A mixture of mineral oils and waxes, this jelly-like substance has the superpower ability to quench dry skin on the face and body. It acts as an occlusive moisturizer to prevent your skin from drying out.[8]

8. Opt for fragrance-free products

woman smelling a skincare product

That vanilla-scented body wash you adore? It may make your showers a more invigorating experience, but it can also be the reason your skin is flaking. The reality is, products containing fragrance can aggravate already parched, irritated skin. “I recommend fragrance-free products be used on your skin—any type of wash, moisturizer or body cream. Fragrances tend to contain ingredients that, one, can be irritating to your skin and, two, can cause dryness,” says Dhuna.

And since children generally have thinner skin as well as unknown allergies, depending on their age, Dhuna recommends applying only fragrance-free products to their skin to avoid irritation and prevent dryness.

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Adriana Monachino is theHUB’s editor. She has a master’s degree in Literatures of Modernity (but she has a thing for the classics, too!). When she’s not indulging in a good book, she’s searching the web for outfit inspiration, bingeing re-runs of The Office and planning her dream home on Pinterest.

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