Derm Appeal Blog

While the winter season may create a picturesque winter wonderland, it also brings with it chilly temperatures and harsh winds that can wreak havoc on our skin. The cold weather can strip the skin of its natural moisture, leaving it dry, flaky, and prone to irritation. That’s why helping your patients understand the importance of winter skincare is crucial to them maintaining healthy and radiant skin throughout the colder months when their skin requires extra care and attention.

We’ve compiled a list of the best winter skincare tips from leading dermatologists who recommend modifying our skincare routine and following tips tailored specifically for the winter months to keep the skin hydrated, nourished, and protected from the elements. They share these with their patients to help them maintain a glowing complexion even in the harshest of winters.

Top Tips For Winter Skincare

Avoid Hot Showers

While long, steamy showers may seem tempting during cold winter months, the heat can actually worsen common skin woes. High temperatures and prolonged exposure to water strip skin of protective oils and critical moisture. This compromises the lipid barrier allowing transepidermal water loss as well as entry of irritants, allergens, and microbes. The resulting dry, cracked skin and itch symptoms many experience in winter may stem directly from shower habits. As appealing as that hot shower feels initially, the aftermath leaves skin depleted of hydration and more vulnerable to flare-ups of conditions like eczema. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends restricting showers to 5-10 minutes during winter to avoid undermining the skin’s defenses this time of year.

Use a Thicker Moisturizer 

While everyone knows winter weather saps moisture from the skin, doubling down on diligent moisturizer application becomes even more crucial this time of year. According to Shasa Hu, MD, associate professor of dermatology in the Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery Department at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, it is worth considering upgrading your moisturizer to something thicker to help prevent dryness.

Naissan O. Wesley, MD, a dermatologist with Skin Care and Laser Physicians of Beverly Hills recommends using a thicker cream that comes out of a jar or tube as opposed to a pump during the winter. “Lotions that come out of a pump tend to be thinner and more watery, so they can often just evaporate from the skin’s surface after application and are not thick and moisturizing enough.”

Dr. Hu mentions that it helps to try different, thicker formulations of the other products in your typical rotation. For example, it may be useful to trade in your vitamin C serum for some cream containing vitamin C.

Experts also recommend keeping moisturizer handy throughout the day; at your desk, in the car, or in your purse, so that you can easily access it during the day to reapply as necessary and after each hand wash.

Moisturize While Skin is Still Damp

Along with limiting time in the shower, experts also recommend applying moisturizer as soon as you get out of the shower while the skin is still damp. This helps to seal in hydration. Dr. Hu states, “[This is] something we recommend to people with dry skin all year long, but in the winter, it’s even more important.”

Linda F. Stein Gold, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Henry Ford Medical Center in Michigan recommends to, “Blot [the] skin dry and apply a thick moisturizer within a few minutes after bathing to seal the water into the skin.”

Opt for Moisturizing Cleansers

Although you should be washing your face at least once a day, as stated by Shari Lipner, MD, associate professor of clinical dermatology at the Weill Cornell Medical Center, you should not be washing it repeatedly throughout the day as this will strip the skin of its moisture.

Dr. Hu recommends using moisturizing cream cleansers instead of foam face washes, stating, “Lotion cleansers are typically less stripping of the natural (oil) on the skin.”

Boost the Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that helps the skin to pull in and hold water. Experts like Doris J. Day, MD, renowned cosmetic dermatologist and clinical associate professor of dermatology at the New York University Langone Medical Center, recommends adding hyaluronic acid to your skincare lineup as it will significantly help hydrate the skin.

According to New York-based board-certified dermatologist, Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, 

"Hyaluronic acid is a superstar ingredient for hydration as it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water."

In addition, cosmetic dermatologist and founder of Skin Five, Ava T. Shamban, MD, also suggests dialing back on the use of retinoids to every other day during the winter months and adding a hyaluronic acid serum on top.

Use Lip Balm

As the skin on the lips is much thinner, it can get extremely dry and cracked during the colder months. Using a gentle, hydrating lip balm that protects the lips is important. Ingredients such as glycerin, shea butter, beeswax, olive oil, castor oil, and coconut oil are great for moisturizing the lips. Patients are advised to stay away from ingredients like camphor or menthol as these can typically exacerbate dehydration and lead to sensitivity.

Don’t Neglect the Sunscreen

Dr. Shambam states that sun damage is done 365 days a year, so winter is no time to forget about sunscreen. Experts recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to be applied and reapplied throughout the day.

Use a Humidifier 

The already dry, cool winter air and the effects of indoor heating can dry out the skin even more. Having a humidifier in the home or office can significantly help to replace some of the moisture being lost. Dr. Engelman suggests you aim to keep the humidity at an ideal level of 40-60 percent.

Wear Appropriate Clothing 

Appropriate clothing choices also bolster the skin barrier against harsh elements. Opt for gently layered garments using smooth fabrics that minimize irritation, avoid abrasive materials that can exacerbate conditions like eczema through friction, and ensure gloves are worn outdoors to reduce wind chapping on hands.

“Keep wool and rough clothing from directly touching your skin as this can cause dry skin to get irritated and itchy.”

The AAD recommends wearing cotton or silk directly against your skin and then wearing heavier garments like sweaters on top.

Check the Ingredients

Finally, advise your patients to check the back of skincare products and have a look at the list of ingredients. For those with very dry skin which can be exacerbated by the cold, dry winter months, the AAD suggests looking for a cream or ointment with one or more of the following ingredients:

  • Jojoba oil
  • Dimethicone
  • Glycerin
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Lanolin
  • Mineral oil
  • Petrolatum
  • Shea butter

Those with dry skin should also avoid products containing the following ingredients to help the skin retain its natural oils:

  • Alcohol (except for hand sanitizer)
  • Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA)
  • Fragrance, including deodorant soaps
  • Retinoids

Final Thoughts 

Sharing these essential winter skincare tips with your patients can dramatically help them combat the skincare challenges they face during the colder months and help keep their skin radiant and healthy all year round. Ultimately, a consistent skincare routine that focuses on moisturization and protection is key.


Sign up to receive updates on educational opportunities, complimentary content, exclusive discounts, and more.