I Asked 3 Experts For Their Best Winter Skincare Tips

I can always tell winter is in full swing when my usually oily/combination skin gets dry patches around the sides of my nose and my lips become so dry and cracked that even a thick balm won’t help them. Such are the woes of winter skin: Between the dry air and cold temperatures, this season leaves skin dehydrated, irritated and sometimes itchy — and it can even make fine lines and wrinkles stand out more.

Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic, says our skin is particularly vulnerable to the drying effects of the environment when you factor in our routines of hot showers and harsh soaps. “Cold winter air is less humid than warm summer air. Add to that the hot air from the furnace and hot water in the shower, and our skin can become very parched,” says Piliang. “The outer layer of the skin is composed of lipids and fats that serve as a barrier and protect the skin from drying out. Hot water, dry air and harsh soaps all cause that outer layer to break down faster.”

As a result, we have to take extra care of our skin in the winter. But what’s actually effective at keeping dry winter skin at bay? I asked Piliang and two other skin experts for their best advice.

Change up Your Skincare Routine

“Most people don’t realize that, during the winter, not only does the weather change but so does your skin,” says celebrity esthetician Gina Mari. When your skin changes, so should your products.

Piliangs says your regular skincare routine won’t cut it anymore. “In the winter you need a heavier, cream moisturizer instead of a lighter watery lotion that you use in the summer,” she says.

Adds David Lortscher, dermatologist and founder and CEO of Curology: “Your skin may require a heavier moisturizer in the morning to help it adjust to the environmental changes. Gel-based products are best for spring and summer but not ideal for fall and winter. For those living above a certain latitude (say, north of Miami), heavier emollient creams are better during fall and winter to combat the dryness from indoor heating and cold dry winds.”

Use Winter-Friendly Products

Lortscher suggests looking for a long-lasting moisturizer like the EltaMD Intense Moisturizer or a thick cream containing hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which draw in moisture. He even suggests petrolatum-based products such as CeraVe Healing Ointment or Vaseline for super-dry skin. (There is a lot of talk about petrolatum and mineral oil being potentially harmful ingredients, but scientific studies show there is no risk.)

If your skin is sensitive, look for products with ceramides, which are naturally occurring lipids (fats) in the skin. “Ceramides support barrier function, protecting sensitive skin from the outside,” Lortscher says. One option is Dr. Jart, which makes a ceramide cream that is thick, moisturizing and winter-ready.

For the colder months, you should also consider switching out your exfoliating or foaming cleanser for something more hydrating. I like the Biologique Recherche Lait U Cleansing Milk, but some good drugstore options include CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser or Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser.

You can also add in a hydrating serum and layer a few more products than you normally would, Lortscher says (and in my experience, this might be especially good for those of you with oiler skin who are worried about using thicker creams right off the bat). I love the Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion (and the Super Hyaluronic Acid Lotion in the gold bottle) under my regular moisturizer for intense but lightweight hydration.


If you’re a makeup wearer and you still notice dry patches after applying foundation, try a hydrating primer like Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer or the Lorac I’m So Sensitive Soothing Face Primer. These add an additional layer of moisture to prevent flakiness while helping your makeup last longer.

Also, stay away from anything with fragrances and alcohol, which could make dry, sensitive skin worse, Piliang says.

In addition to changing products, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends taking warm showers instead of hot ones, slathering on the moisturizer while your skin is still damp to trap in the moisture and using a humidifier or vaporizer in your bedroom to bring moisture back into the air.

Don’t Over-Exfoliate

You might think that going hard with your face scrub or lactic acid toner will get rid of the dry patches, but don’t overdo it.

“Most people think it’s best to exfoliate more often during the winter to rid themselves of winter’s dry flakes,” Lortscher says. “While regular exfoliation can be beneficial to the skin, exfoliation is easy to overdo, and that can cause redness, as well as a feeling of tightness, sensitivity and soreness.”

You can still exfoliate, but if you find that you’re getting particularly red or sensitive from your stand-by exfoliants, try other gentler options, like a konjac sponge. Lortscher suggests the Japanese Sponge Pure White Puff or EcoTools Konjac Pure Complexion Sponge.

Give Extra Attention to Hands, Lips, Cuticles

Because we regularly wash our hands, eat and lick our lips, our hands, cuticles and lips often get drier faster. In the winter, when the weather makes us more vulnerable to dry skin, these can be tough extra spots to keep moisturized.

Try to use a hand soap that doesn’t contain fragrance or super irritating ingredients, like alcohol. You can also carry around a travel-size cream or ointment to apply after washing your hands, and wear gloves when going outside or when washing the dishes.

Avoid licking your lips if you can; saliva contains chemicals used to break down food that can be irritating to lips, making them dry out faster, Piliang says. To keep lips as moisturized as possible, use a lip balm or ointment before going out in the cold and before bed. (Use one with SPF when you’re outside.) Don’t forget to exfoliate your lips to get rid of the dry skin. I make a DIY lip scrub with coconut oil and sugar, then use a toothbrush to exfoliate my lips.

As for cuticles, I love using oils. I’m currently using the Jessica Phenomen Oil Intensive Moisturizer, along with the Jessica Nourish Cuticle Cream. These two have really helped me moisturize my cuticles, which were in bad condition from a lot of nail biting, and made worse by the dry winter air.

Mari suggests finding a multi-tasking oil to use in these ultra-dry spots. “Finding a rich oil that you can use on both your lips and cuticles, even your hands, is key. I love using Goldfaden’s Fleuressence Native Botanical Oil. It gives you the perfect amount of moisture, without leaving you feeling greasy,” she says.

What are your favorite winter skin products and tips?

Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi; Art Direction by Emily Zirimis.


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  • js

    The Ordinary’s Rosehip Seed Oil! It’s hydrating enough to keep my skin from flaking or breaking out in the winter and it’s non-comedogenic so it doesn’t clog my pores or feel super greasy. And it fades scars and spots like a dream!

    • jugarboo

      Just started using this oil about two weeks ago! I am also obsessed. Been putting it on my hands and cuticles before bed as well as my face. Such a lovely product.

    • smillipede

      oooh excellent news – i j bought this but havent started using it yet

  • dayman

    Yes to the gentle cleanser! I’ve been cheating on my cleanser (Glossier Milky Jelly) with the one I bought my boyfriend (Ursa Major which is foaming and has AHA/BHA), wanted to love it because it was so nice to use, but have finally been forced to accept that it’s drying my skin out right now. I actually used that Hado Labo hyaluronic acid pictured this morning in an attempt to speed up my skin’s recovery, it’s such a nice basic to have around for these kind of situations even though I swap it out for more “interesting” products most of the time. Before experimenting with cleansers my skin had been doing pretty well this winter which I owe to many products but I think mostly the Benton Snail Bee cream which has kept me from getting a single dry patch! It dries matte though and I’m thinking of finally giving in and trying Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer Rich because a more satin-y, dewy cream sounds really nice right now. Kinda worried it will be too heavy and make me break out though.

    • I wanted to love PM Rich, but it’s overly scented, and stings my eyes. I’ve been using The Ordinary’s NMF moisturizer mixed with a few drops of their rosehip seed oil, and that works well as a heavier-duty moisturizer.

      • dayman

        Thanks for the tip! I don’t love the rosehip oil on its own but I should definitely try mixing it with my moisturizer, that trick’s always done me well in winters past…and it’s free!

        • Same. I mix 2-3 drops into a dollop of NMF and it works very well for me. I alternate between NMF and Dr. Jart’s Cicapair CC treatment with SPF 30, but continue to use the oil with either.

          • Breanne Mckinnon

            Hey Guys and gals! Try the # 1 Premium skincare line in North America called Rodan and Fields! Created by the same Doctors who created Proactiv. These products sell themselves. Best stuff I have ever used. They focus on anti- aging. There are 4 regimens designed to help the most prominent skin concerns. There is a Active Hydration serum that adds 200% more moisture into your skin in one drop. You can use it anywhere on your body. Id love to share more info with you are interested.

          • mariahg

            Ok, tell me about the Dr. Jart Cicapair (CC with SPF). I’ve seen recently that Emily Ferber on ITG is using it, so I know it’s gotta be good. I almost purchased it a week ago, but I wasn’t sure about the level of coverage?

          • I personally enjoy it. If you aren’t looking for serious coverage/just want to even out your complexion, this is a great formula for you, especially if you have the pinkish-reddish undertones. It’s not as moisturizing as I would have hoped (assuming because of all of the physical sunscreen), but I put some oil into it or put some on beforehand and it feels fine. I think it wears well all day, too. Less drying for me than chemical sunscreens, that’s for sure!

      • I feel dumb asking this but here goes- is rosehip seed oil anything like regular rose? Rose breaks me out HARDCORE

        • Nope — it’s not made from the flower! It’s made from the seeds found typically in Rugosa roses.

  • Kinsey W

    In a fit of desperation during Dallas’s 5 days of freezing temps, I put Weleda Skin Food (green tube) over my regular nighttime skincare It was much needed for my dry skin.

    • mariahg

      If my skin is really irritated or super dry, I’ll use Weleda Skin Food, too! It really helps soothe breakouts. It’s a multi-purpose miracle cream!

  • Jessica S

    My winter skin saver has been Josie Maran’s Argan Oil. I purchased a whole Josie Maran kit back in October on QVC of all places…it had a 8oz bottle of her argan oil, a 13oz tub of whipped argan oil body butter and 8oz bottle of the Argan Oil Milk all for $75, can’t beat that! So i’ve pretty much been dousing myself in them for the past 3 months and can i just say argan oil is IT…works like a dream. I’ll use the oil as a moisturizer by itself sometimes or add it to one i already had, either Shea Moisture’s African Black Soap one for day or Glossier’s PMR as a makeshift foundation when i go out (the PMR kinda blur’s out any pores/imperfections and the oil adds a nice “natural” highlight) and it keeps my skin glowy and soft and almost summer-like…plus it helps get rid of dark spots. the argan milk i’ll use as an under eye cream and it’s really help brighten them up.

    I’ve also noticed that letting my skin “chill out” for a day or two also helps it. I went through a big 10 Step Skincare ordeal last year (like im sure most of us did) with the essence’s and serums and sheets masks and all that… and i dont know i just felt like my skin has been like girl can you give it a rest already…so maybe 1 or 2 days out of the week i’ll just cleanse with Glossier’s Milky Jelly, put some oil on and leave it at that and i its definitely made a difference in my skin’s appearance.

    • Seconding Argan oil, although I buy mine from Mountain Rose Herbs or Miracle Botanicals.

      Also, thank you to Julissa for avoiding scare tactics against petrolatum. It’s sadly rare to see actual scientific studies referenced in these sorts of beauty articles, and I appreciated seeing some balance. Sometimes my poor skin needs Aquaphor!

  • Julia

    If you’re interested in both rescuing your dry winter cuticles AND looking like a repressed 50’s housewife, buy a pair of reusable yellow latex gloves to wear while washing dishes!

    Honestly it’s the best thing I’ve purchased all season. It makes doing the dishes much more pleasant for both me AND my boyfriend (we take turns daily – feminism!)

    • This + slapping some moisturizer on your hands before putting the gloves on (I like Gold Bond Healing with Aloe).

    • Hahaha! Yes! My friends make fun of me for my rubber gloves, but I can’t wash dishes without them. It’s mostly because I hate having wet hands and dishes gross me out.

    • Andrea

      Also bonus–helps your manicures last longer!

  • Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Oil! I’ve finally jumped on the DE bandwagon and I know it’s pricey but my skin drinks it up.

    • Maybe I asked you this before on ITG, but have you tried it in comparison with The Ordinary’s Marula Oil?

      • I haven’t! When I run out I’ll definitely give it a try because DE is expensive.

        • Zauberwald

          I believe Acure also makes a marula oil, but I haven’t tried it myself

      • Erin S

        I’ve been wondering this same thing re: the Indie Lee squalane oil ($32) vs. The Ordinary’s version ($8). I’ve been loving my bottle of the Indie Lee version so much that I want to repurchase it once I run out – but it feels foolish to ignore the fact that there is a version of the product that is a quarter of the price! Anyone with insight on the quality of The Ordinary’s products vs. other brands, please chime in 🙂

        • orthostice

          I can’t comment on the Indie Lee version because I haven’t tried it but I LOVE The Ordinary Squalene – I’ve repurchased three times, and it has made a big difference to my skin.

        • I love The Ordinary’s squalane (phone wants to correct that too aqua lane ha ha) and while I haven’t tried Indie Lee’s, I have been trying a sample of Biossance ($52 or something) and find them to be comparable.

      • mariahg

        LOVE The Ordinary’s Marula oil!! (And the Rosehip oil is great, too!)

  • kasia

    for everything: All Good’s Goop balm.
    Its amazing!!! its moisturizing and healing! I love it!

  • I get so scared to change my routine as the seasons change – I tend to breakout if my skin isn’t stable and my oil production goes on overdrive. I’ve tried heavier creams but they don’t agree with my face. La Mer, in particular makes my skin go haywire, which is really tragic. 🙁

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  • Dr. Hauschka’s rose day cream for face, and olive oil for body. Works every time.

    • Mar

      I agree! I love Dr. hauschka <333

  • I use unscented lanolin (wool fat) in bed and it makes my dishwasher’s hands happy throughout the year …

    • Emma

      OMG my boyfriend uses this on his super dry hands (he is also a rower so they’re always cracked) but that stuff smells so disgusting!! Do you have a tip for non smelly brands?

      • Speaking generally, I quite love the smell (of
        damp sheep :-)), but my brand of lanolin does not smell too much – I buy it at amazon (in Germany, it is sold by Dragonspice) and I suppose it might help if its intended use is making creams and potions…

      • EmUhLee

        Yesssss lanolin. I put Bag Balm on my lips and hands every night. It has a slightly weird chemical/mineral smell but it definitely doesn’t smell like sheep! I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the product that you’re talking about, though.

        For something a little nicer that smells great, my boyfriend actually loves to steal my Burts Bees Hand Salve (scented with lavender and rosemary). He is too fancy for Bag Balm lol.

        Also if his hands are that bad he might benefit from just using Aquaphor.

  • Suzan

    For exfoliation in Winter I can definitely recommend using ground coffee that has been used for your morning brew. It doesn’t dry out the skin but does give a nice scrub. I use it in the shower to avoid a mess (it’s also good for cleaning the drain). And it’s cheap and zero waste!

    • Leah

      How does it clean the drain? I was always told to not put coffee grounds down the drain because it would block it up!

      • Zauberwald

        Yeah, I can confirm it definitely blocks up drains…

      • Suzan

        I just Googled a bit around and it seems all the American sites don’t recommend it (except when you put it through the garbage disposal, then it’s actually beneficial for keeping that system clean). But a lot of Dutch sites (I live in the Netherlands) do recommend it in small doses, to keep the drains clean. But my Google search also revealed it was a controversial topic nonetheless, also in the Netherlands.

    • I wouldn’t recommend that… the grains are not smoothed and cause little tears in your skin…

      • Suzan

        Is that really so? I have never come across that information actually.
        I do avoid sugar and peach pit scrubs, especially the latter I can’t believe is not too harsh and creating micro tears.

        • Coffee grounds are just as abrasive as peach/apricot pit scrubs, the particles are only larger.

  • Leah

    YES. I struggle every year in London with very dry skin in the winter months. I tend to get eczema outbreaks most winters and have battled it for years with emollient creams, sometimes having to go as far as using steroid creams from the pharmacist.

    But after years of trial and error, I’ve found using a body oil (I use Susanne Kaufmann) instead of moisturiser after each shower helps keep my dry skin and eczema at bay for much, much longer. This year I have hardly had any dry skin!

    For my face, I remove make up with Cowshed’s lavender gentle cleanser, which is way more moisturising than the Bioderma micellar water I use in the summer. And Votary rose and sandalwood facial oil is a MUST for morning and night. It absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a sheen.

    • EmUhLee

      Eczema is the worst, especially when it’s persistent. I have mine under control now with:
      1) Humidifier in the bedroom
      2) Super emollient creams (I use L’Occitane Ultra Rich body cream with 25% shea butter)
      3) Foaming shower OIL instead of body wash or soap
      4) a prescribed steroid if it gets really bad, or when I feel a new patch coming on and I want to nip it in the bud. In a pinch, 1% hydrocortisone from the drugstore also helps.

      I tried using a body oil once in the summer and I had a really weird heat rash reaction to it (albeit it was a cheap one) so now I’m scared of them. I want to try them for winter, though!

  • oh heeeeyyyyy so I live in Alberta,Canada (its a balmy -20 celcius rn and lemme tell you, that’s WARM for how our winters get) and dry cracking skin is no joke for us. When it’s -20-45 out, I personally make sure to wash my face with something for my acne (exfolikate daily cleanser) and then make everything else revolve around hydration. I do 2-3 patted layers of essence/toner on my face (my fave is the fresh rose toner or) followed by oil (squalane from the ordinary) and THEN a layer of la roche posay moisturizer to seal all that goodness in. Sounds extreme because it is but it really helps!!!! you wake up with pore-free baby skin.

  • Andrea

    I am an oily-acne prone lady and Cerave’s regular moisturizing cream has helped so much! I used to be scared to use it in the daytime bc I thought I’d get too greasy, but my skin looks better than it has in aaages. Hadn’t realized how dehydrated it was!

  • Ellie

    My skin has actually gotten so much better since I stopped exfoliating and just used very gentle cleansers. My go to is Clarins gentle foaming cleanser (for sensitive skin, the combination one is very drying). I’m also really enjoying using the Ren Evercalm mask as part of my winter routine.

  • Lorange E

    I’ll be honest: I loved this article because I already use Cerave hydrating cleanser and Cerave healing ointment and only exfoliate gently with a konjac sponge. Lol. I’d also like plug Eucerin–the thick crisco like stuff in the big tub. If you get a chapped nose when you have a cold, try smearing Eucerin all over your nose when you go to bed at night. It’s the best preventative I’ve found!

  • Helena

    Unrefined shea butter for everything. I love it.

  • Amalia

    I recommend coffe ground as a peeling for face and body, too!!! It doesn’t clock the drain and it’s 100% ecological + it’s an economic option.
    I’ve got rather sensitive skin with neurodermitis outbreaks occasionally and I best get along with using as few products as possible. I use some eco baby cleansing soap to wash my face and body. I put physiogel intensive creme on my face and it’s the first time in a long while that my face’s skin feels relaxed.
    I couldn’t find a good body lotion yet for people dealing with neurodermitis yet.
    Any recommendations?

  • Jessica King Fredel

    the glossier priming moisturizer rich SAVED my skin when i was at college in new hampshire, and their balm dot com does wonders for dry lips/cuticles. the kiehl’s tumeric mask is great once a week as well.

  • Mun

    Layering toner is a great way to adding loads of moisture into your skin!