A change of seasons requires some tweaks to your daily routine. Our skincare expert Gemma Watts explains the product swaps to combat redness and sensitivity that comes with seasonal transitions.
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While the new season brings with it soft cashmeres, warm trenches and the need for more and more layers, it usually delivers dry, dehydrated and irritated skin too.
As fun as it is to focus on updating our wardrobe for a cold snap, it’s worth simultaneously investing a little time into updating our winter skincare to avoid the redness and sensitivity that often accompanies this particular seasonal change.
I’ve found that understanding why our skin changes in the cooler months has really helped me make conscious switches in my skincare as the seasons change.
The biggest skincare tip I can offer, across all categories, is learning how to really read your own skin and then select skincare products each day that address what your skin is asking for - much like listening to your body when you’re hungry or need to rest.
An understanding of environmental stressors and how to combat them makes reading your skin and serving it what it needs so much easier.
So, why do we need to update our skin for the new season?
Dry conditions strip our skin of moisture. Winter is innately dry (despite the rain)- think a dry, icy winter breeze or harsh artificial indoor heating.
Between heating our homes or cars and trying to get some fresh air outdoors, there’s very few ways to escape the lack of humidity as we plunge into winter.
In turn, our skin’s natural moisture barrier is impaired.
This can lead to dry, red, flakey and irritated skin, as well as breakouts and even an overproduction of oil as our body tries to compensate for that moisture loss.
The key to healthy skin, at any time of year, is a healthy skin barrier.
Here are a few simple skincare switches you can make this winter to ensure your skin barrier is functioning at its best, whatever the weather.
Many of my friends who have a naturally oily skin type love the squeaky clean feeling they experience after a thorough clean with a foaming cleanser. These same friends, however, often complain of red patches and an uneven texture come winter.
This is because many (although not all) foaming cleansers contain surfactants, a foaming agent, that actually strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to that extra clean feeling.
Unfortunately these cleansers are often marketed towards those with acne prone skin, claiming to “balance oil production,” when in reality many of them strip the skin of so much oil that the skin then tries to overcompensate and produce more.
These cleansers can also be of detriment to the skin barrier, leaving the skin susceptible to environmental damage- particularly in the winter months.
To keep the skin barrier strong throughout the winter, I recommend switching your regular cleanser for a more hydrating texture like an oil, a balm or a milky cream.
While many foaming cleansers are perfectly healthy for the skin barrier, I find there is far less risk when you opt for a thicker texture.
I personally like to double cleanse, beginning with an oil (the Hunter Lab Lipid Vitamin Cleansing Oil is one of my all time favourites to melt away makeup, skincare residue and daily grime) and follow it up with a milk or cream cleanser.
A creamy second cleanser like Hydra-Restore will help to lock moisture into the skin (rather than stripping it) as well as removing any oily residue your first cleanse may have left behind on the skin.
While drier skin can handle a cleansing oil or balm without a follow-up cleanse, I recommend oilier skins opt for a second cleanser to ensure they aren’t leaving excess oil behind.
A really simple, easy and effective change you can make to your winter skincare routine is adding a few drops of a hydrating serum into your routine in the time between cleansing and moisturising.
If you are already regularly using serums rich in ingredients like vitamin C or retinol, fear not- the right hydrating serum won’t require you to stop using these throughout the winter.
A simple hydrating serum can simply be added into your existing routine, and can actually help to boost your results by counteracting any potentially sensitising side effects of your more active ingredients. For this reason, I strongly recommend working Vitamin B5, known as panthenol, into your skincare for the winter.
B5 is incredibly hydrating and soothing (meaning it will not only boost your natural moisture barrier, it will also help to soothe any existing redness and irritation) and plays well with all other ingredients, so it’s a really easy one to work into your existing routine without having to overthink it.
This is the perfect winter serum, as you only need to add a few drops into your routine to reap those hydrating and soothing benefits.
This particular serum also contains sodium hyaluronate, which is the form of hyaluronic acid most easily absorbed by the skin, to increase the skin’s ability to hold onto water, and glycerine, which boasts almost identical skin benefits to B5.
I’ve often sprouted a line to the tune of "A moisturiser really only needs to moisturise," however, in the winter, I like a moisturiser that can do a couple of jobs. The big one? Protecting the skin from future damage, rather than just restoring moisture the skin has already lost.
For this reason, I like to swap in slightly more occlusive moisturisers for the cooler months. An occlusive moisturiser physically prevents water loss by creating something of a shield over the skin, rather than sinking straight in.
This means your skin is receiving the moisture boost that all good moisturisers should deliver, as well as protecting your skin from the environmental stressors and aggressors that can cause it to lose moisture. I recommend choosing a formula rich in ceramides, which are the building blocks of a healthy skin barrier, supporting the skin’s natural moisture function and holding the cells together.
A personal favourite moisturiser of mine is the Habitual Beauty Nourishing Moisturiser, which simultaneously sinks into the skin as well as creating that protective barrier (it also doesn’t feel too heavy or rich on the skin, so it’s a winner for oiler skin types too).
This is because, beyond ceramides, it contains two molecular weights of Hyaluronic Acid- one quickly absorbed by the skin, and one to prevent transepidermal water loss.