From switching up your lifestyle to indulging your skin with flake-fighting products, a skincare expert explains how to help treat your skin this season
While the cooler months of autumn and winter certainly have their perks: think cashmere layers, thick tights and hot toddies, the itchy, dry skin that can accompany the season can leave you feeling frosty.
According to research published in the British Journal of Dermatology, colder, dryer weather has the potential to influence skin health, especially its moisture levels and texture. These results may influence how consumers alter their skin care from season to season.
And cranking up the heating isn’t the answer. In fact the balmy temperatures that most of us dial up our thermostat to, reduces humidity and can dry the skin, making it itchy.
A holistic switch-up in how we treat our skin is one way to mitigate the cold-weather effects on skin, explains celebrity facialist and founder of D.Thomas Clinic, Debbie Thomas. Here’s her guide to help prevent, soothe and hydrate parched autumn/winter skin.
Dry versus dehydrated skin
“Dry skin is the lack of oil (lipids) in the skin,” Thomas explains. “It is a skin type – so something that is genetically in your skin makeup – it will quite often affect the whole body to an extent.” Typically dry skin feels rough, looks dry and can flake.
“Dehydrated skin on the other hand is the lack of moisture in the upper layers of the skin, it is a condition that can affect any skin type – and yes – even oily skin can be dehydrated.
“Dehydrated skin looks dull, lacklustre and crepey and will tend to show fine lines and other signs of ageing like wrinkles and loss of elasticity. It is likely to feel tight, uncomfortable and sensitive and will flare up and go red more easily.”
Dry skin needs lipids replacing, Thomas explains. “Ceramides are the closest to our own natural lipids and not only protect the upper layers but can help the skin as a whole become more balanced.”
Dehydrated skin requires hydration. “Hyaluronic acid is often a good addition as its molecules act like a sponge pulling moisture in to create a reservoir for the skin to utilise.”
Switch up your shower
“Aside from skincare, there are some other at-home steps you can make to avoid skin-stripping habits,” says Thomas. “Hot water is not your skin’s friend. It can strip natural oils and cause moisture to essentially evaporate from the skin, so turn down the temperature and don't spend too much time in the shower.
“Hard water is also more likely to dehydrate the skin as it contains limestone deposits, so if you can, invest in a water filter to soften the water making it more gentle on skin.”
Drink plenty of water
You’ve heard it before: but drinking plenty of water is fundamental. “Although your skin is the largest organ, it is the last one to get essential nutrients from within. So you need to ensure there is enough H2O to go around.”
BRITA Fill & Go Vital Water Filter Bottle (£14.99)
Reduces chlorine and other taste-impairing substances and fine particles while leaving in minerals for great-tasting drinking water.
Turn down the heat
If you are regularly in an environment that is centrally heated or air-conditioned, consider getting a humidifier to put moisture back into the air. “Temperature control feels more comfortable, but it does in fact sap the moisture from the atmosphere making it much drier. This in turn will result in more dehydrated skin, so putting moisture back into the air will help keep moisture in your skin.”
Beurer Compact Air Humidifier LB37 (£59.99)
Uses ultrasonic technology to add moisture to rooms up to 20m² with an option to add aroma oils such as energising rosemary or the soothing scent of lavender, which pair perfectly with the ultra-quiet night-time function.
Cut back on bad habits
Smoking and drinking alcohol are also aggravators for dehydrated skin. “Both dehydrate the body from within, making it less likely for essential moisture to make it to the skin,” explains Thomas. So cut them out or cut down if you want healthy, hydrated skin.
Supplement your skin
“Supplements need to be considered on a case by case basis, but vitamin D and vitamin E can help dry skins,” suggests Thomas. Research supports that vitamin D3 and vitamin E taken orally can help with excessively dry skin. Always consult your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet.
Boots Skin, Hair & Nails 30 Capsules (£4.80)
Check out our guides to choosing the best vitamin D supplement and best vitamin E supplement for your needs.
Avoid over cleansing your body
“Begin with gentle, skin-friendly cleansers and washes,” advises Thomas. “For very dry body skin, avoid frequent use of soap or washes. Instead just wash armpits and down below regularly and avoid the rest of the skin. This ensures you’re not stripping essential lipids.”
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Syndet AP+ Body Wash (£16.50)
Rigorously dermatologically tested on the most sensitive skins, it’s formulated to gently cleanse and lock moisture into dry, very dry and eczema-prone skin without damaging the skin barrier.
Take skincare step-by-step
“For your face, use a gentle sulfate-free, fragrance-free cleanser,” says Thomas. “Look for cleansers that contain lipids like ceramides or ones aimed at protecting the barrier function and microbiome of the skin.”
Honest Beauty Gentle Gel Cleanser (£16)
This gentle facial cleanser removes makeup and impurities in one step with a gel texture and a calming botanical blend of chamomile and calendula.
Avoid harsh exfoliants. “I would steer clear of physical scrubs and strong chemical exfoliants,” says Thomas. “More recently formulations using PHAs (polyhydroxy acids), which are AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acids) more refined and gentler cousins, are becoming increasingly popular. These are a great option for drier, more sensitive skin types thanks to their slower, more gentle exfoliation.
Lactic acid is an exfoliator with hydrating properties so is a great option for drier skin types she advises. “Enzymes are also a good option because they work slightly differently to acids and can be the best option if the skin is feeling more sensitised.”
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% (£5.50)
Lactic acid offers very mild exfoliation in this gentle formula, which also contains Tasmanian pepperberry to reduce signs of inflammation and sensitivity.
Dry skin can skip this test unless it has specific calming or hydrating properties, suggests Thomas. “Hydrating facial spritzers could be a good addition to the daily routine with many having a fine mister so they can be used throughout the day, even over makeup. These are useful for people working in dry, air-conditioned or heated offices.”
PIXI Rose Tonic (£18)
As it gently removes impurities, this rose-based toner helps to rehydrate, balance pH, minimise redness and calm irritated skin.
“The skin doesn’t naturally produce water, so hydration boosting is essential for all skin types. A hydrating serum, including hyaluronic acid, ceramides and niacinamide can improve the skin’s hydration levels and barrier function, which will help to manage dry skin’s common symptoms, like flaking, tightness, dullness and itchiness.
“Serums can be great for oily or congestion-prone dehydrated skins as they often don't contain oils but just the hydrating element which is lacking for them.”
Vichy Minéral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Hydration Booster Serum (£25)
Contains a high concentration of Vichy’s patented Thermal Mineralizing Water to drench skin with moisture, along with hyaluronic acid to plump and strengthen the skin barrier and protect it from pollution.
Moisturiser and SPF
Dry skin lacks oil. Using a lipid-rich hydration product is essential to replenish the skin’s lipids and balance out its natural moisture levels, Thomas advises. “This doesn't have to be a very rich or heavy product but rather well formulated using a good blend or multiple lipids to offer the best replenishment.
“Dehydrated skin needs moisture so look for moisture boosting ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, plant-based squalene, urea, glycerin and aquaporins.” Lighter moisturisers are normally best for dehydrated skin that's not showing oil loss.
Drunk Elephant Lala Retro™ Whipped Cream (£42.50)
This light, hydrating cream is infused with six African oils and a blend of plant ceramides designed to strengthen and restore the skin’s barrier and maintain a balanced pH level.
Liz Earle Superskin™ Concentrate Oil for Night (£42)
Press one or two pumps of this rich rebalancing night-time concentrate into skin before bed to soften and rebalance skin with argan and organic rosehip oils, plus antioxidant vitamin E.
Use SPF daily. “UV rays not only dehydrate the skin but they fast track all signs of ageing,” says Thomas. “While wind, the cold and central heating are all well known for dehydrating and sensitising the skin, UV rays are actually the worst culprit so protect to prevent damage.” In fact, research from the US revealed that UV exposure may account for up to 80% of the visible signs of ageing.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid Sun Cream SPF50 (£18)
Formulated with sensitive skin in mind, this high, broad-spectrum protection has been clinically proven to provide optimal protection.
“We want to support the hydration and lipid content of the skin around the eyes but can't use heavyweight creams as they can cause puffiness,” warns Thomas. “Look for an eye-specific product containing ceramides and hyaluronic acid.”
Avène Soothing Eye Contour Cream for Very Sensitive Skin (£10)
Ophthalmologically tested and approved to help reduce the appearance of under-eye puffiness on even hypersensitive skin and leave the eye contour area soothed and hydrated.
Prone to morning eye bags? You may find our guide to how to get rid of puffy eyes useful.
“Look for gel- or cream-based masks that boost moisture and are calming. Inflammation (redness and irritation) is quite common in drier skin types so we want to combat this as well.”
Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Hydrating Mask with Avocado & Swiss Glacier Water (£22.05)
With avocado and Swiss glacier water, this overnight mask delivers skin-nourishing benefits within minutes and locks in moisture for up to 72 hours.
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