From skincare switch-ups to lifestyle tweaks for a better night’s sleep and radiance-boosting make-up, here’s how to fend off dullness in the colder months
If you notice that your skin feels drier and more dehydrated in the winter months, it’s not just in your imagination. Your skin has to contend with a whole new host of environmental aggressors as it deals with the switch from summer mode, all of which can affect its texture and tone and cause it to lose its luminosity.
What can help restore skin’s radiance? Choosing products that better suit its changing needs as well as a few small but effective lifestyle switch-ups can all make a difference.
Here’s what you need to know about the causes of dull skin and the products worth incorporating into your regime.
1. Switch up your skincare for dry and dehydrated skin
Is your skin dry, dehydrated or both? Chances are it could be a mixture thanks to the confusing combo of cold air and central heating that we expose skin to during the autumn and winter months.
Although similar, the causes of dryness and dehydration differ. Dryness is caused by a lack of oil in the skin, whereas dehydration is the result of a lack of water. Both can cause disruption to skin barrier function (the first line of defence against environmental aggressors such as UV and pollution), which can lead to skin looking duller and feeling rougher.
What may help? Switch up your lighter weight summer products for some harder working hydrators. “I would always recommend using a more nourishing cleanser during the colder months and making sure to layer hydration products such as a hyaluronic acid, a light oil and a moisturiser to seal everything in,” says facialist and founder of re:lax Katie White.
Look for products that incorporate ingredients that attract moisture (humectants such as the aforementioned hyaluronic acid, as well as glycerin and panthenol) and ones that soothe and prevent water loss (such as squalane, oils and ceramides). Try incorporating a hydrating face mask into your routine too for a more intensive treat and avoid harsh cleansers as they may further strip skin of valuable moisture.
Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum (£40)
• Size: 50ml
• Free of essential oils, silicones and fragrances
Containing a hydrating combination of glycerin, pro-vitamin B5, panthenol and hyaluronic acid, this serum is like a glass of water for parched skin. It’s fragrance free, so suits sensitive skin types, too.
Botanics 100% Organic Facial Oil (£11.49)
• Size: 25ml
• 100% organic
• Formulated without mineral oils
This 100% organic1 and vegan facial oil is nourishing yet non-greasy. Ideal for applying after your serum to seal moisture in.
Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré Nourishing Moisturiser (£20)
• Size: 75ml
If you’re looking for a souped-up moisturiser for the winter months, this multi-tasking day cream could be for you. A primer, moisturiser, face mask and makeup remover in one, it’s impressively versatile.
Boots Glow Brightening Mist (£4)
• Size: 100ml
A facial mist provides an easy way to top up moisture levels when on the go. Containing calming niacinamide and a host of hydrators, this is a handy essential.
Dr Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Sleepair Intensive Mask (£9.60)
• Size: 30ml
This gel-textured face mask formulated to protect skin’s moisture barrier, delivers intense hydration while you sleep thanks to goodies such as tiger grass (centella asiatica aka Cica), niacinamide, a moisturising humectant and a probiotic ferment.
Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser (£13.20)
• Size: 100ml
• Cloth not included
This is a favourite of Katie’s thanks to its conditioning ingredients designed to soften, smooth and of course, deeply cleanse and remove all traces of make-up and end-of-day grime.
2. Incorporate a facial massage into your regime
Whether you’ve got one or 10 minutes to spare, applying a more hands-on approach when it comes to your skincare routine may provide the perfect pick-me-up for tired skin and puffy eyes. “Facial massage helps increase circulation which brings oxygen and stimulates skin cell turnover,” explains Katie. “It also supports lymphatic drainage, which helps to move toxins (naturally occurring in the skin) away from certain areas – which is amazing for puffiness, areas of congestion or recurrent breakouts.” Plus, it feels pretty blissful, too.
For some great tips, check out our complete guide to at-home facial massage. re:lax’s Instagram page, @relaxldn, also has a brilliant range of different massage techniques that you can employ to fend off signs of tiredness and everyday stress.
A word of caution – try to do your massage with a product that provides sufficient slip to avoid dragging skin, especially around the eye area. Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm (£27) is great for this, as is the cleansing oil (£25) in the Take The Day Off range.
3. De-stress from your day
OK, we know everyday stress isn’t seasonal, but it can cause as much mayhem to skin during the winter as it can in the summer. “When we’re stressed, the body releases cortisol and adrenaline,” explains Katie. “This can trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which can clog pores and lead to skin looking less glowy.”
There’s also the indirect impact everyday stress can have, too. “Stress also impacts our behaviour and habits around skin, which can lead to increased picking or scratching, or may just leave you feeling that you don't have the energy to cleanse and hydrate,” says Katie.
The solution? Find times during the day to decompress and relax. Anything from a yoga session to a bath, catching up with friends and a breathing practice can have a noticeable effect on everyday stress levels.
Activity Superstore Yoga & Wellness Subscription (£42)
• Three-month subscription
Exclusive to Boots, Movement for Modern Life has joined forces with a team of top teachers to help you harness the benefits of yoga in the comfort of your own living room.
Sanctuary Spa Luxury Bath Float (£9)
• Size: 500ml
Enriched with a conditioning cocktail of baobab, vitamin E and freesia flowers, this skin softening soak helps to disperse end-of-day worries and woes.
4. Use a sunscreen – even in the winter
Contrary to popular belief, sunscreen is a must to protect skin against UV damage all year round. Try using it with an antioxidant product such a vitamin C serum to bolster your defences further.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Invisible Fluid Sun Cream SPF50 (£13.50)
• Size: 50ml
As well as providing broad spectrum, high factor protection, this sunscreen is also non-sticky and non-greasy and doesn’t leave a tell-tale white cast behind. A rare combination.
5. Use a vitamin C serum
One of the most extensively researched antioxidants on the market, vitamin C is an ingredient that’s well worth incorporating into your daytime routine all year round to help protect skin against free radical damage. It helps tone down pigmentation and uneven skin tone and, as it encourages collagen production, it supports the appearance of firm-looking skin, too.
No7 Radiance+ 15% Vitamin C Serum (£13.96)
• Size: 25ml
Fast-absorbing and lightweight, this brightening serum glides on to help dull skin get its glow back.
6. Exfoliate regularly
Another reason that skin may have lost its luminosity could be down to a build of dry, dead cells that are sitting on top of it. Using a chemical exfoliant such as lactic acid or glycolic acid can help slough these off to reveal fresher, glowing skin underneath and allow your skincare products to penetrate further.
Be careful not to overdo it though. “Too much of a good thing can disrupt the skin's protective barrier and start to cause some issues,” cautions Katie. These can include increased sensitivity, irritation and breakouts.
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% (£5.80)
• Size: 30ml
Enriched with 10% lactic acid, hydrating hyaluronic acid and Tasmanian pepperberry derivative, this exfoliant gently exfoliates while also minimising chances of irritation.
Botanics All Bright Instant Glow Mask (£8.99)
• Size: 50ml
Containing natural exfoliating acids derived from hibiscus, vitamin C and an uplifting blend of bergamot and yellow freesia, this exfoliating mask acts as a treat and treatment in one. A firm favourite of Katie’s for lifting dull skin.
7. Try a retinol serum
As well as increasing cell turnover, retinoids such as retinol (a vitamin A derivative) helps to stimulate the production of building blocks such as collagen and hyaluronic acid to leave skin feeling softer, smoother, firmer and more even in tone.
Using it in serum-form at night is the best way to harness the ingredient’s myriad of benefits, but ensure to start gradually if you’re new to it – once a week at first – to keep the chances of peeling and irritation to a minimum. If you’re particularly reaction-prone, try another retinoid such as that found in The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane (£7.80) instead and if you’re using exfoliating acids as a part of your regime, ensure to use them on separate nights.
L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Laser Pure Retinol Deep Anti-Wrinkle Night Serum (£16.66)
• Size: 30ml
If your skin is more used to retinol use, this serum could be next on your wishlist. Containing L’Oréal’s highest concentration of pure retinol as well as hyaluronic acid, it’s been formulated to help take the edge off deeper set wrinkles.
Check out our guide on the best night serums for brightening dull and tired skin for more skincare inspo.
8. Avoid matt makeup
As effective as matt finish, powder bases are for tackling shine, they can emphasise dullness. This is because they are designed to absorb light rather than reflect it. With that in mind, try swapping them for illuminating and buildable tinted moisturisers and foundations that have added skin conditioning benefits for results in both the short and long term.
MAC Strobe Cream (£26)
• Size: 50ml
Containing iridescent particles as well as hydrating botanicals and soothing green tea, this brightening highlighter provides a dose of radiance for an illuminating boost. Simply dab on to the high planes of the face such as cheekbones, along the nose and chin, or apply all over for a megawatt glow.
Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer (£34)
• Size: 50ml
As well as acting as a useful piece of “skin Velcro” to help give your make-up greater longevity, this pearlised primer can also be mixed with your base to give it a radiant finish.
Fenty Beauty PRO FILT'R Hydrating Foundation (£27)
• Size: 32ml
• Medium to full coverage
• 50 shades
Longwear but lightweight, this medium to full coverage foundation boasts both impressive staying power and wearability. It’s also available in 50 shades to make finding your perfect shade match easier than ever.
9. Diarise regular exercise
Ever notice how your skin looks extra glowy after exercise? There’s a reason for that. When your heart rate goes up, it increases blood flow which fuels the circulation of oxygen and nutrients around the body. The result? Brighter looking, more energised feeling skin.
A few words of caution though: if you’re exercising outdoors make sure to apply an SPF beforehand to protect against sun damage and try to shower as soon as you can after your workout – especially if you have breakout-prone or sensitive skin – as sweat can clog pores and lead to spots. If you’re indoors though, you might find our guide to the best home workouts and exercises helpful.
10. Find a bedtime routine that works
Our skin does some of its most important work while we sleep as it shifts from protect mode to repair mode. During this time, the creation of new cells is at its highest and the skin is in the best position to counteract damage caused during the day from factors such as UV and pollution. When sleep is sparse, it can manifest in skin feeling drier and more dehydrated which may accelerate the appearance of ageing.
As well as using products that help skin’s regeneration process at night (such as a retinol serum), tweaks to your daily routine may help to increase your chances of getting a more restful night’s sleep. These include regular exercise (provided that it’s not too close to when you’re planning on going to sleep) and limiting your blue light exposure from your phone and computer screens two to three hours before bedtime. It can also be helpful to switch your phone onto night mode, a function that disables the blue light and replaces it with an orange tone that’s easier on the eyes.
It’s key though to find a wind-down routine that works for you – and one that you’ll stick to. This could be as simple as a warm bath or swapping your phone for a book instead.
If you’re struggling to sleep, you might find our guide for overcoming insomnia, the best sleep aids and Yoga Nidra helpful, too.