With spring on the horizon, much of the country is still experiencing cold, wintry weather that can be damaging to your body's outermost layer. The dry air can draw moisture from the skin's outer layer, resulting in a compromised skin barrier that leaves skin more vulnerable to germs, pollution, and further exposure to the elements.

Given that the cold weather is extra harsh on skin, your cold-weather skin care routine should be a bit more focused on moisturizing and protecting. Wondering how to prevent dry winter skin? Try these key skin care tips for cold weather.

7 Cold-weather Skin Care Tips

Whether looking for a product or practice, you can use these tips as a starting point to keep your skin strong and resilient as you await spring.

1. Shield Skin from Harsh Elements

When skin is exposed to harsh elements like snow, rain, freezing temperatures, and dry air, skin can suffer from wind burns, cracking, and severe dryness. One way to minimize this exposure is by bundling up with face coverings and gear like gloves, hats, scarves, coats, and multiple layers of clothing. While this may seem obvious, this is a necessary step to create a physical barrier between sensitive skin and the cold weather.

2. Keep Central Heating to a Minimum

Sitting in front of the heater or fireplace is a comfortable and cozy way to get warm, especially after you've been out in the cold. However, if you experience very dry skin in the cool weather, avoid getting too close to the heater. Central heating creates an artificial indoor environment that can contribute to dry skin.

Further, the back and forth between cold, dry air and hot, dry air can also be problematic for skin, leading to peeling, chapping, and cracking. Keep a comfortable distance from any heaters and practice other winter skin care tips to combat the excessively dry air.

3. Apply Sunscreen Even When You Can't See the Sun

Sunscreen is mostly associated with warm, sunny summer days at the beach, but here's why you also need sun protection in the cold season. Although the sun is weaker in the winter and early spring, snow reflects up to 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light. Not only does the sun shine down on you through the cloudy sky, but it also bounces off the snow below, increasing your exposure.

And remember that while the UV index may be lower on a cloudy day, the sun's rays can still reach you through clouds, even on a cold, dreary day. Without proper sun protection, your skin is vulnerable to long-term sun damage. This is why you need to apply a 30+ SPF broad-spectrum sunscreen daily, even in the dead of winter. In addition to the added protection, this practice will form a good habit of sunscreen in the months when you're even more susceptible to sun damage.

4. Moisturize with High-Quality Creams and Serums

The importance of moisturizing your skin in the winter can't be overstated. If possible, moisturize twice a day. Your morning moisturizer acts as a seal to lock in moisture and prevent it from escaping, while your nighttime moisture acts as a replenisher. The EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex is formulated with rich ceramides and moisturizing lipids to strengthen a compromised skin barrier. It also protects against moisture loss and free radical damage, so it's a suitable cool-weather product.

5. Avoid Overwashing and Steaming Hot Showers

Washing your face is an important part of any skin care routine. This helps get rid of impurities and dirt so skin is clear and clean. However, overwashing your face can strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving skin feeling dry, tight, and itchy. Washing your face twice a day may not be necessary. Simply rinse your face with water in the morning and follow up with a moisturizer. When cleansing in the evening, use a gentle cleanser that's suitable for sensitive skin.

Long, steamy showers can have a similar effect. Organizations like the American Academy of Dermatology recommend limiting time in the shower or bath to less than 10 minutes. To prevent hot showers from worsening dry skin, use warm water instead of hot water and moisturize right after.

6. Don't Forget Lips, Hands, and Body

Your face isn't the only part of your skin that's vulnerable to the cold. Prevent chapped lips, cracked hands, and dryness throughout the whole body by moisturizing from head to toe.

Throughout the day, apply a moisturizing lip balm. Bonus points if your lip balm contains SPF since lips are at risk of sun exposure, too. To relieve rough hands, use a hand crème. When you step out of the shower, slather on an all-over body lotion to help skin retain moisture.

7. Use a Humidifier

Low humidity levels of the late fall, winter, and early spring make it more difficult for the skin to retain moisture. Using a humidifier in the winter makes skin's job a little easier since this will pump moisture back into the air. Since you'll likely experience the cold, dry air outside and warm, dry air inside, a humidifier may be the much-needed solution.

Seasonal dry skin may sound inevitable, but if you follow these winter skin care tips, it doesn't have to be. With great moisturizing skin care products and some conscious efforts, you can maintain healthy skin in the winter.


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.

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