Winter. It’s not your skin’s friend. In fact, it’s pretty much public enemy number one. Why? Because not only does cold weather leave you ‘feeling’ cold (i.e. shivering, brrr-ing and generally uncomfortable), it wreaks havoc on your skin too.
“Your skin is your protective layer; it’s meant to keep out things like pollution, allergens and irritants, and it’s also meant to keep things like water in,” says Dr Rachael Eckel, award-winning cosmetic dermatologist. “Winter’s lower temperatures and humidity levels, as well as central heating, compromise the skin, resulting in disrupted barrier function – a change in the delicate balance of water, fat and protein that makes up the skin’s barrier.”
Which all translates to dryness, redness, sensitivity and irritation and a host of other things you’d rather not deal with in addition to your crippling case of SAD. In short, skin’s your armour and winter puts chinks in it. But there are steps you can take to bolster your defences. Follow this regimen to thwart winter’s wrath.
Wash Your Face
Twice a day, 60 seconds at a time. Not just a sure-fire way to shock your body into wakefulness in the morning, washing your face helps clear the skin of oil, pollutants and any traces of product that might remain on the surface long after it’s been applied.
“Men especially produce a lot of oil, or sebum, on account of their testosterone levels [a hormone that drives oil glands],” says Eckel. If left to well up, excess oil clogs pores leading to shininess, larger pores and spots, so it pays to stay clean.
Exfoliate (No, But Actually)
Once a day, in the mornings. It might seem like a pain in the proverbial – and a load of old tosh – but a gentle scrub can help clear your skin of dead cells that clog your pores, cause blackheads and make your complexion look uneven.
“Exfoliation is especially important for men over the age of 25,” says Eckel. “As that’s when the rate at which the skin naturally sloughs off dead cells slows down.” So, there you go, it’s not all hogwash.
Not something you do with a dumbbell, but an important – and often overlooked – step in a solid winter-beating skincare routine.
“Toning might have a feminine connotation to it, but it’s basically just a marketing term,” says Eckel. “At its simplest, toning is using an astringent that acts as a kind of mini-microdermabrasion or mini-chemical peel, helping to degrease the skin and remove old cells.”
She recommends using a toner that includes salicylic acid, which also helps to soak up oil as it surfaces, keeping your complexion clear.
It might be something you’re used to bulk-buying in an airport Boots, but sunscreen’s not just for when you’re jetting off. Sure, your skin’s got more of a chance burning on a Caribbean beach than driving through sheets of rain at home in Blighty, but UVA rays – the ones that age the skin – are global, and present whenever it’s light out.
“Sunscreen isn’t just for holidays, it’s for 365 days a year,” says Eckel. “That’s irrespective of cloud cover, rainstorms, hurricanes – once it’s daytime, you need sunscreen.” Why? Because not only does exposure to UVA rays cause deep lines, wrinkles and dark spots (just take a look at this truck driver’s face), but exposure to the sun can also tamper with that ideal balance of water, fat and protein mentioned earlier, weakening your defences.
Opt for a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
With something that actually works. Not all moisturisers are created equal, so it pays to know which ones will deliver on their promise once winter comes knocking.
“Make sure you’re not using a cosmetic moisturiser that’s all marketing and zero function,” says Eckel. “Look for ingredients that are scientifically proven to work rather than buying a product simply because the bottle looks nice or it smells really ‘masculine’.”
According to Eckel, ingredients shown to help maintain the skin’s natural barrier function include ceramides, phospholipids, cholesterol and squalene. “These are fractionated lipids,” she explains. “Those parts of oils which the skin can actually use to good effect.”
To save time – and clogging your face with more product than is necessary – she suggests applying sunscreen in the morning after cleansing, exfoliating and toning, and then a moisturiser before bed, after cleansing and toning. Simple.
Do your bit for the environment (as well as your skin and hair) by showering and/or bathing less often (within reason – this isn’t leave to go full Chuck Noland).
“I’d recommend one shower per day during the winter because bathing and soaps strip the body of its natural oils, which can lead to drier skin,” says Dr David Colbert, founder of New York Dermatology Group and the Colbert MD skincare range.
Supplement Your Skincare
Combating winter’s cruelty isn’t just about what you put on your body, but what you put in it too. According to Colbert, eating foods rich in healthy fats and protein – like white fish, Greek yoghurt, almonds, green, olive oil – can all help maintain your skin’s natural barrier.
But it’s supplements that are your secret weapon. Taking vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids daily helps maintain the skin’s barrier, and reduce inflammation respectively, says Eckel, who recommends taking 2000mg vitamin D and 1000mg omega-3s per day, the former with a food rich in good fats, like a handful of almonds.
Probiotics could also be worth a punt. “A lot of the serotonin produced by the body comes from the gut, and a lot of new research shows the benefits of maintaining good gut health – like reducing the effects of rosacea and acne,” she says.
Colbert favours Glisodin supplements. “These contain high quantities of the enzyme superoxide dismutase – a unique cantaloupe extract which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory,” he says.
Feeling braver about braving winter? Or still out in the cold? Learn more about safeguarding your skin for the season ahead with our 11 tips for combating dry skin and FashionBeans’ A-Z of winter grooming.