In the same way summer can present some sticky grooming situations, winter brings with it not just colds, flu and present-buying marathons, but a raft of skin and hair care challenges too.
From dry skin and cold sores to beard dandruff and eczema flare-ups, there’s plenty to contend with. But fear not, our A-Z will show you how to survive anything winter throws at you.
They might warm your cockles but those comforting winter snifters aren’t so beneficial for skin, causing dehydration and leaching moisture away from its surface.
Alcohol has the same effect when applied topically, too, so minimise dryness by checking your face products are alcohol-free.
Facial hair wicks moisture away from the surface of the skin, leading to dryness and dreaded beard dandruff. So make sure you keep the skin beneath your face furniture adequately hydrated by massaging in some beard balm or conditioning oil.
“Massaging your beard and the area around it will keep blood flowing and ensure healthy growth and soft, supple skin too,” says Chris Martin, author of A Gentleman’s Guide to Beard and Moustache Management.
C. Central Heating
There’s a reason dry skin often accompanies the arrival of winter and it’s called central heating. The combination of cold, dry air and central heating causes moisture to be sucked out of your skin.
Since skin functions best in a moist environment, place bowls of water around the house to reduce the dryness of the air or invest in a product like Philips’ Air Humidifier HU4803.
D. Vitamin D
“It’s estimated that 50 per cent of the population of Europe, the USA and Asia are deficient in vitamin D, which is formed in the skin only on exposure to sunlight,” says Dr. Des Fernandes, author of Vitamin A Skin Science.
Since sunlight is scarce in winter, you might want to think about taking a supplement to boost your supplies. “When levels of vitamin D are ideal our cells function much better and it’s easier to keep skin healthy,” he says.
According to Clinique’s Dr. Tom Mammone, the kind of temperature changes experienced in winter can disrupt the skin’s delicate balance. “That often means certain mechanisms don’t work properly and cells don’t regenerate fast enough, making skin look dull and flaky,” he says.
Help things along with exfoliators like Clinique For Men Face Scrub or Polaar Men Purifying Face Scrub.
Cold weather tends to lessen the impact of fragrance because low temperatures and thick, woolly jumpers limit how well your scent is diffused from the skin. The solution? Look out for winter-friendly scents with warm, rich and long-lasting base notes of musk, amber, vetiver or oud.
No, not the woollen, warming ones but the type of gloves you can take into the shower – like Superdrug’s Exfoliating Gloves. Cheaper than most body scrubs, they’re perfect for stimulating your circulation on cold winter mornings as well as for ridding yourself of dead skin cells.
H. Hand Cream
Cold weather, frequent hand-washing and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers all conspire to dry out the skin on our hands. “These factors can remove protective lipids without giving skin time to build them up again,” says Mammone.
The answer is a hand cream. Opt for a non-greasy one like Bulldog’s Original Hand Cream or ClarinsMen Active Hand Care, which contains Provitamin B5 to stimulate the skin’s own healing process.
I. Icy Winds
“If the temperatures are going to be sub-zero most of the time, then it’s wise to look for waterless moisturisers for daytime use, especially if you’re skiing,” says Candice Gardner of The International Dermal Institute.
Try one like Dermalogica’s Barrier Repair, which is a bit like an overcoat for your skin.
“Playing rugby, football, or going out for a run on a cold, windy or wet day will tend to dry the skin while the added friction between the thighs, or between the skin and sports clothes, can quite quickly give rise to frictional dermatitis,” says Consultant Dermatologist Andrew Ilchyshyn.
To minimise the problem, try using a body moisturiser before exercise, as well as after your post-workout shower, and minimise friction with an anti-chafing product like Anthony No Sweat Body Defense.
Cold weather and central heating both affect keratin, a key structural protein in hair, by sucking out all the moisture. “Not only does this make hair look dull and lifeless, it also makes it more sensitive to damage from heat from hair dryers and other styling tools,” says Trichologist Sara Allison.
Allison suggests washing hair every other day in the winter to avoid stripping it of protective oils, as well as using a hydrating hair mask if your hair does end up looking like straw. Try Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask.
Lips are especially vulnerable to chapping in the winter because they don’t have any oil glands to keep them moisturised. So a nourishing lip balm is essential.
If you don’t want to look like you’re wearing lip gloss, opt for a shine-free product like FIT Lip Serum, which is also free of mineral oil – an ingredient often found in lip balms but one which can cause zits around the lips.
Moisturising is especially important in cold weather but the type of moisturiser you use is crucial, too. “If your skin still feels dry after moisturising morning and evening, then switch to a heavier moisturiser,” says Mammone.
Keep an eye out for ones specially formulated for dry skin like Clinique For Men Maximum Hydrator, Elemis S.O.S Survival Cream and ClarinsMen Super Moisture Balm.
N. Night Cream
Since skin absorbs moisture best while you kip, a night cream like Lab Series Night Recovery Lotion is the perfect solution to thirsty winter skin.
O. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
“If your diet is deficient in essential fatty acids, wounds cannot heal properly, you’re more susceptible to infection and your skin becomes dehydrated,” says dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone. Oily fish like salmon and mackerel are perfect sources.
A condition that affects up to 3 per cent of the population and which leads to the formation of scaly patches on the skin, psoriasis is often worse in the winter, with cold weather, alcohol and infections all potential triggers.
As is stress, so maybe now’s the time to get all your Christmas shopping done. In one stress-free 15-minute online shop.
It might sound like a member of James Bond’s inner circle but coenzyme Q10 is a natural component of the skin which is thought to support its natural ability to repair and regenerate itself. Find it in products like Nivea For Men Skin Energy Instant Effect Q10 Moisturiser.
Dead skin cells and dry patches on the surface of the skin are notorious for making it appear dull and grey, especially when unflattering winter light hits it. Loosen the debris so it can be washed away naturally – and reveal better-looking skin beneath – with products containing glycolic acid, like Anthony Glycolic Facial Cleanser.
As ultraviolet light approaches the earth, it’s absorbed by the atmosphere. But, at high altitude – when skiing, for example – the atmosphere is thinner and so less UV light is absorbed, making it possible for harmful doses to reach your skin even in the winter.
“This is compounded by the reflection of light by snow, so skin should be protected with sunscreens that provide an adequate shield from both UVB and UVA rays,” says Ilchyshyn.
Given that we only actually had a few weeks of sun this summer, chances are any tan you had will now be but a distant memory. With the World Health Organisation advising against sunbed use for cosmetic purposes, your best option is to fake it. To find out how, read celebrity self-tanner James Harknett’s tips here.
U. UV Rays
It’s not just on the slopes that the sun’s UV rays can be problematic for skin: its ageing UVA rays can wreak havoc year-round.
So, if you don’t want to end up looking like a wrinkle wonderland, factor up with a broad spectrum daily moisturiser like Murad Face Defense, which guards against both UVA and UVB rays.
Ideally, we’d get all the vitamins we need for healthy skin from our diet. But that’s all dependent on how good that diet is (and in winter it’s hard to resist the pull of a pie).
According to dermatologist Dr. Nick Lowe, the key vitamins for healthy skin are C and E. Broccoli and leafy green veg are great sources of both so make sure you order extra as sides.
According to the National Eczema Society, the reason wool is often a tricky fabric for people with skin conditions like eczema is because its fibres tend to be coarse, stiff and irritating on the skin, often exacerbating itching. Which is bad news in winter when wool knitwear and coats are the obvious options to fight the cold.
If your skin is easily irritated, keep warm by layering creatively with cotton instead, as it’s less likely to cause irritation and, since eczema often affects hands, avoid wearing woollen gloves too.
X. Xtreme Wake-up Call
OK, so we cheated with the spelling, but if you want the ultimate kick-start on a cold winter’s morning, opt for a shower gel featuring a citrus scent like lemon, grapefruit or this season’s hottest fragrance ingredient: bergamot.
The smell of citrus fruits has been shown to enliven the senses.
If all the reminders about moisturising still aren’t sinking in, consider this: skin that becomes dry in winter is dry because it has lost its protective lipid barrier. This doesn’t just make it more sensitive to pollution and shaving, it can make it more prone to premature ageing too. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
An immune system weakened by colds, flu and festive partying is all the virus that causes cold sores needs to reactivate, so the minute you feel the tell-tale tingle, reach for the cold sore cream.
“If used early enough, the anti-viral preparation Zovirax is helpful in preventing outbreaks of cold sores,” says Lowe.
Any great tips for surviving the ravaging effects of winter? Or maybe you know of a dry skin-soothing moisturiser we haven’t mentioned here?
Share yours below.