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How to Care for Dry Facial Skin in Winter

Updated on May 14, 2016
Jayne Lancer profile image

A beauty consultant by profession, Jayne has been advising on correct skin and hair care, makeup, and other cosmetics for over 20 years.

Basic facial skin care for men and women to prevent and repair dryness, redness and itching during the cold winter months.

It’s a combination of harsh weather and central heating that causes dryness in winter. If you don’t provide your skin with an adequate fat barrier, central heating will cause the moisture content of the subcorneous layer to evaporate, making it even more vulnerable to the cold when you go outside.

The subcorneous layer of healthy skin consists of 20 percent water. If this drops below ten percent, skin becomes red and itchy and begins to feel taut.

Why Some Skin Creams Seem to Make Dry Skin Worse

The obvious thing to do when your face feels dry and irritated is apply moisturizer, but the condition will only worsen if you choose the wrong product. A moisturizer that is too light and easily absorbed will cause the skin to bloat and eventually crack. This, of course, makes it vulnerable to bacteria and breakouts.

What is the Best Moisturizer for Dry Winter Skin?

The Right Texture

Whether you want to prevent or repair dryness in winter, you need a rich textured moisturizer that won't completely absorb into the skin. Night creams, for example, are ideal, but may leave your skin too shiny for the daytime. If this is the case, tone down with powder or blot your face with a tissue.


Skin that is prone to dryness is often lacking in hygroscopic substances, like urea.

A face cream containing at least five percent urea can restore the skin’s moisture balance within just three days. After 14 days, even the roughest skin should feel smooth and supple again.


For extra nourishment, you might want to apply a serum under your moisturizer. Serums contain firming and anti-aging substances, and make skin feel relaxed. Don’t use, however, while your face is sore and inflamed.

Almond oil

A good dry skin treatment for the nighttime is classic Nivea cream mixed with almond oil, which is renowned for its ability to repair and imitate the skin’s natural barrier. Just combine the cream and oil to a smooth but firm consistency and slather over your face and neck before going to bed.

Is an Extra Eye Cream Necessary?

The skin around the eyes is a little different to that of the rest of the face. It’s thinner and doesn’t have the same elasticity, which is why it wrinkles more easily and tends to creping and sagging. It also lacks sebaceous glands.

Whether an extra cream is necessary for the eye area is controversial. It’s probably a good idea if you want to deal with a specific problem, like dark circles or puffiness, but adding a protective layer should be your main priority in winter.

If you feel you need an additional eye product, apply an appropriate eye serum beneath the moisturizer you use on the rest of your face, which should be rich enough to protect and seal in moisture.

Whether an extra cream is necessary for the eye area is controversial.
Whether an extra cream is necessary for the eye area is controversial.

Lip Care in Winter

Because lips have no sebaceous glands and only a thin subcorneous layer, they’re very prone to dryness and cracking. This is why you need to protect them at all times.

Lipstick offers good protection for women. Otherwise, organic lip balms with beeswax and castor oil work best.

If your lips are damaged, wear lip balm (under your lipstick) during the day to seal cracks and lock in moisture. To speed up the healing process, smother your lips with castor oil or petroleum jelly before going to bed.

No matter how tempting it may be, never pick or bite chapped lips.

Cleansing, Toning and Shaving

There’s more to repairing and preventing dry, sore skin than slapping on serums and creams. How you cleanse, tone and shave is equally important.


Cleanse your face mornings and evenings, but be gentle. It’s important to preserve your skin’s natural barrier, especially in winter.

Never use soap. It won’t remove makeup if you wear it, and it upsets the skin’s pH level, causing dryness to worsen. Use a mild wash cream, a cleansing lotion or, even better, oil and water:

  1. Take two teaspoons of almond oil and massage over your face and neck.
  2. Add a little lukewarm water and work up to an emulsion. This dislodges all grime and makeup, including waterproof mascara.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. Dry your face with a cotton pad.


Using toner or thermal water to clarify after cleansing may cause more harm than good if your skin is very dry.

Firstly, many toners have a drying effect. If you must use one, make sure it's completely free of alcohol and other astringents.

Secondly, if your toner or thermal water isn't completely dry before you apply moisturizer, excess fluid may cause bloating and cracking.

Shaving Lubricant

In place of gels, foams and creams, almond oil can be used as a shaving lubricant for any part of the face or body. This is particularly useful for men who tend to beard irritations during cold periods.

  1. Massage the oil into the area to be shaved.
  2. Add warm water and work up to an emulsion.
  3. Shave as usual, keeping the blade wet at all times.
  4. Rinse thoroughly.
  5. Pat dry with a cotton pad or cosmetic towel.

Because lips have no sebaceous glands and only a thin subcorneous layer, they're very prone to dryness and cracking.
Because lips have no sebaceous glands and only a thin subcorneous layer, they're very prone to dryness and cracking.


Because they're likely to make things worse, scrubs and peels are not a good idea if your skin is very rough and sore. Exfoliate only if it causes no discomfort.

The best facial scrub, no matter what your skin condition, is the sort that contains jojoba beads rather than solid granules. Jojoba beads are substantial enough to slough off dead cells, but too soft to cause damage. Use no more than once a fortnight.

Alternatively, try a gentle peel with fruit acids specially formulated for dry and sensitive skin.

You won't need an extra exfoliating product if you're using skin care cosmetics with retinol or alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid and salicylic acid, since these already have a peeling effect. These can, however, dry the skin, so be wary of using them during cold weather.

Drink Plenty

No matter what you put on your skin, you won't keep it well hydrated unless you drink plenty; at least four pints a day. If you don't feel like drinking water during the cold months, unsweetened herb teas are equally beneficial.

Photo Credits

First image by Langll (

Second image by Andreas 160578 (

Third image by Jorge Barrios (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

© 2010 Jayne Lancer


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