Skin Care Mistakes to Avoid This Winter

Skin Care Mistakes to Avoid This Winter

Beauty and medical experts share their best advice for healthy, gorgeous winter skin.

By: Leah Maxwell

The weather outside is frightful, and you’ve got the skin to show it. If dry air, biting cold, extra-hot showers, and maybe a few less-than-healthy habits have you rethinking your skin care routine this winter, you’re already on the right track. Special weather conditions call for special attention to your delicate skin, as well as special attention to ensure you aren’t accidentally making things worse. We asked experts to weigh in on common skin care mistakes and to share their top tips for keeping your skin in good shape all year long.

1. Hopping products. If you’re a fan of product samples and trial-size gift sets, or if you’re starting a new skin care routine in the new year, be careful how you go about it. “Frequently switching between products doesn’t allow enough time for them to have an effect, and it may increase irritation,” says Dr. Dornechia Carter, a dermatologist on the medical staff of Methodist Charlton Medical Center in Dallas. She recommends trying a product for two to four weeks (as long as it’s not causing redness or irritation), and if the product isn’t working as desired after a month, you could then consider switching or asking a dermatologist for recommendations.

2. Skipping sunglasses. You might not think sunglasses fit into your beauty regimen, but they’re more important than you think. “UVA/UVB sunglasses protect your eyes from the bright winter sun and help prevent squinting, which causes lines and wrinkles,” says dermatologist Dr. Peggy Fuller. One of the reasons your eye area is often the first to show signs of aging and damage is because the skin there is different than everywhere else, which means it also needs extra care during the harsh winter.

“The eye area is naturally thinner than the rest of your skin and does not have a lot of natural oil, so ... be sure to use gentle eye makeup remover [and] apply your eye cream every morning and night, without fail,” says Weatherman.

3. Saving sunscreen for summertime. Just because you haven’t seen the sun in a week doesn’t mean it’s not there and you don’t need to protect yourself from its damaging effects. “UV rays penetrate the cold and cloudy days, as well as sunny ones,” warns Kendall Weatherman, a licensed esthetician and skin care expert, who says if you plan to be outside for 10 minutes or more -- including a commute in your car -- sunscreen is not optional.

Dr. Carter agrees: “Make applying sunscreen a part of your daily routine. Sunscreen in makeup is not enough, but having some in your facial moisturizer makes things easier. Don’t forget to make hats and protective clothing a part of your wardrobe.

4. Putting off mole checks.
“During the winter months, our bodies are covered up most of the time -- so we’re less likely to look for, or notice, any suspicious spots,” says dermatologist and dermapathologist Dr. Babar Rao. He advises making a conscious effort to regularly check skin during the winter since those extra months could mean the difference between easy and more challenging treatment, should it come to that.

5. Letting lips get too dry. “Stop licking your lips!” says Gina Capano, cofounder of a style bar in Peabody, Massachusetts. “Licking your lips dries them out, so let a lip balm do all the work. Stick with balms that are moisture-rich and contain SPF to help with that outdoor exposure, [and] for additional healing ... slather some on before bedtime.” Capano says there’s no such thing as too much lip balm, and it can absolutely be worn under your favorite gloss or lipstick.

6. Skimping on (or skipping!) moisturizer. The biggest problem with winter air isn’t that it’s cold but that it’s dry. Fuller compares the low humidity of the season to the atmosphere of a desert. “The dry heat in our homes, vehicles, and offices drains moisture from our skin,” she says. Moisturizer is not just recommended but essential. “Remember to reapply as often as you feel dry,” she advises, pointing out that hands, lips, and feet often need more and more frequent moisturizing than other areas of the body.

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7. Forgetting the humidifier. Another way to battle dry winter air is with a humidifier. “A humidifier in the bedroom [can] combat increased heat and low humidity that leads to overly dry skin,” says Dr. Coyle Connolly, a board-certified dermatologist and the president of his own treatment center. If you don’t have an expensive built-in model, a simple portable unit can work well too. Weatherman says you can also improve the situation just by cutting back on the use of heaters and/or not sitting next to sources of direct heat.

8. Taking comfort in comfort food. While you’re paying attention to what goes on your lips, don’t forget that what goes past them can also affect your skin. If cold weather has become an excuse to tuck into unhealthy meals, your skin might be suffering for it. “You are what you eat, so consider nourishing your skin from the inside out,” says Capano, who recommends foods that are high in essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6, including pumpkin seeds, some nuts, avocado, and chia seeds and flax seeds (both great in smoothies). Water is also vital for skin health; Fuller says staying hydrated can improve the condition of your skin all year long.

9. Taking long, hot showers. Wet heat can be just as bad as dry heat if you’re taking long, hot showers every day. To guard against dry skin as well as irritation and signs of aging, Carter suggests shortening showers to five to 10 minutes and lowering the temperature to “comfortably warm.” The best time to apply a moisturizing cream is immediately after a shower; use products specific to either your face or your body to seal in moisture without adding excess oil, which can cause breakouts.

10. Stripping the moisture from your hands. If a daily shower can be bad for your skin, imagine what all that handwashing is doing, especially during flu season, when it’s more important than ever. To protect your hands from getting so dry they crack and bleed, make sure you always have a tube of quality hand lotion at the ready. “The skin on your hands tends to be thinner and more susceptible to dehydration in the winter, [and] we all know that moisturizing is key, but timing is also key,” says Capano. “Make sure to use rubber gloves when washing dishes, and moisturize immediately after washing your hands. I try to make this as effortless as possible by keeping moisturizer by every sink in the house.”

11. Not washing your makeup brushes.
“Bacteria, dirt, and old makeup build on brushes. Not only are you risking infection and acne, but dirty brushes cannot apply makeup in the most efficient and smooth manner [and] you waste more product to get the desired effect,” says Carter. If the threat to your investment isn’t enough to motivate you, consider the consequences of irritation and infection. Stay on top of the problem by washing brushes once a week and making sure they dry thoroughly before they go back into storage. Also, know when it’s time to swap out old products for fresh ones.

12. Falling asleep with your makeup on. Leaving old makeup on your brushes is bad, but leaving old makeup on your face is even worse. If you go to bed without removing your makeup, that’s a good habit to break right away. “Dirt, makeup, and bacteria clog pores and lead to breakouts and sometimes rashes,” says Carter. “Moreover, if you sleep on a pillow with a dirty face, these substances rub off and remain to re-infect the next night until you wash.” Some experts recommend changing your pillowcase every night for this reason.

13. Not reading the labels. Make sure what you put back on your skin is going to help it rather than hurt it. “In the winter, you'll want to ditch those petroleum-based products and products that contain alcohol, so pay close attention to that ingredient label,” says Capano, who recommends choosing products with plant-based ingredients, antioxidants, and vitamins. The key, she says, is to nourish your skin the way you nourish your body -- with healthy, natural ingredients that keep you looking and feeling your best.

What skin care mistakes have you been making this winter and what habits are you going to change?

Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

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I agree & actually do all 12 recomended items. I change from light to thicker creams for moisturizing all over, not just my face. I never go to bed with my makeup on and i start using facial masks 3-4x week. I really try for cooler showers & baths-thats the hardest to do!

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