A dermatologist’s guide to fixing dry skin this winter

Turns out you CAN beat the chill

Digital Beauty Editor / June 18 2021

Winter is a gift and a curse. A gift when it comes to finally having a reason to break out our expensive candle, tracksuit and pasta collections, of course, but a cruel, cruel curse in the dry skin department.

And if we’re honest, even the cosiest scent, outfit and pasta dish combo won’t dull the pain of dry, itchy, angry skin.

So in a bid to this year skip the winter skin woes we’re plagued with every time the chill hits, we called out to Dr. Michelle Rodrigues, dermatologist and Director of Chroma Dermatology, Pigment and Skin of Colour Centre, for help.

Here’s her advice for keeping your complexion (and beyond) comfortable this winter…

Understand (and avoid) the causes

Whether you’re trying to avoid or remedy the situation, the path to success (AKA healthy, happy, hydrated skin) looks the same.

First, we’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but yes, even in winter, scalding hot water is a no. “Avoid hot showers and baths as they pull moisture from the skin,” says Rodrigues. “Make sure the showers are short, ideally three minutes or less, and keep the water as cool as possible.”

And while you’re in your (repeat after us) time-capped, lukewarm shower, you’ll want to reach for gentle cleansing formulas. “Avoid soap, and choose soap-free products without fragrance to help hydrate the skin while cleansing it,” she confirms. FYI, the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser is dynamite for refreshing the skin whilst keeping hydration intact – it’s a deliciously milky gel, formulated with three essential, skin-loving ceramides that won’t leave skin tight or dry at all.

Then once you’re out, it’s hydration time, no matter what actual time it is: “Moisturise! In the morning and evening,” Rodrigues recommends. You can still protect your skin once your rinse-and-replenish routine is wrapped up, too: “Think about putting a humidifier in the room if you use heaters,” she says.

But while we’d love to say that downing those eight glasses a day is helping your skin’s hydration levels, unfortunately, it’s working more wonders inside than out. “Drinking more water is great for your overall health but won’t moisturise your skin,” Rodrigues confirms.

Moral of the story: keep up your water-drinking game, but know that it definitely won’t do the noble work of a topical moisturiser.

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

Know when to exfoliate (and when to not)

Despite the ‘exfoliate everything’ craze that’s been thriving as of late, Rodrigues leans toward a less-is-more approach, unless your complexion really calls for it. “Contrary to popular belief, most people don’t really need to exfoliate,” she explains.

“However, some people with oily skin or black heads and white heads may benefit from using moisturisers or cleansers containing exfoliating agents like salicylic acid or glycolic acid.”

Think those ingredients won’t play nice with dry skin? The CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser and Smoothing Cream combo was designed to gently remove dead cells with salicylic acid, AKA the ultimate exfoliating ingredient without draining skin of moisture. Hallelujah.

CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser

CeraVe SA Smoothing Cream

Know when to call for help

We all tend to experience (and whine about) damned dry skin once winter hits, but there’s no doubt that there comes a point where some cases are more than just seasonal dryness.

“If your skin remains dry and scaly despite using soap free, fragrance-free cleansers and moisturisers and you are using them regularly, but your dry skin persists, it may be worth visiting your doctor to find out if there is an underlying cause for your dry skin,” Rodrigues explains. “An under-functioning thyroid gland (called hypothyroidism) is one example of an internal problem that can cause dry skin.”

“Also, if your skin is red, irritated, itchy or sensitive, it may be worth seeing your doctor or dermatologist to work out the underlying cause and solutions that will relieve your symptoms.”

Know which formulas to reach for

You wouldn’t throw on a light jacket in the dead of winter, so don’t rely on a light moisturiser either. “It’s best to use creams rather than lotions if your skin is dry because creams stay on the skin and penetrate the layers of the skin more effectively,” says Rodrigues.

There’s a pretty simple way to tell the two apart, too: “If something comes out of a pump-pack, it’s usually a lotion. As the weather warms up again [later in the year], lotions provide lighter moisturising,” she says. That checks out; the CeraVe Moisturising Lotion (our fave lightweight, oil-free and fast-absorbing hydrator) will definitely be back in our rotation come spring.

For now, though, it’s all about cream formulas, which Rodrigues confirms are “usually packaged in tubes and tubs.” Our favourite tube and tub pairing, you ask? The CeraVe Reparative Hand Cream (a deeply moisturising, fast-absorbing skin saviour) for rough, dry hands and the CeraVe Moisturising Cream (a luxuriously rich and thick cream formulated with three essential ceramides, glycerine and hyaluronic acid) for skin on the body.

CeraVe Moisturising Lotion

CeraVe Reparative Hand Cream

CeraVe Moisturising Cream

Know which ingredients can help (and hinder)

The ingredients in the formula are as crucial as the type, as well, and Rodrigues says it’s hard to beat ceramides in the nourishing arena. “Ceramides are an important ingredient in the outermost layer of the skin. These help to optimise the barrier function of the skin and lock moisture into the skin too.”

Her tip? Trust practical formulas (over schmancy scented options) and professional advice.

“Always look for pharmacy-grade moisturiser [as they tend to be fragrance-free] – something that smells amazing is unlikely to be good for your skin in the long-term as it has a chance of causing skin allergies down the track. And ask your doctor or dermatologist for advice on which ones are best for you if you are not sure.”

Main image credit: @rosiehw

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