10 Things a skin expert wants you to know before winter

A dermatologist reveals her must-know facts for Winter

Few of us would label Winter as our best skin season – whether it’s blotchy and over-sensitive, or ghostly and dry, the cold season tends to play havoc with our complexions.

But while we know we should be slathering on the sun cream come Summer, few of us know the best way to deal with Winter skin, which is why we’ve spoken to Dr Justine Hextall, a consultant dermatologist, to find out what she thinks we should know…

1) Don’t ditch the sunscreen

Just because it is winter don’t put away your sun cream yet. While there is less UVB around in winter, levels of UVA are still significant enough to age our skin. I advocate a sunscreen with a high UVA rating all the year round if you want to protect your skin from its ageing effects – try Ladival. As UVB is the wavelength that stimulates vitamin D production, levels can drop in the winter months and if necessary we can supplement with oral vitamin D3.

2) How to treat ‘chicken skin’

A common complaint that can become more prominent in the winter months is Keratosis Pilaris, which is essentially dry, bumpy skin, often on the upper arms, thighs and buttocks. It looks like permanent goose bumps. This is a harmless skin condition that has a genetic element and is seen more often in those with dry skin. The protective protein in our skin called keratin essentially blocks the hair follicles hence the bumpy feel. Sometimes the follicles can become red and inflamed. I recommend gently rubbing the skin with a flannel when in a hot bath or steam room and applying a rich moisturiser afterwards.

3) Keep it gentle

Your skin will become drier and often more sensitive with the onset of colder weather and central heating. Make sure you keep hydrated during the day, and swap your coffee for green tea, which has great anti-oxidant effects. Gentle cleansing is a must; you need your skin barrier to be as healthy as possible so that it can retain vital moisturiser. As a rule of thumb if your skin feels tight after washing it is likely the cleanser you are using has disrupted your skin barrier. Skin should feel calm and hydrated after washing, if you are reaching immediately for your moisturiser you may want consider a more gentle cleanser. I like DermaQuest Essential Daily Cleanser and Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.

4) Listen to your skin’s needs

If you feel like you need to apply a moisturiser during the day it is likely your skin routine needs tweaking. Try swapping your lotion to a cream and massaging it into your skin for 30 seconds to maximise its effects. Treatment masks should focus more on hydrating than deep cleansing at this time of year. For treatments at home I like the Hydraphase Intense Masque by La Roche Posay and the Eve Lom Moisture Mask.


5) Look after your lips

Licking sore lips will only exacerbate dryness and can cause what is referred to as ‘lick eczema’. Make sure your lips are sealed with an effective ointment at all times, particularly before eating and drinking, as some foods like tomatoes which can irritate chapped lips. If you are skiing remember lips are vulnerable to sun burn. Zinc oxide is a fantastic physical sunscreen and will help to reflect the UV away from the skin of your face and lips.

6) Give yourself a hand

Hands are very high risk for becoming chapped and sore in the winter months. New mothers constantly washing hands often come and see me in the Winter months. My advice is avoid baby wipes as they can contain preservatives that trigger hand eczema. Try to wear gloves when washing. Dermol 500 Lotion is a fantastic moisturising soap substitute that is mildly anti-bacterial; it is very useful if frequent hand washing is necessary. At night apply a rich layer of hand cream under cotton gloves. After a few nights the skin barrier will start to heal and the difference is often amazing. I love Xerocalm AD Balm by Avene and Neutrogena Concentrated Hand Cream.

7) Know the signs of dermatitis

If you notice scaling around your nose and eyebrows in the Winter months you may be developing a dermatitis thought to be exacerbated by yeast. Cold Winter weather is also a known trigger. I recommend applying Canesten cream to the affected areas twice a day for a week and every so often to reduce recurrence. Using a very gentle skin wash and moisturising twice a day will also help. Sometimes an anti-inflammatory cream may be needed for a short time, and your doctor can advise here. As with most skin conditions early intervention often stops this in its tracks.

8) Free your feet from dead skin

Feet often become dry and cracked in the Winter months. Exfoliating frequently and applying an effective moisturiser always helps, but for many there just aren’t enough hours in the day. This is where the Skin Republic Foot Peel comes in. This amazing treatment is in essence a chemical peel for feet. Don’t be fooled if your feet feel no different in the morning. In a few days you will be essentially shedding your exoskeleton. Expect layers of skin to be shed, unattractive; as it is, the results are baby soft skin. I would warn you, however, this is probably not the at-home treatment for the early stages of a relationship!

9) Book your skin peel now!

Winter is a great time of year for treatments. We always worry about peels and laser treatment in the summer months. With sun exposure before or after such procedures there is a higher risk of unwanted post- inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Autumn and Winter therefore represent an opportunity. I would however suggest planning ahead, to make sure your skin has time to settle and be at its peak for the party season. Likewise, rather than wait for summer, now is the time to start tackling unwanted hair with a course of laser hair removal.

woman having a bath

10) Schedule in some bath time

Baths are a gift to dry Winter skin. Not only do they provide the all-important relaxation to switch of those skin-damaging stress hormones, baths are also a marvelous opportunity to hydrate skin. If you suffer with eczema Balneum plus bath oil can hydrate skin and reduce itch. For a treat I love Jo Malone Orange Blossom Bath Oil and Deep Sleep Bath Oil by This Works.

Provided by consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall on behalf of The Harley Medical Group.

(Images: Getty)