It’s the most wonderful time of the year — but just try telling that to your skin. Cold air and winter winds can leave it dried out and irritated, which can lead to breakouts and redness. On top of that, the sebaceous (oil-producing) glands in our skin sort of ‘hibernate’ in the winter, leaving it even thirstier for hydration. Like we crave hot cocoa or a hearty soup in the winter months, the care your skin craves also changes with the seasons.
Can dry skin cause breakouts? Yep, basically. It might sound counterintuitive, because usually we associate oily skin with pimples, but dry skin can also lead to breakouts.
When environmental changes such as colder weather happen, your skin acts a little differently — and you may need to adjust your skincare routine. Certain products you use might not be right for your skin at different times of year, which can lead to breakouts. For example, as we mentioned above, your skin may get less oily in the winter, so you may need more (or a different kind of) moisturizer to keep everything balanced.
The best moisturizer for dry skin will have emollient (such as shea butter or mineral oil) and/or humectant (such as hyaluronic acid or glycerine) ingredients. Translation: emollients deliver water directly into the skin using a carrier oil, while humectants draw water into the skin to lock in moisture. (We explain this more in our Moisturizer Guide!)
The Curology moisturizers contain a combination of emollient, humectant, and occlusive moisturizing properties, which make either of them a great option in winter (and any time of year). But if your skin is especially dry, our new rich moisturizer contains both shea butter and glycerine, making it the most ideal to treat extreme seasonal dryness.
If you tend to exfoliate often, use products that reduce your skin’s oiliness, or anything that may dry out our skin, you might want to avoid those steps in the colder months. Try giving your skin a break during seasonal transitions, and it will adjust at its own (sk)individual pace.
Even if the cold air makes your skin dry and flaky, exfoliating extra will only make matters worse! Cut back on anything that tends to dry or irritate your skin, such as exfoliation (physical or chemical), over-the-counter products containing retinol, or prescription topicals containing retinoids. This would also not be the best time for treatments such as microdermabrasion or chemical peels.
How often should you exfoliate your face? It depends on your unique skin. Some people only need to about once a week, while others don’t really exfoliate at all.
If you want to get rid of dead skin flakes, a gentle way to exfoliate is with a konjac sponge, made from fibers of the root of the Asian konjac (“Konnyaku”) plant. Try Honest Beauty Gentle Konjac Sponge or BOSCIA Konjac Cleansing Sponge.
We know that long, hot showers feel great when it’s cold out, but hot water strips your skin of its natural protective oils, leaving it dried-out and vulnerable. Wash with lukewarm or cool water to help protect your skin against the elements and to prevent acne, irritation, and redness.
Pumping up the hydration can be a good alternative to switching out your favorite moisturizer for something more heavy-duty. Add an oil-based hydrating, skin-soothing serum after cleansing your skin with a gentle, hydrating cleanser and before smoothing on your moisturizer and sunscreen. Or just add a few drops of oil, such as rosehip oil, to your moisturizer. Just don’t use coconut oil — it can make you break out. Pro tip: serums or oils should go on first, before a thicker moisturizing cream or lotion, because the lighter texture soaks into bare skin better.
Sunscreen is still important in the fall and winter months, so keep topping off your moisturizer with sunscreen. Or, use a two-in-one moisturizer and sunscreen, like EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 or CeraVe AM SPF 30.
In case you needed an excuse to treat yourself, we’re giving you full permission to relax and indulge in a facial. Try hydrating masks such as Dr. Jart Water Replenishment sheet mask to restore the healthy, plumped, hydrated glow to your face. If your skin is really suffering from dryness or irritation due to dry, cold air, you may want to consider using a heavier, petrolatum-based moisturizer such as EltaMD Intense Moisturizer or CeraVe Healing Ointment to protect your skin.
Seasonal transitions affect your skin in different ways, so it makes sense that the way you care for your skin should change with the seasons. From dry skin to wind burn to winter acne, there are various things your face might be facing. Whatever the weather, we’re here to help! Sign up for a free trial of Curology to get your first superbottle on us (just pay $4.95 for shipping and handling).
Take a quick skin quiz, snap a few selfies, and one of our dermatology providers will review your info. If Curology is right for you, we’ll send a bottle of your Custom Formula for your unique skin concerns, plus any of our recommended skincare products (like our cleanser and moisturizer).
Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.