8 Ways Dermatologists Change Their Own Skincare Routines for Winter


Just like your wardrobe, your skincare routine also needs some modifying as temps drop. (Getty Images)

It’s that time of year when the chill is on: Outdoor temperatures are free-falling, dry indoor heat is turned up, and everyone’s skin is feeling flaky and parched. But there’s no reason to suffer all season long. We asked top dermatologists to spill their secrets to keeping skin hydrated and glowing all season long.

Embrace humidity

For Washington, D.C., dermatologist Noëlle S. Sherber, MD, hitting her regular Soul Cycle class doesn’t just help keep the winter pounds off with a blast of sweat-inducing cardio. “My skin gets to rehydrate in warm, humid air for an hour,” says Sherber. But you don’t need to be a workout junkie to get the humidity benefits: Closing the bathroom door when showering – and sealing any gap between the door and floor with a towel – will also create a replenishing humid environment. “Keep the door closed while you apply moisturizers so that you can trap some of the hydration into your skin,” Sherber advises.

Use a humidifier and skip sanitizer

In Montclair, New Jersey, dermatologist Jeanine B. Downie, M.D., uses a humidifier in her home from October through May of each year. “These tiny, efficient machines add moisture to your skin, hair and even nails,” says Downie. And during the cold-weather months, she refrains from using popular hand sanitizers that she says dehydrate hands and can even cause itching, rough skin and rashes. Instead, she washes her hands the old-fashioned way at the sink and generously moisturizes her hands at least three times a day.

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Switch to a facial cleanser for your body

Living in Chicago, dermatologist Carolyn I. Jacob, M.D., knows the meaning of a harsh winter. One of her tricks: She swaps out body soap for gentle CeraVe Cleanser in the shower. “It contains ceramides, which help retain skin’s natural moisturizing factor,” she explains. These nutrients reinforce the skin barrier, which can feel persistently itchy and dry when otherwise stripped by the detergent, alcohol and fragrance that is often found in soap. After stepping out of the shower, Dr. Jacob immediately moisturizes with NeoCutis Body Lotion to absorb and lock in hydration. 

Use a balm when in the elements

When outdoor activities and sports have New York dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank, M.D., out in the biting cold and wind, he applies a very thin layer of Aquaphor to skin – which he says works exceptionally well for men with all skin types (except for the very acne-prone). “A moisturizer gets readily absorbed, but an ointment leaves an extra layer of protection,” explains Dr. Frank. Pop a tube in your pocket for your next adventure on the ice or slopes.

Adjust your skincare products accordingly

Formulas containing alcohol and fragrance that can irritate and dry out skin get the heave-ho from Downie’s routine once the temperature dips below freezing. Sherber transitions by adding silicone-based serums and richer moisturizers that contain lipids and butters to her routine; both these ingredients form a barrier on the skin and help hold in hydration. Frank says that moisturizers containing grapeseed oil are excellent for all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin in both men and women. “You can even use grapeseed oil directly on skin for the benefits,” he adds. 

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Turn up the exfoliation

All of our experts swear by exfoliation, which is particularly important in the winter to remove dead skin cells and flakes that can prevent your moisturizer from absorbing properly. Sherber leaves a glycolic gel on in the shower while she shampoos and conditions (Jan Marini Bioglycolic Face Cleanser is her favorite value, while “Natura Bisse Glyco Extreme rivals the strength of an in-house peel,” she says). Downie swears by monthly chemical peels that additionally brighten skin tone and improve texture and wrinkles. Meanwhile, Frank targets dry feet and prevents cracked heels with Eucerin’s Intensive Repair Foot Crème that exfoliates with alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) for softer skin.

Wear softer fabrics

If you’re prone to dry and itchy skin, reading the labels on your clothes and picking certain material blends will help keep skin calm, says Sherber. “Stick to cotton, silk or cashmere as your first layer of clothing when it’s cold, and refrain from wearing acrylics, metallic fabrics and wools right against your skin,” she advises. These stockier fabrics can be layered on top of other pieces for added warmth and wear without the scratchy side effects.

Heal hands with Vaseline

Dry hands are nearly inescapable this time of year, and Downie restores hers by slathering on Vaseline and putting on cotton gloves before bed, two to three times a week. This ritual takes advantage of the deeply restorative value of the sleep cycle while treating skin to the protection it needs to regenerate. You can also use the cotton glove trick with your favorite hand cream, or cotton socks with foot balm to increase the moisturization and results, she says.

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