Winter skin? Never heard of her.

By Heather Muir Maffei and Hana Hong
Updated December 01, 2020
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If you live in a cold climate this winter, chances are you’re freezing, bundled, and trying to look somewhat pulled together despite the elements. And underneath it all, you’re probably dealing with a tight, itchy, and flaky face. We asked two New York City-based dermatologists how to cope with winter skin.

Swap out your face wash for an oil cleanser

“Oils cleanse the skin, plus they have inherently hydrating properties,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. His pick: Avene XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil ($30;—a soothing, soap-free formula (eczema skin approved!) that helps prevent the drying effects of water.

Slather on a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid

This ingredient is a humectant that pulls water into the outer layer of the skin and holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water, says Dr. Zeichner. He likes Neutrogena Hydroboost ($20;, an editor-tested, refreshing, gel-like formula that feels light yet acts like a heavy moisturizer. To maximize hydration, apply it when your skin is damp. The same theory applies to the skin on your body: “Moisturize within five minutes of getting out of the shower to lock in hydration,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Studies have shown immediate hydration to be more effective than delayed hydration. So apply body lotion swiftly and keep the bathroom door closed to increase humidity in the air. When choosing a body moisturizer, look for ceramides on the ingredient list. These help seal in the cracks between the outer skin cells.” 

Decrease the use of anti-aging ingredients

“Winter is a time when I recommend that my patients cut down on the frequency of their anti-aging ingredients, including AHA and Retin-A,” says Elizabeth Hale, MD, board-certified dermatologist and vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation. “While these are powerful anti-aging tools, they can dry the skin out even more in the wintertime, so you may want to use them only a few days each week.”

Wear SPF... even when it’s zero degrees

“Applying sunscreen, even during the winter, is imperative, as studies confirm that sun is the number one cause of skin aging,” explains Dr. Hale. Her pick: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream with SPF 30 ($31;, which contains an amino-peptide and vitamin B3 to hydrate the skin.

Beat chapped lips with a better balm

To help heal sore, flaky lips, swipe on an unflavored/unscented (boring, we know) lip balm that has sunscreen. Two ingredients to look for: panthenol and/or lanolin.

Don’t mistake flakes on your scalp for dry skin

“Scales in the scalp may not actually be dry skin, but rather dandruff caused by yeast on the scalp, resulting in skin irritation,” says Dr. Zeichner. Try a dandruff-fighting shampoo, like Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo ($2; “Make sure to rub it into the scalp, let it sit for five minutes, then rinse.” If this doesn’t do the trick, try this moisturizing, DIY scalp treatment from Dr. Hale: After shampooing, massage a few drops of olive oil or coconut oil (straight from the kitchen) in circular motions. Wait about 10 minutes, then rinse.