A winter skincare routine that'll save your skin from becoming flakier than khari biscuit
Baby, it’s cold outside, but you still need sunscreen
Some things just scream WINTER – hot water bottles, biscuits dunked in garam masala chai, the woollen monkey caps my mother forced me to wear and dadi’s blue tin of Nivea cream. According to her, it was the cure for everything. Dry skin, rashes, burns, emotional scars and bad maths grades. But her winter skincare staple made my face oily enough for a US invasion.
‘Tis the season for sweaters and stockings, but also for switching up our routines to protect against dry weather and biting winds.
When putting together a winter skincare routine, it’s important to recognise the difference between hydration and moisturising — both equally important. Imagine doing your skincare routine as if you’re wrapping a present.
You put your gift (hydration and water content) into a box and close it, then use wrapping paper (moisturising cream) to hold it together. An extra bow on top would be a heavier occlusive balm that can prevent transepidermal water loss through the night.
Dr Prinkal Gomte, cosmetic dermatologist and transplant surgeon, walks us through the essentials of a winter skincare routine so we can achieve a glow from head to toe.
Winter skincare essentials for healthy glowing skin
Layer your woollens and winter skincare
Get the most out of the amazing hydrating ingredients available on the market by layering your skincare products, says Gomte.
Adding a humectant that retains moisture, can help draw water to the upper layers of your skin to hydrate and plump it up. A dedicated hyaluronic acid serum will be your ticket to hydration-station.
Toners aren’t necessary, but if you’re looking for extra hydration, they can be a boost. Try adding a layer of hydrating toner before your serum and moisturiser.
Any expert will tell you that when using humectants you should apply the products to slightly damp skin, otherwise it can end up drying you out even more by pulling water out from deeper layers of your skin.
Layering products can be helpful for people with combination and oily skin who are worried about thicker creams sitting too heavy on their faces. Gomte suggests you use a lightweight moisturiser in the day and a cream at night to prevent any water loss while you sleep.
“A skin-mimicking facial oil like squalane and jojoba can be your final product, adding a protective layer to seal in moisture at night,” says Gomte.
Calm the redness with soothing ingredients
The dry winter air can aggravate skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis says Gomte. The change in the air and the current air pollution levels can aggravate skin irritation, acne and other ailments so it’s important to continue any treatment you may have been doing through the winter.
If you feel your skin turning red and becoming flakey because of dryness and itching, incorporate soothing ingredients into your routine.
Gomte advises gentle exfoliation which can reduce flakiness and ensure ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin. Centella Asiatica, locally known as Gotu Kola, can be incredibly soothing for the skin. There’s also plenty of evidence mapping the benefits of colloidal oatmeal for calming down any inflammation.
Allantoin, bisabolol and liquorice are other ingredients to look out for at the back of the product package.
Try out the slug life
If you’ve been following skincare bloggers and dermatologists online, you may have come across the term ‘slugging’ i.e topping off your nighttime routine with a layer of vaseline or other balms made from mineral oil and petrolatum as the final seal to hold in all the moisture and hydration.
You literally look like a slimy slug with your face shining with the vaseline. There’s a lot of debate surrounding this technique. Some swear by it, claiming it’s transformed their skin. Others find it too heavy, not letting the skin breathe and waking up in the morning to a pillow covered in vaseline.
Instead of getting swept up in the hype, consider your skin type.
“There has been a lot of fear surrounding these two types of ingredients. People believe they’re bad for skin, connecting petrolatum to petroleum. Petrolatum and mineral oil are useful in products, especially for dry skin and have been clinically proven to act as as a barrier to lock moisture in the skin,” says Gomte. Both are derived from the petroleum refining process and, when used in controlled small quantities, won’t harm us.
Instead of slathering it all over your face, use it as a spot treatment to cover the dry patches as the final step of your routine. If you’re using it in larger quantities, follow up the next morning with a gentle face wash to ensure there are no remnants before you apply your day-time products.
Don’t neglect your nutrition
Our dwindling vitamin D levels are a common conversation starter, considering 70%-90% of Indians live with this common vitamin deficiency. And it’s only become worse through lockdown with limited sun exposure, smog and air pollution in cities and poor diets.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause hair loss and an increased risk of psoriasis, eczema flare-ups, atopic dermatitis and other kinds of inflammation. You’re left with dull skin that itches and swells.
If it’s too cold for a walk and early morning sun, then start with what’s in your dabba. Milk, in all its versatile forms, is a good source. Don’t forget your breakfast cereals. And always, punctuate your meals with fresh orange juice.
Add some fleshy fatty fish to your diet and a side of mushrooms. Non-vegetarians can also add some meats and eggs to their diet.
Gomte says there are plenty of vitamin D supplements available, like a weekly sachet of calciferol you can dissolve in water to daily pills you can pop. It’s best to consult a GP to find one that works best for you while considering any other ailments, deficiencies or allergies you may have.
Books to help you ace winter skincare
There’s nothing like cosying up under the razai with a hot cup of tea and a good book. You may as well brush up on your skincare knowledge with one of these beauty books. They look at skincare from inside out, charting through traditional practices, popular ingredients and the science behind them as well as what you should eat for good health, hair and skin.
The Skincare Bible by Dr Anjali Mahto
Dr Mahto’s book isn’t exactly a light day read. It explains a lot of the science behind the ingredients used in the skincare industry. It’s almost like having exclusive access to insider information that you’re otherwise not privy to.
Instead of getting distracted by fancy packaging, influencer marketing and tall claims, Mahto educates you to have the tools you need to create a routine that’s efficient and effective.
She tries to separate hype from hope for remedies and trendy ingredients that may or may not take well to your skin depending on your conditions. You’ll find yourself frequently reaching for this book especially when a new shiny serum hits the market and your hands start itching to click *add to cart*.
Skin Rules: Your 6-week Plan to Radiant Skin by Dr Jaishree Sharad
Dr Jaishree Sharad takes her years of experience and puts it into engaging, understandable language to address common skin concerns, bust myths and demystify the latest in skin science and treatments. Hers is a realistic approach that aims to help people understand their skin type, pick the right products and make lifestyle and diet changes, so we can make the best decision for ourselves.
Glow by Vasudha Rai
With 15 years of experience as beauty director at leading women’s magazines, Vasudha Rai has seen trends come and go. Her philosophy is looking at beauty inside and out. In this book, she explains the power of ‘beauty foods’ we can harness to nourish our bodies and benefit our immunity, skin, hair and mind.
She examines Indian superfoods through the lens of traditional practices, Ayurveda and holistic healing. With recipes, oils and concoctions we can easily incorporate into our daily lives from the local resources we have available, Rai’s book will become an instant favourite for people who believe skincare is not just what we put on our body but inside it as well.
The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin by Charlotte Cho
Charlotte Cho revolutionised the skincare industry with the launch of her website Soko Glam which opened up Korean beauty to the rest of the world.
In this book, she shares her personal histories with readers and her own skincare journey to inspire us to embark on our own. This book serves almost like a guide to Korean culture and will make you want to add Seoul to our travel bucket list.