Help, my skin feels drier than a two-day-old roti
7 winter skincare swaps to protect that healthy glow
Bears feast for days before going into a winter slumber. Birds migrate to warmer climates, while squirrels hoard nuts and hunker down in warm hiding spots to wait out the cold. Humans have an approach more like rabbits: adapt to the changing season by growing thicker winter coats. We bring out the trunks filled with sweaters, mufflers, and garam baniyans. But our wardrobe isn’t the only change we should be making. ‘Tis the season to also make winter skincare swaps in our routine to cope with the dry air, chilly winds, and heaters sucking the moisture out of our skin. The transition can feel like going from plump grapes to shrivelled raisins — the kind you find lurking in your cookie, pretending to be chocolate chips. Not today, Satan.
You don’t need need to overhaul your skincare routine completely. Talking to Tweak India about winter skincare essentials, Dr Prinkal Gomte, cosmetic dermatologist and transplant surgeon, says that the winter skincare swaps you make are essentially the same amongst all skin types. Still, the changes you experience will be different.
“A lack of moisture in the air can make oily skin produce even more oil to compensate for the change. But it may just be topical sebum and not deeper hydration, so, you might spot dry patches too,” explains Gomte.
At first, the colder air can feel like an early Christmas present. The lack of humidity and drop in temperature can combine to act as an astringent, minimising the appearance of your pores. Sebum secretion slows down too. But it’s a brief respite. (Here are some more lasting ways to minimise the look of pores.)
It can be disheartening to give up on a routine that took you a long time to put together, with star ingredients synced up and finally showing their benefits. But a few simple switcheroos can maintain a healthy glow and prevent you from feeling like a flaky paratha. Worse still, a flaky paratha dripping with shiny ghee. A delicious snack, but not an ideal look.
Winter skincare swaps to make for healthy glowing skin
Swap glycolic acid for lactic or mandelic acid
Glycolic acid is the MVP of the alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) family, but winter may not be the best time to stick to this star ingredient. It works fantastically as a chemical exfoliant to slough off dead skin cells and even out skin pigmentation and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. But for winter skincare swaps, you should make friends with one of its gentler cousins, lactic or mandelic acid.
Continuing to exfoliate is important in winter as dead skill cells accumulate, but given the increase in skin sensitivity at the moment, a less aggressive approach is needed. Glycolic acid is the most potent among the AHAs, but lactic and mandelic acid are just as effective, if slower.
Look for your exfoliating ingredients formulated into creams or paired with hydrating ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid to walk the fine line of exfoliating the topical dryness while maintaining skin hydration.
Swap nightly lip balms for lip masks
A lip balm or chapstick may have sufficed during the summer, but winter will aggravate it further if you have dry and chapped lips or cheilitis (inflammation of the lips).
We instinctually lick our lips when they feel dry. However, dermatologist Mona Gohara says you can quickly develop a “lip licker’s rash” marked by pink and scaly lips. Basically, your lips get even more chapped, trapping you in an endless cycle.
Dermatologist Roy Seidenberg says that constant lip licking is most common in patients with dry skin or eczema that worsens during winter.
Lip masks may have been part of your nightly ritual, but you may also want to dab some on during the day. Additionally, at night you can layer your hydrating face serum (after patch testing it on a small part of your lips to ensure it’s not irritating) with an occlusive like Vaseline.
Swap exfoliating toners for milky toners
Exfoliating toners are ideal for summer because they can do their job while being light on the skin and providing hydration with the right blend of ingredients. There’s also something about the watery texture that makes them less intimidating than chemical exfoliation in the form of serums.
Now, you don’t need to do a complete swap here. Consider more of a slowed-down skin cycling. Keep your exfoliation for one day of the week, and use a slightly heavier, milky toner as your first skincare step after cleansing.
Milky toners are a lightweight and creamy hybrid product that doubles hydration and light moisturising for your skin before you go in with the rest of your routine. Apply it to slightly damp skin and lock in that hydration.
Swap micellar water for cleansing oils or balms
The lazy girls and constantly multitasking women are familiar with the ease of a few swipes of a bamboo cotton pad soaked with micellar water to take off the day’s makeup, sunscreen, and grime. (Check out our favourite multitasking makeup products.)
An oil cleanser or cleansing balm will work better if you have dry skin. They are rich in healthy skin oils that can clean your face while also nourishing it with ingredients such as jojoba oil, coconut oil, sea buckthorn and squalane.
Some people find doing a double cleanser with oil cleansers inconvenient compared to the quick swipes of micellar water or a makeup wipe. But, of all the winter skincare swaps, this is the one your skin will be most grateful for.
Swap multitasking products for layering products
When putting together a winter skincare routine, it’s crucial to recognise the difference between hydration and moisturising.
Imagine doing your skincare routine as if you’re wrapping a Christmas present. You put your gift (hydration from humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin) into a box and close it, then use wrapping paper (emollients like a moisturising cream or lotion) to hold it together. An extra bow on top would be a heavier occlusive balm (like petroleum jelly) that can prevent transepidermal water loss through the night.
We love a good multitasking product. Who wouldn’t want a two-step skincare routine with the benefits of a 10-step one? But winter is the time you’ll want to layer up hydrating toners with serums and lotions.
Keep the sunscreen but swap the finish
It’s cold outside, and the city is covered in a foggy haze (or smog, depending on where you are), but you still need sunscreen.
We’re partial to silicone-based mattifying sunscreens during the hot and humid seasons because it gives you sun protection while also working as a primer for your makeup. For winter, though, based on how dry your skin is, you can opt for a moisturising sunscreen with hydrating ingredients that will give you a dewy finish.
We haven’t forgotten about oily skin folk. Layering products to balance hydration and oil-control ingredients like niacinamide may already feel like too much. Opting for a moisturising sunscreen in this weather can cut out the need for another layer of moisture before the sunscreen. This, again, will depend on how dry your skin feels.
The shift towards more cream-based products should extend into your body care as well. Drop the shower gels and go for milky cleansers and soaps. Get in a weekly exfoliation with an exfoliating body wash or cream-based exfoliant, followed by sunscreen.
Swap powder products for creams
Our winter skincare swaps should also extend to the makeup products we apply. Powders are great for summers for some oil and shine control. In the winter, go for cream-based makeup.
It doesn’t have to be all the products you use. Instead, strike a balance between powders, creams, and water-based products. This way, you can paint your face all the rainbow colours to create a look without anything clinging onto dry patches. With BB creams and enriched skin tints, you can get a natural finish with some skincare benefits too.
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A note of caution: This story is for educational purposes with inputs from trained experts. Please consult your healthcare provider to know what suits your needs best.