Your lightweight summer regimen isn't going to cut it in January. To prevent dry skin in winter and bring back your glow, add these techniques and products to your routine.

By Rebecca Brown and Erin Reimel
Updated February 08, 2021
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Young woman outdoors in winter landscape
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The harsh, cold weather is here, and with it comes dry, dull, irritated skin. That not only brings down your complexion health, but your happiness too. Here, your guide to treating and preventing dull, dry skin in winter.

Flood Skin with Moisture

Dry skin looks dull, and the cold air exacerbates that. “It draws moisture from wherever it can — and that usually means sucking it right out of your skin, leaving you even drier,” says celebrity aesthetician Renée Rouleau. So winter skin care that both protects and boosts moisture is a top priority right now. To prevent dry skin in winter, at night, use a gentle, milky, or creamy cleanser, which is less drying than a super foamy one: Rouleau recommends her own Moisture Protecting Cleanser (Buy It, $38, reneerouleau.com). But in the morning, just splash your face with water to avoid over-stripping.

“Next, look for a moisturizer with humectants like hyaluronic acid to help draw moisture back in,” says Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., a derma­tologist in New York. She sug­gests Vichy Mineral 89 (Buy It, $30, amazon.com); apply morning and night.

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Then, because skin tends to lose the most moisture while you sleep, add an extra hydration measure to your p.m. winter skin-care regimen. “Apply a face oil as the last step in your routine,” says Rouleau. “It has the largest molecule size, so it acts like a top coat, sealing the rest of your skin care inside and preventing evaporation.” Try products that contain jojoba oil, shea butter, almond oil, olive oil, or grapeseed oil, says Erica Glaub, Los Angeles-based makeup artist. (Related: The 5-Minute Night Skin-Care Routine a Top Dermatologist Swears By)

If you're flying in the winter, prevent dry skin and combat the lack of moisture available by staying hydrated and adding a TSA-approved, winter skin-care item to your carry on. "Try spritzing your face with a small Evian mister (Buy It, $14, amazon.com) or some rose water," suggests Glaub.

Exfoliate Away Dullness

Your skin looks its brightest when it’s smooth. That’s when light can bounce off it evenly, casting an allover glow, says Rouleau. The surface strategy to add to your winter skin-care routine: Buff away dead cells with physical and chemical exfoliants.

“Physical exfoliators, like a gentle scrub or granular cleanser, help even your skin’s texture and unclog pores,” says Shari Marchbein, M.D., a dermatologist in New York. If you have dry or sensitive skin, make gentle scrubbing a weekly part of your winter skin-care routine. Oily complexions can ramp that up to three times a week. Try Neutrogena Hydro Boost Exfoliating Cleanser (Buy It, $23 for 3, amazon.com).

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Once a week, you can also apply a chemical exfoliant, aka a peel. Some of these formulas rely on alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic and lactic acids, which not only slough away the top layer of skin but also improve the skin’s mois­ture content to help prevent dry skin in winter, promote collagen formation, and reduce hyper­ pigmentation,  says Dr. Marchbein. We highly recommend Algenist Blue Algae Vitamin C Dark Spot Correcting Peel (Buy It, $85, amazon.com).

Don't Forget the Skin Below the Neck

Most people tend to focus their winter skin care on the face, but the rest of the body is just as prone to getting itchy and dry skin in winter. “I’m a fan of using products with gentle chemical exfoliators on the body, especially if you are a woman of color like me and trying to avoid ashy legs and arms,” says Dr. Mariwalla.

A powerful new allover body peel, Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Exfoliating Body Treatment (Buy It, $58 for 8 treat­ments, sephora.com), contains AHA, BHA, and bakuchiol, a natural retinol alternative, and has been tested to even and smooth the lightest and darkest skin tones.

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Remember, "hot water strips your skin of its natural moisture, so take warm showers and baths to protect your skin and hair," says Glaub. Then, once you're done washing, “you should also moisturize your body within 60 seconds of stepping out of a shower to seal in hydration and prevent moisture loss,” says Dr. Marchbein.

To nourish dry winter skin, look for skin-care products with ceramides and shea butter, like La Roche­ Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ (Buy It, $20, amazon.com) and CeraVe Moisturizing Cream (Buy It, $16, amazon.com). If you want to add a subtle highlight, Dr. Marchbein suggests Vaseline Cocoa Shimmer Jelly Stick (Buy It, $8, target.com); swipe down the front of your legs and arms and across your collarbone.

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Another smart strategy to prevent dry skin in winter? Hydrate the air in your bedroom. Try the Canopy Humidifier (Buy It, $150, getcanopy.co), which emits invisible, clean moisture instead of streaming a blast of wet air. (Related: Kendall Jenner Loves This Affordable Humidifier to Help Her Chill Out, and It's On Amazon)

Even Out Your Skin Tone

"Pigment cells rise to the surface as we age, appearing as brown spots and sunspots that make

skin look patchy and dull,” says Rouleau. One of your best bets for fading them: antioxidants. Vitamin C is the go-­to because it brightens and neutralizes the free radicals that spur more hyperpigmentation. Apply it on clean, dry skin in the morning; try BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner (Buy It, $80, nordstrom.com), a unique lightweight gel-cream.

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For your night winter-skin care routine, you want for­mulas that contain niacinamide (aka vitamin B3), which helps calm inflammation and reduce redness; kojic acid, which inhib­its the overproduction of melanin; and tranexamic acid, which decreases the production of mela­nin, says Dr. Marchbein. All three ingredients are in SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense (Buy It, $98, dermstore.com) and Topicals Faded Brightening & Clearing Gel (Buy It, $36, mytopicals.com).

Embrace Some Dewiness

Makeup with a dewy finish is winter skin's friend. Try Clé de Peau Beauté Radiant Fluid Foundation SPF 24 ($128, nordstrom.com) and Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer (Buy It, $30, sephora.com), two of makeup artist Nam Vo’s favorites. “I always use a damp Original Beautyblender (Buy It, $20, sephora.com) to apply them and add concealer only to the areas that need it,” says Vo.

“Then apply a cream blush and a bronzer to keep the skin look­ing juicy.” Her favorites include Stila Convertible Color (Buy It, $25, amazon.com), an iconic blush for glowy skin, and Huda Beauty Tantour (Buy It, $30, sephora.com).

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Instead of a shimmery highlighter, Vo likes a clear, reflective balm like Chanel Baume Essentiel in Transparent (Buy It, $45, nordstrom.com) to make winter skin appear wet and reflective. If you need to set any areas with a powder, use a fluffy eye shadow brush to target areas rather than dust it all over. “I call it precision powdering — apply powder only where you get oily, like the side of the nose or middle of the forehead to avoid making your skin look one­-dimensional,” she says. By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra­Powder (Buy It, $60, amazon.com) doesn’t get cakey. Come midday, if your glow is losing its brilliance, refresh with Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist (Buy It, $48, amazon.com), which adds moisture and the most natural sheen to any skin tone or finish.