The 6 Biggest Skin-Care Mistakes Derms See Every Winter

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As drier, windier, and cooler weather appears, we experience more of what’s called transepidermal water loss, which allows excess moisture to evaporate from our skin into the atmosphere. The result is dry, dehydrated and irritated skin. To restore moisture and strengthen the skin barrier, these experts say we should avoid making these six mistakes they see their patients doing during the coldest months.

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Not Changing Your Skin-Care Routine

Just as we switch wardrobes during the winter, changing up one’s skin-care routine can also make all the differencel says Bloomfield Hills, MI dermatologist Linda C. Honet, MD. “Winterizing skin care means using creamier bases, layering on noncomedogenic oils, and seeking more emollient combinations of ceramides, hyaluronic acid, shea butter, glycerin, and even petrolatum to help ward off winter dryness, irritation, flaking, and itch and bring back the hydration, glow and luminosity of hydrated skin.”

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Aggressive Exfoliation

According to Davie, FL dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD, mistake number-one is aggressive exfoliating. “Many people want to enhance radiance after the summer months to erase sun damage and pigmentation as well as have the best glow forward for the holiday season. The incentive is to smooth and brighten skin with the help of mechanical exfoliators such as scrubs, or microbeads, and chemical exfoliators such as AHAs or retinols,” she explains. “However, if the exfoliation is not done slowly and steadily, the skin may react with irritations such as redness, blotchiness, and itching.” She recommends instead to use a weekly microscrub or the gradual use of retinoids a few nights a week to preserve the balance of healthier and happier skin.

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Too Many Harsh Actives

“The biggest mistakes in skin care that people should avoid during the winter months are concerning drying and protecting the skin,” says Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby. “Cooler temperatures bring drier and more vulnerable skin so you must be diligent with your moisturizer. For those that use retinol-type products along with any type of de-greasing agents—i.e. salicylic acid or glycolic acids—they should be used less frequently and less excessively as these add to irritation, redness and drier skin.” 

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Ditching the Sunscreen

Another common mistake people make during the winter is thinking that sunscreen is less necessary, adds Davie, FL dermatologist Lesley Clark-Loeser, MD. “UV rays are ultraviolet rays no matter the temperature,” she explains. “The angle of UV ray penetration into our earth’s atmosphere may change with the seasons but they still have the ability to deliver significant damage, especially at higher altitudes.”

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Ignoring the Extremities

“Often the hands take the most beating in the winter,” says New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD. “Not wearing gloves, the use of hand sanitizers, frequent handwashing and not reapplying hand cream can all lead to the onset of dry, flaky hands. Lips are commonly forgotten as well and can get easily chapped from the exposure to weather. Frequent lip-licking to offset the dryness may actually cause an irritant dermatitis and lip fissures.” The fix? Incorporating a multiuse balm you can use on any part of the body, including the hands, lips, elbows and knees into your daily and nightly routine.

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Hot Showers

While it may feel good to warm up in the shower, Dr. Honet says it’s the one of the worst things we can do for our skin. “Although the winter season may bring frigid temperatures and wet weather to chill us to the bone, warming ourselves up in a hot shower in fact often makes our skin even drier,” she says. “In addition, the effects of winter create low ambient humidity indoors and outdoors, compounding our already winter-stressed skin. The hot water may feel soothing temporarily, but this short-term gain in fact strips our natural oils and washes them away. I liken it to cleaning a greasy casserole dish, where hot water and sudsy dishwashing detergent are the best combination for ridding the greasy food bits and rinsing them down the drain.”

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