Tips (and Products!) For Fighting Wintertime Environmental Aggressors



Winter weather can wreak havoc on skin for a number of reasons.  “Skin loses water and becomes dry due to low humidity levels in the cold air and from dry heaters indoors,” says Arielle N.B. Kauvar, MD Director, New York Laser & Skin Care. “Wind strips the skin of its lipids (oils) and damages the surface barrier that protects us from the environment.” She adds that, on top of that, many of the hot drinks we have to warm up are diuretics (coffee, tea, hot chocolate) and cause water loss from our bodies.

And those long showers and baths? “They’re tempting but they too cause the skin to dehydrate.  To make matters worse, cold temperatures lowers our immune defenses and reduces blood circulation to our skin, especially hands, feet, and exposed areas.  And don’t forget the exposure to smoke from the cozy fire place and sun exposure, particularly at high altitudes.  Some people get their worst sun burns skiing in the winter.”

Keeping skin healthy is not only important for our appearance, but our health (let’s not forget that it’s our largest organ!). I turned to leading skincare experts to get their insight on what we can do to mitigate the damage of wintertime environmental aggressors.

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Lisa Browne, the Spa Manager at the Hotel d’Angleterre Amazing Space Spa:

  • Tiredness can be response to too many toxins in the body. The way you sleep can affect your appearance. Sprinkle a small amount of lavender oil on your pillow or massage the soles of your feet with the oil before bedtime. Lavender oil affects and relaxes the nervous system. Ensure you get enough sleep, as it is during rest that your body’s cells can regenerate.
  • Vitamin A strengthens skin tissue and keeps the skin elastic and young. Vitamin B repairs and rebuilds the skin as well as strengthens hair and nails. Vitamin E strengthens the skin’s defense against cell degradation and free radicals from the polluted air around us. Lastly, vitamin C stimulates the formation of elastic fibers and connective tissue in the skin and assists in the healing of wounds and injuries. All of these vitamins are found in both foods and skincare products.


Dr. Neal Schultz, board certified MD, NYC dermatologist, founder of and creator of BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz

  • When it comes to winter skincare, increase the proportion of emollient ingredients which help to seal barrier function of skin to hold onto moisture so it evaporates less – i.e. lanolin, ceramides, dimethicone, mineral oil, fatty acids and fatty alcohol like stearic, linoleic, linolenic, oleic, and lauric acids.  A personal favorite of mine: Nourishing Moisture Cream.
  • In terms of avoiding dry skin on your face, pat face dry after washing, and immediately apply your moisturizer, reapply during the day…especially before you go out into the cold on way home from work.  Also, exfoliate with glycolic acid – the gold standard of exfoliation in my opinion – nightly.  I recommend Essential 8% Exfoliating Serum.
  • For lips, apply lip balm whenever you think of it.  Make sure that if your lips feel dry, you don’t lick them because saliva dries them out worse.  If they are dry, apply lip balm – don’t exfoliate.
  • For hands, know that less frequent hand washing will help combat dry skin.  Consider substituting non drying (alcohol free) hand wipes instead of some of your daily hand washes.  Apply moisturizer after every hand wash/wipe – look for hand cream with more emollient ingredients to lock in moisture.
  • For the head and scalp area, wear a hat and continue your regular routine of shampooing because cutting back on shampooing promotes the development of seborrhea (dandruff), which the increases flaking and aggravates the appearance of dry skin.
  • When it comes to soap, bar soaps generally are more drying than liquids or gels because the drying chemical sodium hydroxide is required in bar soaps to create the cleansing system. But newer synthetic ingredients can make them less drying. The liquids and gels have other ingredients that can be harsh. The bottom line is drying and irritation is more of a matter of how you use your bar soap or shower gel in winter than which you use. So to avoid over drying and/or irritation, take short showers, never use hot water (warm is ok), use less bar soap or shower gel on your body…no need to use it everywhere everyday…sure – in your personal areas and face and hands daily but back, chest, arms, legs, etc. only need it once or twice a week in winter. And be sure to apply moisturizer liberally immediately after patting dry with your towel.


Mark Veeder, co-founder of Farmacy:

  • The key is to hyper-hydrate and soothe skin. One way to do that is with a hydrating mask. Our Honey Potion face mask is formulated with Echinacea GreenEnvy Honey and glycerin to provide skin with a serious dose of hydration. Since honey is a natural humectant, even after you wash the mask off the hydration in your skin continues to increase. Our Hydrating Coconut Gel Mask in Deep Moisture contains coconut gel and cucumber extract to deliver intensive moisture directly to the skin. Not only are these masks extremely relaxing (think spa-at-home), but they also serve a real purpose revitalizing skin and delivering a super-charged dose of moisture.
  • Do yourself a favor, and whenever you’re outside, wear gloves to protect the delicate skin of the hands from the elements. I keep a pair in every jacket I own so I’m never unprepared.  Your hands will thank you.
  • Regardless of whether it’s single digit temperatures and cloudy and gray, don’t think about ditching a daily SPF in your skincare routine. It’s crucial to keep skin protected against harmful UV rays every day of the year.


Dr. Howard Murad, dermatologist and founder of Murad:

  • Today’s modern world is full of environmental aggressors we didn’t even have ten years ago.  For example, a recent study shows that four days in front of your laptop equals twenty minutes in the mid-day sun.  Also, there are so many toxins we don’t even think about that are  that are constantly harming our skin barrier: pollution, blue light, UVA and UVB light and smoke/smog – all of which can break down the skin barrier and cause premature fine lines and wrinkles.
  • The key is to detox from all aspects of your life –making sure you are exercising, eating well and being kind to yourself will make a difference in protecting yourself from not only the environmental aggressors but also the stress of everyday life, which ultimately affect your skin. Try City Skin Overnight Detox Moisturizer, it’s a reparative treatment to all these environmental aggressors.  Also, do something to clear your mind once a day, whether that be meditation or putting away your cell phone for 30 minutes and taking time to connect with others.
  • Using a good moisturizer and eating the right foods is essential to keeping skin healthy during the winter months.  I always tell my patients to “eat your water.”  Good skincare starts with treating the internal before treating your external skincare needs.  You need to be hydrated from within before you can start seeing results on the surface.  In addition to using a moisturizer, like Murad’s Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture, eating water-rich foods such as cucumbers or brussels sprouts during the winter months will jump start the hydration you need.

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