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A dermatologist explains the best winter skincare routine

How to keep skin moisturized during cold weather

As winter approaches, scarves, hats, warm coats, and gloves get pulled out of storage, and winter boots start lining the front door instead of flip-flops and running shoes. Knowing how to keep skin moisturized is important in any season, but especially during the winter months. Getting out the door in the morning clad to face the elements becomes a laborious process of bundling up and protecting every inch of exposed skin from chilling winter winds and frigid air.

However, sometimes, no matter how meticulous you are at covering your skin from the cold, dry, winter air, you can still find your skin feeling itchy, dry, and chapped in the winter. As much as your clothing has to change with the seasons, your skincare routine may need an overhaul in the winter to keep it as supple, soft, smooth, and hydrated as it is in milder seasons.

Many men deal with excessively dry skin in the wintertime, but this doesn’t have to be a given. With a good moisturizing routine and the right skincare products, you can get through even the chilliest and driest winter months with healthy, nourished, soft skin. To help make this the winter your skin doesn’t flake and has an enviable, hydrated glow, we spoke with Dr. Rebecca Bialas, MD, MPH, the Co-Founder of CLARA Dermatology. She filled us in on all the best winter skin care tips for men to help keep your skin moisturized during cold weather.

Man applying face cream.
Tetra Images, LLC/Alamy

Why does skin get dry in the winter?

Dry skin in the winter doesn’t just refer to the skin on your face, body, and hands. Dr. Bialas says that many men also deal with chapped and dry lips and flaky scalp (seborrheic dermatitis) in the winter. “In winter, the colder air and indoor heating both reduce the amount of moisture in the air, so our skin tends to dry out more quickly,” she explains.

Man critiquing his jaw in a mirror.

Preventing dry skin in the winter

Dr. Bialas says her top recommendation for men to prevent wintertime skin dryness is to not overdo it with showering and soap. “How often we need to shower has been a topic of debate in the popular media recently, but we know that showering too much—either too many times a day, taking showers that last too long, or using water that is too hot—strips the skin of protective and moisturizing oils,” she explains. “In addition, using soap on the body strips away these oils and leads to dryness and itching.”

Instead, Dr. Bialas instructs patients to use soap on the “stinky” areas (armpits, groin, and backside) but to avoid soap on the arms, legs, and torso as long as there is no visible dirt or grime. Moreover, instead of using hot water, warm water will better preserve the skin’s natural moisture while still being sufficiently effective to clean your skin.

In addition to adjusting your skincare routine and products for wintertime skin protection, consider eating more foods with healthy fats, like coconut, avocado, and nuts, which can help the skin maintain a strong barrier to retain moisture.

Man looking into mirror at his face,

Winter skincare tips for the face

Dr. Bialas says that while it is important to wash your face daily, most people do not need to wash it both in the morning and at night. “If you are not super oily or acne-prone, you can get away with washing your face at night only. I recommend a mild acid-based cleanser for the face, that will help to strip away the dead skin cells and any dry, flaky layer that may be present,” she explains. “I like glycolic acid cleansers because they are generally gentle enough to use daily.” This should be followed with a moisturizer, which will actually absorb more quickly and effectively after washing with a glycolic acid cleanser.

a man putting on lip balm

Winter skincare tips for the lips

Men often overlook the lips when it comes to their skincare routine. However, it’s especially critical to hydrate your lips and provide extra protection to prevent dryness and chapping in the winter because the skin on the lips is particularly delicate. “I favor plain old Vaseline or Aquaphor applied every night before bed (at least!) to keep lips moist,” Dr. Bialas shares. “It also helps to keep a humidifier in the bedroom while you’re sleeping.” Running a humidifier is a great way to add additional moisture to the air and doing so benefits both your lips and skin.

a man washing his face

Best winter skincare products for men

For your wintertime skincare routine, you should look for skincare products that contain ingredients called ceramides, which are lipids (fats) that the skin produces naturally. These compounds support the barrier function of the skin by helping seal individual skin cells together, which make the skin better equipped to retain its natural moisture.

An anti-dandruff shampoo is key in moisturizing your scalp in the winter. “Head and Shoulders is a classic and can be used daily, or at least 3 times a week to keep flakes at bay,” advises Dr. Bialas.

Aveeno Eczema Therapy

A botthe of Aveeno Eczema Therapy on white background.

For the body, you want to use something that absorbs quickly but still moisturizes the skin. Dr. Bialas recommends Aveeno Eczema Therapy because it is lightweight yet quite hydrating.

O’Keeffe’s Working Hands

O'Keefe's Working Hands on white background.

Her pick for your hands is O’Keeffe’s Working Hands, noting, “It comes in a green tub and is wax-based, which means it doesn’t leave hands greasy or slippery. But man does it work!

Ingredients to avoid in winter skincare products

Dr. Bialas cautions against overdoing it on retinol and acids in the winter. “A little is good (like a glycolic acid wash), but a lot can be too much when skin is already more dry than usual,” she explains. “Retinols, or vitamin A-based creams that are great for acne and anti-aging, cause some degree of dryness in everyone. Sometimes, my patients have to cut back on how often they use their retinols in wintertime, to compensate for the extra dry air.” She adds that with retinols, consistency is actually more important than frequency, so you can still see beneficial results even if you’re just using retinols a few times a week.

Moisturizing your skin in the winter

A close-up view of a young man applying lotion to his hands.

Due to the cold and dry air, you should moisturize your skin every day in the winter—even if you are oily or acne-prone. According to Dr. Bialas, the best time to moisturize is right after washing because the skin is still damp, which makes it better able to lock in moisture. “Pat your skin gently so it is still slightly damp, and then apply a moisturizer,” she advises.

If you are prone to breakouts, fear not. Use a moisturizer that is non-comedogenic, which means that it won’t clog pores. And, if you have a beard or other facial hair, a thinner, lightweight moisturizer or facial oil is ideal because these products can absorb more easily in areas with facial hair. Dr. Bialas likes Fur Oil, which is intended to be used daily as a moisturizer and conditioner for any skin with hair growth. It’s made from naturally derived oils, and it also prevents ingrown hairs and hair bumps over time.

Skincare treatment for chapped and dry skin

Though the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure” holds true for keeping your skin moisturized in cold winter weather, if you’re already battling dry, chapped winter skin, Dr. Bialas has some treatment guidance to help repair the damage. “Sometimes, a heavy-duty moisturizer will do the trick—after a shower, slather on something thick like Cerave Moisturizing Cream (a cream is thicker than a lotion) and then put pajamas or old sweats on top to seal it in,” she suggests. “For hands, I recommend applying O’Keeffe’s Working Hands, and then putting cotton gloves or old socks on your hands while you sleep to drive in the moisture. You can even use Aquaphor or Vaseline for extra dry areas like elbows and knees.”

She says that if you are so dry that the skin is red, itching, or tender, you may need to see a dermatologist who can prescribe a short course of topical steroids to calm down any inflammation that may be present.

“Unfortunately, I see so many men who just live with their dry skin even though it’s uncomfortable—but you don’t have to,” reminds Bialias. There are lots of little tweaks you can make to your skincare routine to prevent and treat winter dry skin.”

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Amber Sayer
Amber Sayer is a fitness, nutrition, and wellness writer and editor, and was previously a Fitness Editor at Byrdie. She…
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