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Best Winter Skincare Routine: Expert Tips & Essential Products

Best Winter Skincare Routine: Expert Tips & Essential Products

From celebrating the holidays to sipping hot cocoa by the fire, there are a lot of things to love about winter. Unfortunately, the effects of the cold weather on your skin isn’t one of them.

The combination of dry air, harsh winds and overheated indoor spaces can wreak havoc on your complexion, as can the hot showers and baths that most of us like to indulge in over the colder months. Regardless of whether your skin type is usually dry or oily, in the depths of winter it’s not uncommon to find yourself dealing with excessive dullness, flakiness or irritation. The solution? A winter skincare routine that’s specifically tailored to this climate.

Summer vs winter skincare

Summer vs. winter skincare – why you need two separate routines

We’ve all been there: we finally found a product that really works for our skin, and we tell everyone we’re going to keep using it until the end of time. However, it’s important to remain adaptable! Our skincare needs change with the seasons, and a routine that leaves you glowing in summer might not be enough to keep the dullness or dryness away in winter.

While the summertime humidity does come with its downsides (hello, melting makeup), it does help to keep your skin nicely hydrated. Come winter, we’re faced with the opposite: dry air that sucks the moisture right out of our skin. And if you’re still following a summer-focused skincare regimen that’s light on moisture-trapping ingredients, your skin is going to suffer for it.

All of that said, it’s important to switch over to your winter skincare products slowly. Particularly if you have sensitive skin, it can react badly to a sudden change in routine. Plus, if you’re trying out new products for the first time, there’s always the risk that your skin won’t take too kindly to it. By introducing them one by one you’ll be able to tell exactly which product caused any breakouts or irritation.

Skincare for winter - different types of hydrators

Winter skincare 101: the 3 types of hydrators and moisturizers

Not all hydrating or moisturizing ingredients work in the same way. If you really want to step up your winter skincare game, knowing the differences between them will help you to navigate ingredients lists like a pro and work out what’s right for your skin type (since a dry skin vs. oily skin routine will still look different, even in winter).


Examples: hyaluronic acid, glycerine, urea, lactic acid.

Humectants attract water and bind to it, which means they draw water from the deeper layers of your skin to the surface, plus slow down the rate at which water from your skin evaporates away into the atmosphere. All skincare types will benefit from a winter skincare routine with lots of humectants!


Examples: ceramides, plant butters (e.g. shea butter), plant oils.

Emollients ‘fill in’ the gaps in your skin, plumping it up. They also contain fatty acids which don’t break down in water, so they create a barrier layer that traps any water-based products you applied underneath (and prevents environmental irritants from getting into your pores.) All skin types should be using emollient ingredients as part of their winter skincare routine, however certain emollients can cause oily skin to break out. If that’s you, be sure to look for a moisturizer that states it’s suitable for acne-prone skin.


Examples: squalane, lanolin, petroleum jelly, mineral oil, wax.

Occlusives function in a similar way to emollients, but are heavier and tend to have a greasy feel. They can be great in winter for those with extremely dry skin, but anyone with oily or combination skin should definitely steer clear. Occlusives can still be great for your arms, legs, hands or lips however (you’ll find that many lip balms include beeswax since it forms a protective film.)

Best skincare for winter

Your 8 winter skincare essentials

No matter your age and no matter your skin type, here are the 8 products you absolutely need in your winter skincare routine:

1. A gentle cleanser

    If your skin feels tight after cleansing (which is more likely to happen with a foaming cleanser or one that’s clay-based), you’ve stripped away lots of moisture and that’s exactly what you don’t need during the winter. Instead, you want a cleanser that gently dissolves makeup and dirt while hydrating the skin. We recommend looking for a cleansing balm or cream, such as Eminence Wildflower Cleansing Balm which nourishes and hydrates via natural botanical oils.

    2. A rich moisturizer

    A light gel moisturizer might be all you need in summer, especially if you have oily skin, but in winter it’s important to find a face moisturizer that will not only hydrate your skin but also lock that hydration in. Choose one with both humectants to attract water and emollients to keep it there. When it comes to skincare for winter, we love EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex which is packed full of emollient ceramides as well as an enzyme blend which soothes dry, irritated skin.

    3. A hydrating serum, oil or face mist

    The number one rule of winter skincare is: you can never have too much moisture! Go one step beyond using an excellent moisturizer, and give your skin an extra blast of hydration via a face serum, face oil, or face mist. The key with all of them is to apply it before your cream or lotion; not only will the moisturizer help to seal those ingredients in, but putting moisturizer onto pre-hydrated skin allows it to sink in deeper, for enhanced benefits.

    4. A hydrating mask

    While we’re on the topic of hydration, another fab way to keep your skin feeling soft and supple is to treat it to a weekly mask that’s packed full of nourishing, moisturizing ingredients. Our beauty experts are huge fans of Eminence Chocolate Mousse Hydration Masque, both for its divine chocolatey scent and the way it instantly revitalizes thirsty skin.

    5. A gentle exfoliator

    Exfoliation removes dead skin cells, which might otherwise dry up and turn flaky. Natural skin cell turnover tends to slow down in winter, making exfoliation extra important – especially for dry skin types! Stick to something mild so it doesn’t irritate skin that’s potentially already aggravated by the weather, such as Elemis Gentle Rose Exfoliator.

    6. A sunscreen – yes, even in winter!

    Sunburn-inducing UVB radiation may be much lower in winter, but there’s still more than enough UVA radiation around to cause premature aging. So don’t only include sunscreen in your winter vacation skincare collection for those times you’re headed off skiing; a facial sunscreen is something you should be wearing every day of the year. Period.

    7. A nourishing eye cream

    Even if you don’t use an eye cream in summer, it’s a really beneficial addition to your winter skincare routine. The skin around your eyes is thinner, meaning it’ll dry out even quicker than the rest of your face in the harsh winter weather. Try Derma E Hydrating Eye Cream if you’re on a budget, or Obagi Gentle Rejuvenation Ultra-Rich Eye Hydrating Cream if you’re happy to splurge on the very best.

    8. A lip balm

    Don’t forget about the skin on your lips! Our advice? Use two products: first apply a nourishing lip treatment such as Murad Soothing Skin & Lip Care, then lock it in with a layer of Vaseline. Remember to keep your lip balm handy so you can reapply it regularly through the day, and avoid licking your lips which will dry them out.

    Skincare tips for winter

    Skincare for winter season – a few final tips

    The best skincare for winter involves more than just the products you apply to your skin. Here are a few more winter skincare tips to keep you glowing when the temperatures plummet:

    Stay hydrated from the inside out

    When you’re dehydrated, your skin becomes dehydrated. So drink plenty of water! If you struggle to remember, buy a cute bottle and keep it out on your desk so you’re constantly reminded of it.

    Use a humidifier at home

    Winter air can get dry inside the home too, especially if you have the heating turned up, so counteract this with a humidifier. Popping one on your nightstand is an excellent way to prevent your lips from drying out overnight.

    Use warm, not hot water

    Whether you’re cleansing your face or taking a shower, turn the temperature down a notch. Water that’s too hot will strip the natural moisture from your skin, leaving it dry and uncomfortable.

    Nourish your skin in the bath

    In winter, there’s nothing quite as relaxing as soaking in a warm tub. But you can make bathtime even better by adding a hydrating bath oil, which will leave your skin feeling silky soft. (If you’re a shower person, consider swapping out your usual body wash for a more hydrating formula, for a similar effect).

    Skincare for winter season

    We hope you’ve found these skincare tips for winter useful. You can find all the products you need to build your perfect winter skincare routine here at Editors’ Pick, where you’ll benefit from free US shipping and returns, plus a generous rewards program. Happy shopping!
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