Winter is a tough time for our skin: cold winds, dry air, rapid and repeated contrasts between temperatures indoors and outdoors can easily lead to redness, itchiness, and flaking, and even eczema, which in turn can cause premature aging. However, some women report that their moisturizer apparently makes things worse! So how should you moisturize correctly in winter?
Let us first look at what moisturizers are made of. Normally they include a combination of three kinds of compounds: those that attract water (humectants), such a glycerine; those that soften the skin, filling up cracks in it, called emollients (such as fatty acids); and finally, those that do not allow moisture to escape (occlusives), such as petroleum jelly.
The fact that glycerine and other humectants actually absorb water from the environment (that is, from the skin surface) and then store it means that your face has to be a bit damp when you apply moisturizers, such as after a shower or after you have washed your face. If you always apply moisturizer to already dry skin, that can indeed result in even more dryness.
Remember – humectants don’t contain water, they absorb it!
As for emollients, while they make your skin softer by permeating gaps in it, they don’t store any water in themselves. And you have to choose the right one – while shea butter can work best for dry skin, aloe vera may better suit the oily type.
It is true that in winter our skin needs more moisturizing than in summer, and that usually means a more substantial product. If you normally use lotion or gel, try using cream. If you feel that in winter your skin reacts badly to moisturizer, it may mean that you actually give it not enough of it, rather than too much!
However, those with oily skin should be especially careful when choosing moisturizer. Occlusives trap moisture inside by forming a thin film over it. However, some occlusives can lead to clogged pores if your skin is already oily (especially petrolatum), while others (like ceramides) won’t. So if you feel that in winter moisturizer makes your skin break out in acne and pimples, you may just need to change the formula.
In general, you should always use the correct moisturizer for your skin type, be it oily, sensitive, or acne-prone. And remember that facial moisturizer should not be used on the eyes – choose a dedicated product for that.
But if even carefully chosen industrial moisturizes do not work well on your skin in winter, don’t despair: just make your own! Create a base with various combination of carrier oils, such as jojoba or grape seed for oily skin (yes, some oils work great on it – you can read more on choosing the right carrier oil here), olive and rosehip for dry skin, apricot kernel if you are sensitive; add some argan oil if you can buy it, plus a few drops of essential oils that suit you best, such as sweet orange against wrinkles, lavender and tea tree if you are prone to acne, lemon for oily skin, and so on (more tips here).
Such a homemade product will not cause any allergic reactions, and you will be able to control all its ingredients. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and eventually you may come up with a recipe that will moisturize and nourish your skin better than any expensive industrial cream ever could!