Of course it’s dead easy to have a kissable pout, a dewy complexion and a touch-me-soft body in summer, when the air’s all humid and skin-friendly. But the minute the central heating goes on and those Siberian winds bluster in from the east, our skins become challenged. Sticking to your usual regime when the thermometer plummets means lizard lips, alligator elbows and chapped cheeks. So in cold weather, skin needs winter-proofing, if it’s not to become uncomfortably dry (and dull, with it).
First step: skincare. The cold weather watchword, pretty much regardless of skin type, is: ‘more’. More moisturising, more gently, more often. In winter, those who can’t otherwise be dissuaded from using plain old soap and water (and I do discover women who are still actually doing this!) really have to put the suds into hibernation. Soap strips the skin of its natural oily protection, and no cream can ever replace that moisture. What’s more, cold weather makes skin more prone to sensitivity, because dryness impairs barrier function – meaning that detergents, fragrances and even the natural wool-derived lubricant lanolin can trigger a reaction. For cleansing, then, stick to rich creams or lotions, or choose a gentle, water-soluble cleanser that’s non-irritating to skin. (And if you must use a toner – and personally, I never opt for anything more than rosewater, if I really need to feel super-cleansed – then make sure it’s alcohol-free.)
Moisturiser needs to be souped-up, too. You can do that in one of two ways: with a richer formulation, or (if you don’t want to change your product), by ‘double-moisturising’, my fave insider trick which simply entails applying one layer, then – a minute or two later, when that’s sunk in – adding another. What’s more, there is a very good reason for moisturising skin – and it’s not simply so that it feels comfy, rather than two sizes too small for your face! There’s new evidence emerging that dry skin can actually age faster, which is something to bear in mind at a time of year when centrally-heated air literally sucks the moisture out of skin.
Now, you might be sitting there smugly thinking: ‘I’ve got oily skin; none of this applies to me’. And certainly, it’s true (natch): oily skin is more resilient to ageing. But oil is not moisture – it’s actually sebum, which is made up of quite different lipids to the ones in the skin’s barrier. (Sebum’s thick, and clogs pores, and oxidises when it touches the air – resulting in blackheads.) Which means that even oily skins can be short of moisture, and are likely to have drier patches where cells aren’t functioning perfectly. So the prescription is: lightweight lotions, rather than creams. (And an increasing number of moisturisers are produced in a choice of cream or lotion.) Another personal tip: at night, I like to layer on facial oil, then slather cream over it, to ‘seal’ in the skin-nurturing goodness.
Then, of course, there are lips to consider. Lips boast only three to five layers of skin, compared with 15 elsewhere on the body, which is why a barrier between your lips and the environment is so essential. Most lip products are petroleum-based, which can lead to habitual lip-licking – and once the moisture has evaporated, lips will feel more dry than ever. (PS Be sure to avoid ‘long-lasting’ lipstick formulations at this time of year, as these can make lips feel Sahara-dry at the best of times.) I invariably recommend all-natural lip balms (not least because I want what I put on my lips to be basically ‘edible’ – as it ends up being ingested!). Some years ago, Gill (VH Gill, that is) introduced Sarah and I to what became our favourite-ever lip balm. We actually decided to launch it under the Beauty Bible brand, as the Beauty Bible Lip Balm – it’s likely to be the only product we ever do put our names to, but we just love it. Though on VH, you’ll also find the Lanolips range which is a HUGE love of ours, especially the recently-launched, subtly-glistening Lanolips Banana Balm. Get this: I actually apply lip balm to the skin on my nose if I’m going out, as that tends to dry out too.
Last but not least, you want to pay attention to body skin; tight clothing layers literally ‘wick’ moisture out of skin, and while it’s tempting to ignore everything underneath a vest or a pair of long Johns until spring bursts into life, you’ll pay the price – sometimes with itchiness, because dry skin can be infernal. Even the hot baths which work so well to warm us up at this time of year can be very dehydrating to skin, once you’ve towelled off. Wait until skin is perfectly dry again (any moisture on the skin will simply dilute your body lotion), and slather on something sumptuously rich. Body butters are perfect seasonal skin-quenchers, I find: they’re more luscious than lotions; a hit with Sarah’s and my Beauty Bible testers has always been Yes to Carrots C Through The Dry Spell Deliciously Rich Body Butter, and of the others featured on this site, Aromatherapy Associates Enrich Body Butter is an enduring love of mine.
Last but not least, up the moisture level in your home. Place bowls of water around the place. (Put a few pebbles in the bottom to prettify them, and of course keep out of the dog’s reach.) Drying clothes over radiators not only saves money tumble-drying, but infuses the air with moisture. Buy yourself some potted plants or bulbs, and even the moisture that evaporates from the soil will help to boost the dewiness rating. Drink plenty of water, too: that 2.5 litres a day keeps everything working smoothly internally, and I truly believe it helps quench from within. Adding in some Essential Fatty Acids to your diet, if you’re not already taking them – Power of Krill being my EFA-of-choice right now – is also important: skin needs these fats, for lubrication from within
Ideally, do all of the above – and your smooth, soft, plump and delectably quenched skin will say a thousand thank-yous, rather than plead for mercy…