Between the low humidity outside and the dry warm air inside, Winter is never especially kind to my skin, and I know that is the case for most of you too. For me, treating dry Winter skin isn't about using one particular product, but layering several different products and layering them in the proper order. Disclosure: Some of these items were provided complimentary for testing purposes, and this post contains affiliate links. See full disclosure below.
First, it starts with what I don't use. Especially when cleansing, it's important for me to use products that won't strip my skin.
More than anything, I avoid products with sulfates and artificial fragrances. Then it's really about knowing my skin type as well as how it's behaving at the moment. I prefer gentle milky cleansers or oil-based bar cleansers whenever my skin is particularly sensitive. For a very gentle milky cleanser, I like the Apothecary Co. Sugar Maple and Aloe Leaf Gentle Cleansing Milk.
When I'm struggling with blemishes, I leave it to a mask and a facial mist to keep breakouts at bay. I know the tendency is to incorporate more harsh cleansers, but when dealing with clogged pores and blemishes, that is really one of the worst things you can do. It throws your skin into a viscous cycle of dryness, imbalance and sensitivity to increased oil production and more blemishes.
Whenever I have the time, masking is one of my favorite ways to gently treat blemishes without drying my skin. For a single pimple, a spot treatment like these Haruto Microneedle Pimple Patches are my favorite. But when pores are clogged and I have a widespread breakout, I like to use a clay-based mask. preferably one with neem powder, like the Natural AWA Purifying Neem Mask. The skincare benefits of neem powder, including its balancing and blemish-fighting properties, paired with how gentle it is, make it a great ingredient for blemish-prone skin, whether you have oily or dry skin and even if you have very sensitive skin.
You might also like: 5 Ways to use Neem, Anushka Sharma’s go-to Skincare Ingredient
My next step is to hydrate and dampen the skin before I apply a moisturizer. I look for a facial mist with ingredients like aloe, rosewater and chamomile. These gentle botanicals are very effective against inflammation and bacteria, and they're both so soothing on irritated skin. To help combat dullness which also occurs most during Winter, I like a facial mist that includes brightening ingredients like Vitamin C, and antioxidant-rich ingredients like green tea.
One of my favorite facial mists this year has been the Face Natür Herbal and Thyme Active Toner. It's a very effective all-in-one facial mist that greatly minimizes the appearance of pores. If however you suffer with very sensitive skin, I suggest the Autumn Glow Botanicals NOURISH Face mist, which incorporates both aloe and rose.
Whenever I'm on a very tight budget; I simply brew some chamomile, rose, hibiscus, and green tea and place it in a spray bottle. Thyme and ginger added can have a bigger chance at fighting stubborn blemishes, but I wouldn't recommend those two ingredients on sensitive or sensitized skin. They aren't drying, but they could cause irritation, so use with caution.
Whichever toner or facial mist I'm using at the moment, if it doesn't contain hyaluronic acid, I look for a light serum that contains HA. If you're reading this blog, I assume you already know that HA can bind and retain 1000 times its weight in water, though this can make HA your best friend or one of your worst enemies when it comes to hydration. If you apply it to dry skin for example, and the air is very dry as well, it'll pull moisture from wherever it can get it, including the top layer of skin. It's important to apply it to damp skin. For this reason, I really prefer and suggest a light HA serum that can be used right after a facial mist and before a moisturizer, rather than using a moisturizer that contains HA as one of its many ingredients. Though the most important thing to look for in a hyaluronic serum is the right molecule size.
Due to the molecule size of some HAs, the only way to benefit from this ingredient below the surface of the skin is to use a multi-molecular weight hyaluronic acid serum.
At the moisturizing stage, I really focus on nourishing and repairing the skin. This Winter in particular, the Natural AWA Beauty Baobab oil has come to my rescue time and again. I'd previously used skincare that contained baobab, but always when mixed with other ingredients. Having used 100% pure baobab oil on its own, I see just how big of a difference it makes in my routine. Baobab is high in Vitamins A, D, E, and F as well as fatty acids including Linoleic Acid (Omega-6) and Linolenic Acid (Omega-3). It's fast-absorbing, incredibly gentle, and helps improve skin's elasticity and reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
I really like how it's been moisturizing enough, without having to add anything heavier over it for the most part. If you have extremely dry skin, a sealant layer over this might be best, but personally I find that an additional moisturizer on my face is only necessary on dry flaky areas. I especially like how this oil can be used head to toe - as a scalp moisturizer and added to any of my other body moisturizers. Like most oils and creams, the Natural AWA Beauty Baobab oil can be used on dry or damp skin. I find that whenever I massage it into damp skin, I wake up with my skin looking quite plump and healthy.
For areas where I can layer on a heavier moisturizer without worrying about clogged pores, like under my eyes and on my neck, I like to add on a concentrated pure and natural Vitamin E oil then finally an occlusive moisturizer. It's important to know the difference between a non-occlusive moisturizer vs. an occlusive moisturizer (a sealant). Not all oils are sealants, though some can be, so a butter or balm isn't always necessary. But some type of occlusive is necessary if you're trying to treat very dry skin. The skin on my nose can get extra dry and flaky during Winter. Whenever that happens, all I need is to layer a thick sealant over my regular moisturizer.
For extra dry areas on the body where the skin tends to be thicker; like the hands, feet and elbows, I like a rich nourishing balm with skin-softening ingredients. While I tend towards heavy balms, I've found the Natural AWA Beauty Hand and Foot Smoothing Balm, made with both shea butter and plant-based oils like hibiscus and baobab, to be very fast-absorbing and non-greasy. It's all I need during the day and most nights. When the skin on my body is particularly dry, I add pure shea butter on over this. You can pick up Natural AWA Beauty's premium grade Raw Shea Butter, their Hand and Foot balm, and their Baobab peppermint lip balm altogether in their Winter Survival Kit, currently on sale.
This is where layering is so crucial in treating dry skin. For instance if you go straight from your cleanser to a sealant, any hydrating and balancing ingredients in a mist as well as the moisturizing and nourishing ingredients in your sealant may not penetrate enough to make a big difference. On the other hand, if your moisturizer is very fast-absorbing, yet you fail to layer a sealant over it, your skin will lose hydration more quickly, and the nutrients won't affect much beyond the outer layer. On my body, I do prefer to finish up with something thicker in consistency than an oil, like shea butter. It's high in Vitamins A and E, and I just find it easier to apply than oil.
I hope you find my Winter skincare picks helpful if you're struggling with dry skin. Remember my must-have ingredients like aloe, neem, hyaluronic acid, baobab oil, Vitamin E, and shea butter. And don't forget to layer, layer, layer. Hydrate, moisturize, then seal; and in that order.
Shop my Winter Skincare Picks