Your Winter Skincare Guide

The look on my face should tell you how cold I was taking this photo

The look on my face should tell you how cold I was taking this photo

There's a lot to love about winter. Big chunky cable knit jumpers and warm fireplaces, hot chocolate and hot whiskey, ice skating and skiing and all the other cold weather activities that, from a distance, seem oh so festive and delightful: together they form a beautiful, Christmas card idyllic image of what winter should be like. Sadly, the reality is often a lot different. The cold harsh reality of winter that it's cold and it's harsh, especially on your skin.

The skin is your body's protective layer, tasked with keeping out allergens and pollution and keeping things like water in. The lower temperatures and humidity levels of winter can compromise the skin and change the delicate balance of water, fat and protein that form this barrier. This is why you have to deal with issues like dryness, redness, sensitivity and irritation during the winter months. To sum it up, your skin is a coat of armour, and winter weather puts chinks in it so take the time and make the effort to bolster your defences. Here are a few tips to help you fight back in the Cold War on your skin.

Wash

Pretty basic stuff but you should wash your face twice a day for around 60 seconds at a time to help clear the skin of oil, pollutants and any traces if products that you are using. Guys produce a lot of oil (sebum) on account of their testosterone levels. If left to build up, excess oil clogs pores, leading to shiny skin and spots. Be careful when choosing a face wash because using the wrong product is as bad as using no product at all, especially in cold weather when oily skin types get oilier and dry skin gets drier. Pay attention to your complexion type and shop accordingly.

Scrub

A lot of guys seem to hold a feminine association with the word ‘exfoliation' but a gentle scrub can help clear the skin of dead cells that clog up pores, cause blackheads and make your complexion appear dull and uneven. Exfoliating is especially important for guys over the age of 25, as that's when the rate at which the skin naturally sheds dead cells slows down. Opt for a light facial scrub rather than the grooming equivalent of sandpaper as it's possible to over exfoliate and strip the skin of essential oils, leaving it exposed to the elements of winter.

Tone

Not something you do with an ab roller. Toning, in this context, is using an astringent that acts as a kind of mini-chemical peel, helping to de-grease the skin and remove old cells. Look for a toner that includes salicylic acid, which helps to absorb excess oil as it surfaces, keeping your complexion clear. If your skin is very oily, use a toner every day. Otherwise, use it every few days and change things up by using a serum. Serums are made up of smaller molecules than moisturiser, allowing them to penetrate deeper and deliver extra hydration and antioxidant protection.

Protect

Most people will only think of buying sunscreen when they're jetting off somewhere. Granted, your skin's got a higher chance of burning on the beach in Portugal in July than during a showery January day in Limerick, but UVA rays – the ones that cause ageing – are global, and are present whenever it's light out. So sunscreen isn't just for sunny days – once it's daytime, you need to wear sunscreen. Not only does exposure to UVA rays cause deep lines, wrinkles and dark spots, but exposure to the sun can further tamper with the skin's protective barrier. Look for an SPF moisturiser (factor 30) that offer the same defences as a traditional sunscreen without the heaviness and stickiness.

Hydrate

Not all moisturisers are created equal, so look for ingredients that are scientifically proven to work rather than buying a product because the bottle looks nice or you saw it on some bloggers Instagram story (ahem). The most effective ingredients at maintaining the skins natural barrier function occur naturally in the body, so keep an eye out for ceramides, cholesterol and hyaluronic acid. You might also consider a thicker cream than the one you might use in summer, as freezing faces will need extra hydration.

Diet

The cold war on your skin is not only fought in your bathroom, but it's also fought in the kitchen. Eating foods rich in healthy fats and protein can help maintain your skins natural barrier. A lot of the serotonin produced by the body comes from the gut, and research shows the benefits of maintaining a healthy gut include reducing the effects of acne and rosacea. Take vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids daily to help maintain the skin's barrier, and reduce inflammation.

Patrick McLoughney