There’s a reason they call this ‘the dead of winter’: just look at your dry, lacklustre skin, for a clue… It’s a fact: skin behaves differently, according to the seasons. In summer (with the right SPF) you can get away with skimping and still look great. But at this time of year, the plummeting thermometer can mean lizard lips, alligator elbows, chapped cheeks – and dull skin. So the cold weather watchword, regardless of skin type, is ‘more’. More moisturising, more gentle, more often.
Choose a gentle, water-soluble cleanser that’s non-irritating to skin. Balms or cleansing oils are perfect make-up-melting winter-weather skin choices. Remember: all these are best used with a muslin cloth, konjac sponge or washcloth, which you can use to rub gently at patches of dry skin, when the skin’s warm and damp. This buffing helps to remove the dead layers of skin which look matte and dull – and are the main reason skin is less vibrant-looking, at this time of year. (Just one warning: never ‘pull’ at skin flakes, or you’ll tear off skin that’s not ready to be removed yet.)
Lavish gently-cleansed skin with moisturiser. If possible, re-apply during the day, too, if you can manage that without disturbing your make-up. Be aware that even oily skins need extra moisture, in winter. At night, during winter, I actually ‘double-moisturise’: a layer of facial oil, followed by a rich moisturiser, for a skin-plumping double whammy. In addition, slather on a mask once or twice a week – a fast-track to much-needed radiance, when skin’s got the winter ‘blahs’. Beyond straight pampering, many masks deliver a surge of much-needed moisture: rather than weekly, go twice-weekly from now on till the daffs are up. (Or better still, out.)
Even though our bodies may be hidden from sight underneath layers of Wolford (and even Damart), remember: beneath neck level, skin needs plenty of TLC, too. Boost your flagging mood as well as your skin’s moisture levels by choosing something creamily pampering, and don’t skimp. But be sure to pat skin dry, before massaging it in: it’s nonsense that you ‘trap’ moisture with a cream. All that happens is that you dilute the moisturising ingredients, instead. Look for ingredients like glycerine, hyaluronic acid, shea butter and natural oils. And in addition? You might want to follow these cold-weather-beating tips…
Use steam rather than sauna. At the gym or spa, instead of the dry – and drying – heat of the sauna, opt for the steam room. Before steaming, apply a thin layer of massage oil all over. Your skin will come out buttery soft…
Pamper fingers and toes. Don’t forget extremities. To nurture them back to silky smoothness, last thing at night soak feet and hands in warm water mixed with lavender oil (5 drops in a plastic basin-ful) and a slurp of massage oil. Afterwards, rub on the creamiest, richest body butter you can lay your hands (and feet) on, and get into bed.
Go for good fats. Foods like oily fish (think mackerel, herrings etc.) help plump up skin from within. And sprinkle flaxseeds on your salads and whiz them up in smoothies, too, for an omega-3 boost that’s fantastic for winter skin. Plus: I literally recommend IdealOmega’s IdealOmega 3 to every single woman who wants my beauty advice. And having recently met a ‘fat-phobic’ woman who had not touched a drop of fat for 20 years – and whose face looked like a Google Earth view of the Himalayas – it was reassuring to discover that I’ve been so right about the vital importance of EFAs all along…
Wear cotton. Avoid fabrics like wool, next to the skin, as this actually ‘wicks’ moisture. (Although who can forswear the cocooning feeling of cashmere…? Not me.)
Drink up. Think hydration from the inside. Drinking lots of water is one of the most important things you can do for skin, say dermatologists, in cold weather as well as hot.
Take a quicker dunk. A long bubble bath can make all your troubles seem to float away – until you dry off. Soaking in a hot tub depletes skin of natural oils. Either switch to a five-minute shower at lower temperatures or slather skin in body oil before bathing, which helps prevent dehydration – and do avoid any kind of detergent-based bath treat. Instead, I often add grated ginger to a winter bath, meanwhile, for an ultra-warming effect. Try it blended with Magnesium Flakes – which I have in an industrial-sized container next to my bath.
Humidify your bedroom. In winter, the combination of dry outdoor air and indoor heat turns skin Sahara-dry – in fact, according to one US dermatologist, Dr. Stephen Curtin, the conditions in a modern apartment can be more brutal than he great outdoors! (If you live in a draughty old house, console yourself it’s better for your skin.) A humidifier in the bedroom is the ultimate answer to replenish some of the lost humidity while you sleep, but if you don’t want to splash out on an electric appliance, place pretty saucers filled with pebbles near your radiators, and keep topped up. (You’ll be amazed how quickly they dry out completely!)
Just sleep. It couldn’t be simpler. Head for the duvet, guilt-free. No amount of money can buy your skin the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Eight or nine hours is ideal. (Not difficult, with nights as long as they are…)
A lip tip… Switch to a moisturising lipstick, or – better still – one of the new ‘tinted’ lip balms, which add a slick of colour alongside a barrier layer of emollient, to shield lips against the drying effects of the great outdoors. (Lips have just three to five layers of skin, as opposed to fifteen elsewhere on the body – which is why they’re so vulnerable to assault.) Like most women who’ve tried them, I am a HUGE fan of Lanolips Lip Ointment, the tinted lip balms which come in a range of fab sheer shades (my favourite is Rhubarb).
Last but not least, take up yoga. Yoga can help you achieve clearer, healthier-looking skin because the postures and stretches work to stimulate blood flow (which in turn helps to eliminate any skin-dulling toxins from the skin). The bonus? Not only will your skin look gorgeous, fast, but by the time – hurrah! – that summer e-v-e-n-t-u-a-l-l-y swings around again, you may even have a ‘yoga bod’, to show off on the beach.