A Complete Guide On How To Change Your Skincare Routine in Winter

Wondering if you should change your skincare routine this winter in order to prevent dry, chapped skin? The answer from skincare experts is yes, you should! 

Making small changes can have a big impact on your skin. It’s why I write this blog, to share trustworthy advice that is easy to implement but makes a big difference. So let’s dive into it. 

Winter Skin
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

You should adjust your skincare routine for winter before the worst weather hits.  Important changes to make are avoiding hot water, running a humidifier, using an ultra rich moisturizer, avoiding denatured alcohol and using a hydrating facial mist. These steps will help prevent dry, cracked skin that can occur when the humidity level drops in winter.

You can keep your skin glowing and hydrated throughout the winter and prevent dry, cracked skin from happening. You’ll not only look better, but you’ll feel better too!

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may make a commission at no cost to you. Please see my full disclosure policy for more details.

Compare ONLY the best products for winter skin here.

Why You Should Change Your Skincare Routine in Winter

In winter the humidity level drops, leaving the air much drier than in the summer. Cold, dry air and biting wind can pull the moisture out of our skin, leaving it not only parched but also red, irritated, and flaking. In the worst cases, skin can even crack, making it painful to laugh or even smile.

It’s best to try and get ahead of the winter weather so that instead of trying to heal your skin you can keep it hydrated and smooth all year. Below I’ll recommend some skincare routine changes to make before the worst of winter weather hits. We’d rather prevent disaster than have to deal with the consequences, right?

But if you’re late to the game and already have dry, itchy skin, don’t worry. The tips below that will prevent dry skin will also help heal it and get it back to normal fast.

Free Guide: What Really Works To Fight Wrinkles

Find out which ingredients and treatments actually work to boost collagen production and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Top Tips for a Winter Skincare Routine for Dry Skin

    I’ve listed my favorite winter skincare tips below.  Making these small changes is pretty easy and doesn’t require expensive products. If it’s too much all at once, try implementing one or two each week.

    Avoid Hot Water

    It may seem counterintuitive that water will dry out your skin, but that’s exactly what can happen with hot water in winter. While it may be tempting to take long, steamy showers to warm up in the cold months, the hot water will strip your skin of its natural moisturizing oils, leaving you feeling dry and tight after. Keep your showers short and your water warm, but not hot.

    Run a Humidifier

    There may not be anything you can do about the low humidity in the air outside. But there is something we can do to help at home or in the office.  Run a humidifier as much as you can to put some moisture back into the air. Even if you are out of the house all day using it while you will sleep will help a lot. While you’re sleeping, your whole body heals and recharges. Your skin needs this time to heal up as well, and a humidifier can really help. 

    Add An Ultra-Rich Moisturizer To Your Routine

    Some of us may be able to use a light moisturizer (or none at all) in the summer. Almost all skin types are going to need a thick moisturizer in the colder months. Key ingredients to look for:


    These are fatty acids found in skin cells that hold skin cells together and help form a protective coating. Loading up on ceramides will help keep your skin’s protective barrier strong and keep the moisture IN your skin, where it belongs.


    Look for skin-friendly oils such as Jojoba, Marula, or Rosehip Seed Oil. These oils will help keep your skin hydrated without clogging pores. If you have acne-prone skin,  Rosehip Oil in particular has been shown to be helpful for acne. Take a look at this study.


    Occlusives are ingredients that trap moisture in your skin, preventing it from evaporating. Aquaphor and petroleum jelly are well-known occlusives. While covering your entire face in an occlusive can be done, it can get messy and spread to your pillowcase. It may be a better idea to use an occlusive on just the driest, most irritated skin. 

    Hydrate Your Skin Throughout the Day With a Facial Mist

    A facial mist is easy to apply on the go and can give your skin a boost of moisture without completely ruining your makeup. A great one to try is Mad Hippie Hydrating Nutrient Mist. This formula is packed with glycerin and hyaluronic acid for moisture and green and white teas to soothe your skin. 

    Avoid Products with Denatured Alcohol

    Alcohol can be very drying to the skin. Avoid it as much as possible. You may not notice it during the summer months, but in winter it can cause problems.

    Be extra careful to check the ingredients of toners, serums, and sunscreen. Denatured alcohol is often added to these products to make them dry down quickly.  Fatty Alcohols are actually healthy for the skin, when you’re reviewing ingredients it’s denatured alcohol (often labeled alcohol denat) you want to avoid.

    Gently Exfoliate

    Even if you are following all the steps above you may still find your skin needs some exfoliation. It’s extra important to be gentle to your skin in the winter. Harsh exfoliating will cause irritation, the last thing your skin needs now.

     I recommend using a Konjac Sponge, common in Asian skincare, as needed. With a Konjac sponge, you wet it until it is soft and then gently rub your face. Some are infused with soothing ingredients such as aloe. 

    Another choice would be a gently chemical exfoliant such as lactic acid or a low percentage of glycolic acid. Be careful of higher percentages of glycolic acid as the irritation may be too much if your skin is already dry or sensitive. Take a look at my complete guide to AHAs for tons more information on picking the best exfoliant.

    Switch to Less Potent Skin Treatments

    This may not be necessary for everyone. But for those with sensitive skin in particular it may be worth switching to less potent retinoids and exfoliants early in the winter. With the dry air causing irritation you may find your skin just can’t handle the same level of treatment that it can in the summer. 

    If you’re using a prescription retinoid, ask your dermatologist about moving to a lower strength. With over-the-counter retinol products look for a lower percentage of retinol or consider using it less frequently. Bakuchiol is a gentle, plant-based alternative to retinol that offers similar effects with less irritation.

    Don’t Forget Your Lips!

    If you’re like me you’re used to dealing with chapped lips in winter. There are many hydrating lip balms on the market that are great for daytime use. I find using an occlusive such as Aquaphor particularly helpful in the winter. After using lip balm I coat my lips in a thin layer of Aquaphor right before bed.  I wake up to smooth hydrated lips in the morning.

    snowflake image
    Photo by Aaron Burden Unsplash

    My Favorite Winter Skincare Products

    Cerave Moisturizing Cream is readily available online and at drugstores. It includes ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid- all great ingredients for moisturizing your skin. This thick cream is fragrance and dye-free which helps keep sensitive skin happy. 

    Good Genes by Sunday Riley is one of my all-time favorite products for gentle exfoliation. It includes 5% lactic acid, which is gentle enough to use daily.  Licorice provides brightening power and arnica is included to soothe the skin. Good Genes keeps flakes away and the skin glowing while still being incredibly gentle, even for sensitive skin. Lemongrass is great for your skin and also adds a natural scent that reminds me of spring, even on the darkest winter days!

    The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% and Lactic Acid 10% are great exfoliants at an amazing price. If Good Genes is out of your budget these serums for the Ordinary provide gentle exfoliation that is very effective. They don’t include as many skin-soothing ingredients but do have Tasmanian Pepperberry, which is soothing. They also both have 2% hyaluronic acid for moisture. For the price, they can’t be beaten.

    Mad Hippie Hydrating Nutrient Mist is great for adding extra moisture throughout the day. It also can be used in the mornings and evenings as a toner before heavier moisturizer. It’s a light enough mist that it shouldn’t disturb makeup.  You can also spray it into your hands and pat it on your face. It’s full of antioxidants and hydrating ingredients. In the summer, I often use this as my only moisturizer. Read my full review here

    Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Hydrating Fluid Face Moisturizer SPF 50 provides sun protection while keeping skin hydrated. This daily wear sunscreen has green tea and grape seed extracts to soothe the skin as well as oat bran to soothe. Glycerin will keep skin hydrated in winter while SPF 50 keeps your skin safe from UV rays. It’s important to wear sunscreen year-round to prevent premature skin aging.  

    Paulas Choice Barrier Repair Moisturizer combines a soothing moisturizer with retinol to create a two in one product. It feels like a light lotion but shea butter, squalane, and ceramides do a great job of hydrating. It’s a great way to implement retinol into your routine without irritating your skin.

    Aquaphor Healing Ointment is my favorite occlusive. I use it nightly in winter on my lips and as needed on dry patches of skin. It lasts a full night and traps moisture in the skin. It’s also great for dry skin on the body such as hands or elbows.

    Final Thoughts on Changing your Winter Skincare Routine

    The tips above are pretty easy to add to your skincare routine. Cost doesn’t need to be a factor- most of the products that I use can be bought inexpensively at your local drugstore. Good Genes being the exception- but it’s worth the splurge!

    By planning ahead and making these changes before the worst winter weather hits, your skin will look and feel great all winter. I know I didn’t cover everything for winter skin in this article. Let me know below any other great ideas you have to keep your skin happy this winter!

    Related Articles

    Find the Best AHA For Your Skin- Ultimate Guide to Alpha Hydroxy Acids

    Timeless Skincare Vitamin C+E Ferulic Acid Serum Review

    How to Start A Skincare Routine in Three Easy Steps

    The Best Vitamin C Serums for Dark Spots (And Brighter Skin!)

    10 thoughts on “A Complete Guide On How To Change Your Skincare Routine in Winter”

    1. This is great advice! My skin gets so cracked and dry in the winter it’s awful. Thanks so much for the tips. I’m going to try to get ahead of the cold weather this year with some of these products.-Debbie

    2. This is awesome! I think I’ll try some of these products, my skin gets so dry in the winter, particularly my lips and eyelids. Aquaphor is my best friend!

    3. This is such needed advice! My skin gets so dry in the winter! Thank you!! Looking forward to trying some of these products!

    Leave a Comment