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Freezing air + central heating = a nightmare combo for your complexion. But we’ve got the latest tricks to help care for skin in the colder months. Take that, Jack Frost!
‘Your skin is your outermost barrier, so it’s one of the first and largest targets for air pollution,’ says Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic in London. ‘Many of the aggressors in urban pollution can penetrate your pores. And prolonged, repetitive exposure can have a negative effect on skin.’ Think wrinkles, pigmentation, dryness and irritation. What’s more, pollution can be a bigger problem in winter. Why? On cold, calm days, particles are less likely to be dispersed, increasing the pollutants at ground level.
If you live or work in a city, choose products that create a barrier, to help prevent irritants from entering the skin, as well those that are nourishing. Vichy Slow Âge Anti-Ageing Fluid, £30/3,000 points (50ml), has been formulated to counteract the effects of environmental aggressors. Apply each morning after cleansing, and always remember to clean your face thoroughly at night, too, so that the day’s build-up of grime is removed.
If that sun-kissed glow has faded and your winter pallor has set in to reveal sunspots and other skin pigmentation, it’s time to correct your summer sins. Many dermatologists regard retinol as a ‘gold standard’ skincare ingredient for a host of issues, including pigmentation. And because it can make your skin more sensitive to UV, winter – when you’re likely to be spending more time inside and your UV exposure is lower – is ideal for trying it (just make sure you still use sunscreen when you’re going out, though). To start with, apply it at night after cleansing, a few days a week, then build up to every evening as your skin gets used to it (at first, it can cause redness and dryness). Our fave? Indeed Labs Retinol Reface Retinol Skin Resurfacer, £19.99/1,999 points (30ml), which contains three forms of retinol to help reduce the appearance of dark spots.
It’s probably the last thing on your mind when it’s grim outside, but experts agree that UV protection is still essential in winter. The sun is made up of two harmful rays: UVB, which causes sunburn, and UVA, which damages skin on a deeper level and can lead to wrinkles and pigmentation. ‘UVB levels and the risk of burning are extremely low at this time of year, but as UVA rays are able to penetrate light cloud and window glass, I advise protecting skin all year round with a five-star UVA-rated moisturiser – SPF15 is sufficient in winter,’ explains Clare O’Connor, innovation, research and development manager of skin science at Boots. We like No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Day Cream £25/2,500 points (50ml): smooth it all over your face and neck, then leave to settle into your skin for a few minutes before applying foundation.
‘The drying conditions of winter can leave your complexion looking and feeling dull,’ says Dr Mahto. ‘So gentle exfoliation is key at this time of year, and should be a regular part of your routine. It helps brighten the appearance of skin, and helps remove the top layer of dead cells, which also allows your moisturiser to work more effectively.’
Why not treat yourself to a quick Monday-morning facial to kick-start your complexion for the week ahead? You only need two minutes to apply New YourGoodSkin Energizing Facial Scrub Boots Exclusive £5.49/549 points (125ml). The invigorating formula can help brighten lacklustre skin and leave it feeling softer, smoother and ready for make-up. Plus, it’s better at waking you up than a double espresso.
You wouldn’t go outside on a chilly day without a jumper, coat and scarf, so think of your complexion in a similar way – layering the right skincare products can provide extra protection from the elements. Don’t just cleanse and moisturise: add a serum to your regime, as it contains ingredients to target specific problems by being absorbed deep into the skin’s layers.
If your complexion is dehydrated and sensitive, choose a serum with calming ingredients. New Lancôme Advanced Génifique Sensitive Dual Concentrate*, £59/5,900 points (20ml), contains vitamin E and ferulic acid to help strengthen the skin’s barrier function and soothe sensitivity. Or if it simply looks a little dull, L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renew Restorative Serum, £24.99/2,499 points (30ml), is formulated with black truffle and fermented black tea to help brighten and revitalise. Technique is key, too: massage in the serum with your fingertips to help stimulate circulation and bring a rosy glow to your face, then smooth your day cream on top.
Good news: those welcome hot chocolates and cups of tea on freezing-cold days won’t just warm you up. ‘Drinking enough fluid benefits the skin, as it keeps us hydrated and helps flush out toxins – aim for between six and eight glasses every day,’ advises Boots nutritionist Vicky Pennington. ‘All fluids count towards your daily allowance: water, milk, soft drinks (though try to stick to low-fat and sugar-free varieties), tea and coffee.’
It’s also worth trying to up your intake of ‘natural moisturisers’ to help keep skin supple. ‘Essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 help to produce the skin’s natural oil barrier,’ explains Vicky. You can find them in food such as oily fish, flaxseed, walnuts, soy, fortified eggs, cooking oils, chicken and grains. We feel a beauty feast coming on.
Skin dry and flaky? ‘It’s important not to over-wash with harsh cleansers, as this can exacerbate dryness,’ says Dr Mike Bell, Boots skincare scientific advisor. Foaming washes often contain sodium lauryl sulphate which, when mixed with water, helps create a lather. Although this gets your face clean, it can also strip it of oil, which can be drying for delicate skin. Try a balm, lotion or micellar water, such as Botanics Hydration Burst 3 In 1 Micellar Cleanser Boots Exclusive £6.99/699 points (250ml), or New YourGoodSkin Soothing Micellar Cleanser Boots Exclusive £5.99/599 points (150ml).
‘Because our skin doesn’t always look its freshest in the wintry weather, we can tend to over-apply foundation,’ says make-up artist Francesca Neill. But a thick application of base doesn’t always sit well, especially on a complexion that’s a bit dry or flaky. ‘It’s a good idea to swap your summer foundation for a richer, more hydrating formulation, which will help skin look fresher and brighter,’ advises Francesca. Try Collection Illuminating Touch Foundation, £5.99/599 points, which is designed to lock in moisture for long-lasting results. ‘For a flawless finish and to help avoid clogging pores, always start by applying a thin layer, then gradually build it up on the areas where you need extra coverage,’ adds Francesca.
When your skin is extra dry, it’s time to upgrade your moisturiser – what works during the summer might not be enough to deal with chilly conditions. ‘You need to pay extra attention to moisturising regularly to help combat winter dryness,’ says Dr Bell. ‘Because skin loses flexibility when it’s dry, it can crack, like the ground during a drought. At its worst, this can result in inflammation and redness, and there’s a greater chance of infection.’
Look out for moisturisers containing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and vitamins A, C and E, to help combat damage caused by the cold weather. We rate Super Facialist Vitamin C+ Brighten Skin Defence Daily Moisturiser, £16.99/1,699 points (75ml). And for a two-pronged attack, consider taking a hyaluronic acid supplement, too, such as Boots Hyaluronic Acid, £19.99/1,999 points (30 days’ supply).
Just as your body may benefit from regular training sessions, your face can reap the rewards of exercise, too. It may help boost circulation, which stimulates the lymphatic system to drain impurities and prevent puffiness and slackness. However, your motivation to move from the sofa might be at an all-time low at this time of year. So why not try an exercise regime that you can do lying down? The latest skincare gadgets use ionic technology to give your complexion a workout by stimulating the muscles, for a lifted, more youthful appearance. Want to give it a go? Try the New Prai Ageless Throat Ionic System*, £99.99/9,999 points (30ml serum and ionic device). Simply apply the throat serum, then use the ionic device – which has a long handle and circular head for massage – to help push ingredients into the skin. Used morning and night, it promises to improve the appearance of your neck in just seven days.
*Available in selected stores.
Words Sarah Cooper-White Photography Getty Images, Pixeleyes