Prepare your complexion for lower temperatures.

Everyone wants to age gracefully—and we know how to do it. Follow along with Live Well for beauty tips, exercise routines, and lifestyle changes to make as the years go by. Together, they'll make aging simple, which gives you more time to embrace each moment.

As fall gives way to winter, it is important to spend a little extra time on your morning skincare routine before walking outdoors to brave the elements. After all, blustery winds and single-digit temperatures present the need for heavier creams and more hydrating ingredients—and continued sunscreen use, of course. These needs become greater as you age: Mature skin is more susceptible to the deleterious effects of cold weather. And since the best way to address any anti-aging skin concerns is to first understand them, ahead you'll discover all of the ways how cold weather impacts skin over time—as well as tips for preventing or treating each issue.

woman wearing sweater in winter
Credit: Getty / Sandy Aknine

Cold weather makes aging skin drier.

Cold weather can dry out your complexion for two reasons. First, the low temperatures and lack of humidity outside can leach moisture out of the skin. The second involves artificial heating indoors: As cozy as it feels to crank up the heat, it only leaves you feeling drier. "This is a particular issue for skin as it ages. Our skin's ability to retain moisture decreases with age—so in a sense, it is an added insult," explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Chwalek, who practices at Union Square Laser Dermatology in Manhattan. Due to this one-two punch, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick says that it's important to adhere to a strict moisturizing routine—namely, one composed of cleansers, serums, and creams designed to draw moisture back in. "Some ingredients to look out for include ceramides, which help to support the skin barrier, and hyaluronic acid which helps to attract up to 1,000 times its weight in moisture," she explains.

As you shop for products, Dr. Chwalek says to be on the lookout for a few key ingredients. Options with emollients (like ceramides, as well as fatty acids and cholesterol) help smooth and soften the skin, while those with humectants (think hyaluronic acid, along with glycerin, urea, and lactic acid) help the skin retain water. Occlusives (like dimethicone, lanolin, and squalane) are also a must for aging skin, as they help slow the evaporation of water from its surface. Be sure to extend these products below your neckline, too: Hydrating skincare ingredients should be part of your shower routine, so you can boost your skin's moisture levels from head to toe. Unfortunately, skipping long, hot showers, which reverse the work any hydrating products do, is also essential; quick, lukewarm rinses are best. In addition, Dr. Chwalek notes that humidifiers can help prevent and treat cold weather-related skin dryness. "Humidifiers put moisture back into the air and prevent skin dehydration at night, when our skin's reparative processes are at a peak," she explains.

It leaves skin looking dull.

Dry skin is dull skin—it's just a fact, and it's one that becomes more of a reality as you age. Bring winter into this equation, and dullness (which happens when your complexion can no longer shed dead skin cells at the appropriate rate) is a surefire symptom. "As dead skin cells build up on the surface, it is important to exfoliate to help maintain radiance," Dr. Garshick explains, noting to go beyond your face to address your body skin, as well. Exfoliating will also help mitigate any roughness, which results from dehydration, so be sure you're using a chemical exfoliant three times per week to offset both bumps and dullness.

It can exacerbate eczema and psoriasis.

Cold weather can also wreak havoc on already-dry skin types. Those with inflammatory eczema and psoriasis, two ailments that commonly appear over time, are most at risk. According to cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, there's hope—opt for a thicker moisturizer and cut back on those long showers to keep any flairs at bay.

It makes skin more prone to sun damage.

This has less to do with the cold, and more to do with our reactions to it. Oftentimes, we associate sun damage with warmer temperatures—when it's cold, therefore, sunscreen isn't top of mind. Of course, this is a major misunderstanding. Whatever the time of year or temperature, applying sunscreen of at least SPF 30 is essential. "If you don't use sunscreen during the cold winter months, you can experience signs of sun damage, such as brown spots, fine lines, and wrinkles," Dr. Garshick warns, adding that this only speeds up your skin's aging process. To help you remember, she suggests selecting a "winter" sunscreen with "a hydrating or soothing component."

It can make skin more sensitive to certain ingredients. 

Have you ever noticed that your skin can tolerate stronger ingredients during the warmer months, but becomes more sensitive to those exact ingredients once the temperatures drop? That's because your moisture barrier (a skin function that protects the deeper levels of the dermis from free radicals and other intruders) becomes weaker not only as you age, but also as the weather gets colder. For this reason, Dr. Garshick says that if you experience any added sensitivity, it's best to decrease the culprit product's frequency until the temperatures rise again.


Be the first to comment!