How to take good care of your skin during winter

A Q&A about winter skincare

We all have one skin type or a combination of different skin types, and this does not change over seasons such as winter and summer. There will, of course, always be exceptions, but most people have the same skin type all their lives. What changes is the condition, health and appearance of the skin. From winter to summer and from summer to winter, the environment in which our skin finds itself changes. Environmental factors are the root of some of the biggest problems for our skin, and the weather is one of the worst enemies when it comes to sudden changes in the well-being of our skin.

Different considerations come into play and we have to rethink our skincare routine: Which products should be put in back on the shelf until summer returns? And which new ones will improve your skin’s well-being during the cold wintertime? Why does my skin look different now to how it did in the summer? And what can I change?

Winter skin may seem quite complex, but thankfully, the reason is often straightforward, and the solution simple. In most cases, the reason for the drama of winter skin is it drying out.

Our cosmetologist Christina Düsterdich answers some of the questions we often get when the weather changes and the skin acts up.

Why does my skin become irritated, dry and blemished in the winter?

“Winter is when my skin acts up. Otherwise, I have a really nice normal skin type. But as soon as we hit the cold winter months, my skin breaks out, becomes oily and dry in different places on my face. My chin is particularly prone to breakouts.”

Understand your complex winter skin

The weather and the environments that surround us play a major role in many of the skin problems that can occur in winter, in fact, all year round. But the skin is really put to the test in the winter due to the constant shifting between high radiator heat inside and the dry, cold air and wind that ravage our cheeks outside. These changes can cause the skin to react in many ways, often all at once: From becoming more oily, to extreme scaly dryness, to redness and irritation, and to more blemishes than usual.

Higher indoor temperatures, dry air and the cold weather outside have a drying effect which affects the skin’s natural sebum production and protective barrier. This leaves the skin more prone to infection and irritation, and without the natural oils of the skin to seal in the moisture, it’s far too easy for the radiator and the dry cold to steal moisture from the delicate protective layer on the surface of the skin. This can result in dryness, dehydration and a feeling of tightness. The skin will often overcompensate for the lack of protection by producing extra sebum, which can result in an oily T-zone, clogged pores, impurities, whiteheads, or pimples. Delicate skin is likely to become more fragile and to suffer from irritation and redness to a greater extent than usual. Normal/oily skin may, on the other hand, experience a worsening of breakouts as the tight surface of the skin can cause a build-up of sebum, dead skin cells and sweat, clogging the pores and causing infection.

Should I use another type of cleansing product in the winter?

“I need a daily cleansing product. What can you recommend for dry skin that is prone to redness?”

Use softer, more gentle cleansers during the coldest months.

For many people, cleansing the skin is the most overlooked step in their skincare routine. But the cleansing ritual actually deserves as much attention as the cream that is lovingly applied by warm, massaging hands. The cleansing ritual is often completely neglected, not done carefully enough or perhaps too carefully. But what I hear most often is that the cleansing products are not adapted to the skin they are to cleanse.

The choice of cleansing products in your routine is essential to how your skin looks and feels for the rest of the day. It’s important to consider your skin’s changing needs as the seasons change. It is therefore rare for one product to work perfectly all 365 days of the year.

The skin dries out and is more likely to become irritated in extreme weather – especially during the cold winter months – so it might be a good idea to strengthen the skin by changing from a foaming, deeply cleansing gel to a softer, more gentle cleanser. You might like to try cleansing lotions, cleansing milks and cleansing balms, all of which contain more nourishing oils rather than astringents. Blemished and oily skin during the winter months may be a sign that the skin is out of balance due to surface dryness. But it should not be treated as oily skin when cleansing as this may only make the problem worse. It’s the dry surface that needs working on instead.

In the winter months, we recommend /

MUSE cleansing balm 01 for normal, dry skin.

DAZE cleansing lotion 02 for normal, dry, sensitive, irritated and blemished skin.

NOW cleansing gel 03 for oily skin.

STAR micellar water 02 for all skin types.

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Does water dry out the skin?

“Is it a bad idea to use a facial cleanser and then rinse it off with water? Does it dry out the skin?”

Water can make the skin feel a size too small.

Yes, water does dry out the skin to a certain degree. Water contains minerals, including lime, which cause tap water to rise to an alkaline pH value, which is not ideal for the skin. Hot water in particular can have a dehydrating effect as it removes the skin’s protective oils from the surface and causes a feeling of tightness, which is especially noticeable immediately after showering or cleansing. The most important thing for the skin’s health is the natural microbiome found on the skin in the form of microscopic bacteria which have the job of protecting and keeping the skin healthy. Just as we have gut flora that needs good care, the skin has skin flora that needs our understanding and attention. Along with the skin’s natural oils, sweat, and bacteria, the skin flora is a fantastic barrier that protects against dehydration and the irritation and infection this causes.

It is important to cleanse the skin of grime, make-up and bacteria, and many cleansing products are designed to be used in combination with water or rinsed off with water as they are not formulated to stay on the skin. With the help of pH regulating skincare, an otherwise normal skin will soon return to a healthy pH level following the cleansing ritual. But winter skin can be extra sensitive or challenged, so tap water can be an element that worsens the problems the skin is struggling with.

Why do cream and oil just sit on the surface rather than absorb into the skin?

“The skin on my face is incredibly dry – and not just in winter. It’s almost as if creams and oils don’t absorb into my skin properly.”

Extra dry skin is often given too much, too little or incorrect care.

There are many causes of dry skin. But it is usually because the skin has not been given the right care, has been cared for too much or with the wrong products. This leads to dull skin and a feeling of oily skin that craves hydration. In some cases, the skin will either feel delicate and tight or rough and dry.

If your skin feels delicate and tight while dry, this is often because the skin’s protective barrier is out of balance and the skin is dehydrated. This feeling is especially experienced right after a shower or after cleansing the skin. The skin’s natural softening and moisturising oils are unintentionally removed from the skin by frequent use of warm water, soap, peeling masks and scrubs. (Read the answer above about how water can make the skin feel a size too small). It leaves the skin susceptible to dehydration, irritation and infection. The combination of the cold winter weather, roaring winds lashing our cheeks, low humidity and radiator heat is not the best for our skin. The repeated drying out upsets the skin and results in a tight surface, which makes the absorption of moisturising creams and protective oils difficult. Without your help, the skin will also defend itself by compensating for the absence of oil by producing more of the substance that the skin’s protective barrier primarily consists of, i.e. oil. That is why dehydrated skin can feel dry and oily at the same time.

The solution is often to go back to basics:

  • Switch from a cleansing gel to a cleansing lotion or cleansing balm. Protect your skin by only cleansing with water in the evening. The skin does not have the same cleansing needs in the morning, making it the ideal time to cleanse with micellar water.

  • Use HERO to stabilise the skin’s pH and barrier after contact with water.

  • Avoid skin tonics and toners containing alcohol.

  • Take a break from cleansing masks, scrubs, fruit acid peels, fruit acid serum and salicylic acid until the skin’s balance has been restored. Use a soft, gentle konjac sponge instead to stimulate, exfoliate and make the skin glow.

  • Use nourishing, soothing and moisturising masks and balms at night.

  • Go for hyaluronic acid and other hydration boosters in serums and face creams.

  • Avoid silicones and mineral oils. 

  • Protect and massage the skin with face oil and balms.

As described above, basically the same applies if the skin feels rough and dry. However, the skin often has a greater need for oil and possibly exfoliation rather than hydration. Rough skin lacks stimulation as well as more oil-rich care, and the dry, coarse surface of dead skin cells creates a barrier, blocking the way for creams and oils, and the skin loses its glow.

The solution is often more active skincare:

  • Switch from a cleansing gel to cleansing lotion or cleansing balm and use a konjac sponge with your cleanser to exfoliate and stimulate the skin’s micro-circulation. Protect your skin by only cleansing with water in the evening. The skin is does not have the same cleansing needs in the morning, making it the ideal time to cleanse with micellar water.

  • Use HERO to stabilise the skin’s pH and barrier after contact with water.

  • Avoid skin tonics and toners containing alcohol.

  • Take a break from drying cleansing masks and salicylic acid until the skin’s balance has been restored. 

  • Dry brush daily.

  • Exfoliate the skin 1–2 times a week with a scrub or peel to stimulate, remove dead skin cells and make your skin glow.

  • Apply nourishing moisturising masks 1–2 times a week.

  • Use balms as a moisturising and softening night masks.

  • Go for hydration boosters such as hyaluronic acid, vitamins, lipids and cell accelerating ingredients in serum and face cream. 

  • Avoid silicones and mineral oils.

  • Protect and massage the skin with face oil and balms.

Remember that a new routine takes time. You will not see a major change overnight or after a few days. It takes the skin 4–6 weeks to renew, and you will need to give the new steps in your skincare routine the same time to show an effect.

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Does face creams freeze on the skin in the cold winter weather?

“Is it dangerous to use face cream containing water in the cold?”

Protect your skin from frostnip and thread veins with oil-rich skincare.

The weather you wake up to in the morning is just one of the main factors determining which skincare products you should reach for. The skin has naturally occurring oils which form a protective barrier on the surface, making it almost 100% waterproof. The wind, the cold and the low humidity we experience in the Nordic countries in the winter can weaken the effect of the barrier, allowing moisture to evaporate from the skin – leaving it dehydrated, dry and susceptible to frostnip.

All of this can be prevented by adjusting your skincare products according to the season. Richer creams, face oils and balms are among other things designed to protect the skin and supplement its natural barrier with extra oil. In the winter, you should think of your skin just as you do your body. It needs to be hydrated, kept warm, kept soft and protected. Not everyone likes or benefits from using a heavy oil balm or rich face cream on their skin, which is why a layered solution is ideal for most people.

Start with the products containing water, which are usually the ones that plump the skin with moisture and active ingredients. End with the more oil-rich products to seal in the moisture, soften and protect against dryness, irritation and thread veins. It’s not dangerous to use face cream in frosty weather, and there is no need to avoid face creams containing water, as the water in the creams often has a functional effect helping the active ingredients to be absorbed by the skin. It’s just important to dress your skin in an oil-based “warm winter coat” before heading out in the winter weather. All Karmameju face creams contain plant oils to the degree required by the different skin types and protect against the cold, weather and wind. However, in extreme weather, such as a cold headwind when you’re out on a run or you’re on a skiing holiday, we recommend supplementing your skincare with face oil and balms to prevent frostnip and your skin drying out.

Karmameju’s CALM balm is the ideal barrier cream/cold cream/lipid balm to apply to children’s cheeks in the winter or after exposure to sun.

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Why use face oil, and can you use face oil on breakout-prone skin?

“I have very dry skin, but I also get spots. I think it’s difficult with oils as some people say it’s an absolute no-go for blemished skin, while others recommend certain types, etc. During certain periods when my skin is blemish-free (summer), I can use almond oil or coconut oil without a problem.”

Face oil is like a soft winter coat for the skin, and that goes for blemished skin, too.

Face oil is great for the skin no matter what skin type you have, and oily skin can also benefit from the golden drops. Karmameju’s three face oils are tailored to the skin, giving you exactly the type of oil and ingredients that suit your skin best.

The face oils have a softening, moisturising and protective effect that helps make the skin more resistant to the multiple drying elements of winter. The precious oils preserve the skin’s natural barrier, prevent dehydration and protect the outer blood vessels. Face oil is also essential in direct cold and wind if the skin has a tendency to redness.

So, face oil is not just for dry skin, and there’s no reason to fear oil even if your skin tends to be oily. It often comes down to the correct dosage and just a few drops may be enough. The reason the skin is oily is because the sebaceous glands make too much sebum. By supplementing the skin’s lipid barrier with oil, the skin will no longer need to produce the same amount of sebum, so the right face oil can help balance the skin, leaving it less oily as a result.

We recommend applying the face oil as the last layer, on freshly cleansed skin, on top of the serum and face cream, during the day when you’re heading out into the cold. If you can’t cope with the idea of yet another step in your skincare routine or if you feel that all the layers are too much for you, then a drop or two of oil in your face cream can also make a difference. The oil should not replace your face cream but rather function as your skin’s warm winter coat. Think of the serum as your hydrating cami and the face cream as your skin’s figure-hugging dress.