What can I do about unhappy winter skin?

Treating winter skin: Part 1

How does my skin change in the winter?

It’s natural for our skin to change in the winter, but it can be hard to understand these changes and to maintain balance as our skin responds. As the outdoor environment grows more harsh with winter winds, we also turn up the dry indoor heat, tend to drink less water, and take hotter showers. This can cause a confusing environment for the uniquely delicate ecosystem your skin maintains to stay vibrant. Your skin needs to be eased into changes –– and when you treat it with care, it will thank you in response with a healthy, glowing complexion.

Winter weather and your skin

This month, we’re introducing a new blog series that explores the way our skin responds to winter weather. With in-depth explanations and solutions for winter skin and common concerns like rosacea and acne, we’ll help you set your skin up for success this winter.

Do I need to change how I care for my skin in colder weather?

In the same way that we bundle up in coats and mittens when the snow starts falling, it’s important to make changes to how we care for our skin as well. As humans we modify our winter environments to suit our needs; instead of being caught out in the cold we benefit from indoor heating, hot drinks, heated car seats and other adaptations to help us brave the coldest months of the year. But in addition to natural environmental changes, all these self-imposed changes can affect our skin as well.

Common winter skin concerns

Here are a few of the changes you can expect from your skin in the winter, and what you can do about it.

Dry, itchy skin

This is the most common and obvious complaint we hear from patients about winter skin. Most people will experience dry, tight, skin as the weather gets colder. This is just as much about the elements as it is the dry, indoor heating systems and lifestyle changes that start when the temperature drops. You may also notice more extreme responses to dryness, like cracks in the skin on your fingers, hands or feet when skin gets thirsty. Prevention and care are important in protecting and treating dry skin.

What can I do about dry winter skin?

Many of us naturally gravitate towards hotter showers or long baths when the weather gets colder. Make sure you’re balancing these changes by supporting your skin with regular gentle exfoliation and hydrating care. Try to limit the length or temperature of hot showers, and use gentle cleansers that won’t strip skin of essential moisture. Introduce hydrating serums and avoid dry indoor environments.


When the skin’s moisture balance is interrupted, skin can become irritated and dry, naturally responding with inflammation and swelling. Inflammation is also linked to dry skin and winter weather. The dry indoor heating systems in our cars, workplaces, and homes can cause imbalance and stress in our skin, causing inflammation. Cold harsh winds can shock skin and cause inflammation as a natural, emergency response. The social and environmental changes that winter brings can also exacerbate stress, which is linked to inflammation.

What can I do about inflamed winter skin?

Preventing inflammation is partly linked to the moisture in our skin, so prevention includes maintaining a healthy moisture barrier and to stay hydrated. Hydration is an important way of managing inflammation; both in drinking enough water and hydrating skin with medical-grade skincare that helps keep a healthy moisture balance and skin barrier. 

Listen to your skin as the weather changes, and make note of when you notice inflammation –like the first time you turn on the heating in the car, or after longer, hotter showers. By noticing how your skin responds to changes, you’ll be better informed to respond wisely to what it’s telling you. Once you observe what seems to aggravate inflammation in your skin, try introducing supplements, hydrating serums, cooler showers, or drinking more water. Inflammation is also a response to stress; so make sure you’re sleeping enough and consider introducing stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and regular days off of work. 

Vitamin D deficiency in winter

Commonly called the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is an important tool when it comes to protecting and maintaining the skin’s barriers and defenses, including the immune response our skin has to inflammation. A vitamin D deficiency could exacerbate symptoms of rosacea and eczema. In Toronto, we’re lucky to have sunny winters (keep wearing your sunscreen!) But most of us are still spending more time inside as the weather gets colder, and may be more prone to eating less healthy meals. A deficiency in vitamin D ––and other vitamins and nutrients–– could make your skin more vulnerable to imbalance and inflammation.

What can I do to give my winter skin enough vitamin D?

There are three main sources for vitamin D: sunshine, diet, and supplements. Foods like cod liver oil, cheese, egg yolks, salmon, mackerel, and tuna are high in vitamin D. Some foods like orange juice or yogurt are fortified with vitamin D, and supplements are readily available too. Eat balanced, colorful meals rich in vitamins and full of fruits and vegetables.

More winter skin tips coming up

Later this month, we’ll start our winter skin series with a focus on rosacea symptoms. Even though summer weather is a big trigger for rosacea, winter elements can cause flare-ups too. Our winter rosacea blog will help you prevent, treat, and combat rosacea all winter long.