Winter Is Coming: How to Change Up Your Skincare for the Season

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It’s peak Pumpkin Spice Latte season but early forecasts predict Polar Vortex 2: Electric Boogaloo and the time to address seasonal dry skin issues is now, not the middle of December when your car is buried under five feet of snow and your plans for the day are “huddle in a ball and hate everything.” Plus, by the time winter rolls around, you’ll be so sick of winter skincare articles that you’re not going to even want to read them.


Ditch the Harsh Crap

A lot of mass skincare products are way too fucking harsh and brag about their “oil-free” formulas and “deep-cleansing” properties which can irritate and dry out your skin. Your skin should not be squeaky clean that it feels tight. Use a gentle cleanser that removes dirt, oil and makeup without making your skin feel, tight or tingly (that “tingle” you feel is actually your skin being irritated). Some cleansers to try are Boscia’s Tsubaki Cleansing Oil-Gel, CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser and Yes To Blueberries Smoothing Facial Cleanser and Cleansing Facial Wipes. Whether you exfoliate physically (with a facial scrub) or chemically (with BHA or AHA products like St. Ives Gentle Exfoliating Pads with lactic acid), only do so a few times a week as over exfoliating can royally piss off your skin.

Acid With A Side of Nightmare Fuel

Hyaluronic acid is one of my favorite products to increase moisture in fall and winter. This molecule can hold over one thousand times its weight in water and is highly absorbent. I add Hada Labo’s Replenishing Hydrator to my regular moisturizer every morning and night, and I use Dr. Jart’s Water Fuse Hydrogel Mask once a week or so usually late at night when I’m working on Autostraddle articles. Sheet masks have become more popular in recent years and you can find a variety of masks touting different skincare benefits at varying price points. The Dr. Jart one is my favorite because it comes in two pieces, allowing for a more comfortable fit.

One piece goes on your forehead…


The other piece goes over your the rest of your face…


And ta-da! You keep it on your face for 30-45 minutes, which is plenty of time to freak out your pets/roomates/significant others.


The Bisexuals Come Out At Night, coming to theatres this Halloween.

After you’re done fueling nightmares, you’re left with soft skin, and a nice glow the morning after.

Fear No Oil

When it gets drier and colder, I’ll switch up my skincare routine and apply my Daily Hydrator first, and then use Natalie Dee’s “mashed potatoes” method to moisturize. Adding a face oil to your moisturizer creates a nice protective barrier between your face and the elements and keeps moisture locked in. If you have sensitive skin be sure to patch test before adding an oil to your routine. Argan, rosehip, and seaberry oils are the most popular and you can find them for a decent price at most health food retailers.

You Still Need To Wear Some Fucking Sunscreen

Days may be shorter but you still need to wear sunscreen every day. No exceptions. By sunscreen, I mean “a topical broad spectrum sunscreen that is at least SPF 30” — NOT “a foundation or BB cream with SPF” and DEFINITELY NOT “a homemade sunscreen made off of a Pinterest recipe.” Recently the US Senate passed the Sunscreen Innovation Act which would essentially give the FDA a quick kick in the pants to fast-track the approval of new sunscreen actives — many of which have been languishing in FDA hell for more than ten years. While I’m excited for the possibility of new sunscreen actives, it’s a sad state of affairs when basic sunscreen regulations can pass through Clowngress more quickly than any legislation involving reproductive justice or protections for the LGBT community.

Switch Up Your Makeup

While matte foundations are a godsend in hot humid weather, they can dry out skin (and look weird) in winter. Use more sheer liquid bases in winter or try mixing in a little moisturizer or illuminator into your foundation. Think “shimmery ice queen” rather than “matte ice vampire.”

Okay, not the first result for "shimmery ice queen" but definitely the queerest.

Okay, not the first result for “shimmery ice queen” but definitely the queerest.

And that’s it! Keeping your skin hydrated during winter isn’t that hard once you get settled into a routine that works for you, but don’t tell that to all of the fashion and beauty publications that will be posting multiple dry skin stories from now until Easter. Feel free to post your favorite WINTER IS COMING skincare products and rituals in the comments!

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Elena is a recovering actor living in West Michigan, by way of Missouri and Savannah, Georgia. When she isn't selling dad clothes, you can find her on the Internet (mostly Tumblr), buying too much lipstick, and reading comics. Catch up with her on Instagram.

Elena has written 4 articles for us.


  1. If I’m allowed to do a little advertising here, my awesome little company Coast & Clearing makes vegan bath products including salt & sugar scrubs that have a mixture of apricot and sunflower oils; they’re quickly absorbed into the skin and balance moisture, as well as providing great nutrients [vitamins A, D, & E]. Pure oils are also really great at removing most kinds of makeup. You can look for me at
    People forget this, but **drinking enough water** is one of the most important things you can do [all year long] to help your skin. You gotta moisturize from the inside first if you want a fighting chance at changing surface-level discomfort of any kind longterm.

    • OMFG you just reminded that it’s Bûche de Noël time again! Better stock up – it’s my favorite cleanser/exfoliant.

      I’m also terribly in love with Clarins Rebalancing Oils. I’m using the Lotus Face TX Oil for combo skin, but there’s Santal for Dry skin and Blue Orchid for Normal skin. I use 2 drops AM/PM and it should last me through winter and then some!

  2. As a person who has had “stigmata hands” in winter those little 3oz air travel safe lotion containers are my salvation. They fit in coat pockets, my winter pants’ pockets, the few purses I own, and are easy enough to fish out of a tote back or a pull string backpack.

    I’ve heard of CeraVe.
    Some of my relations use it, but I still use Cetaphil’s moisturizing lotion.
    In summer I put it on my hands about 5 days a week and in winter I try for twice a day everyday. And after a hot bath or something I use it all over cept for my face which I kinda neglect all year round. I’ll remember to use the Cetaphil facial cleanser and the facial moisturizer for maybe a solid week and that’s about it.

    Okay a good behaviour is my use of gloves when it is cold. Those convertible mittens with the gloved fingers on the inside are the best after nice formfitting leather gloves, unless you live where there is snow I have heard. In my few forays into frozen postcard hell I wore all the snow gear, underpants, fleecy jammies and made vows to never return. I see snow and my brain goes: No, no, no.

    tl;dr 3oz lotion containers are great

    • I got a bunch of L’Occitane mini hand creams as a Sephora bonus gift and you’ve reminded me to put them in my purse!

      • Skin care is one the few situations hoarding like squirrel is the right choice y’all.

        That reminds me real tip not awkward rambling:
        If winter is a matter of life or bleeding cracked skin find yourself a reputable lotion you know works for you and buy it in bulk form with the pump (if possible) to refill your 3oz lotion bottles.

  3. Great info on winter skin care! One thing we like to emphasize is sunscreen in the winter. So many folks assume you don’t need it but it couldn’t be further from the truth. As Elena alludes to, year round sunscreen is a must. In fact, we have an article on why sunscreen in the winter is critical: Things like you can actually get double exposure due to reflection off snow and ice plus UVA rays are the same strength throughout the year.

    Anyway, thanks Elena – really good thoughts for taking care of your skin in the winter.

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