Routines Skincare

Morning Skincare for Winter-Worn Skin

Winter is here in full force, and perhaps the biggest skin care challenge in winter is keeping skin hydrated. In my house, we’re running the heater full time which completely dries out the air and also my skin. Dry, dehydrated skin can feel tight and itchy, can be more easily damaged, and seldom looks its best. Lack of moisture in the skin or a damaged moisture barrier can make skin appear dull, sullen, or papery, and the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles is often enhanced.

And yes, even those with oily or combination skin can suffer dry, dehydrated skin in the winter, which is why switching up your normal routine when the weather gets cold and heaters suck the air dry is so important. So even though I have a routine that works well for me most of the year, right now is the time to switch things up, maximize the water I put into my skin, and choose richer oils than I normally would.

The following morning routine is a great way to start the new year on the right foot and create and maintain hydrated, healthy skin in wicked winter weather.

  • Low pH cleanser. Choose a low pH cleanser to protect your skin’s moisture barrier (which can be vulnerable in winter), making it easier for you to stay hydrated.
  • Hydrating toner/Essence/Serum: A good hydrating toner and/or essence adds immediate hydration and prepares your skin to absorb moisture better. Essence can also deliver key ingredients that improve skin’s appearance. In winter, I prefer serums that aid in repairing the moisture barrier and that increase my skin’s natural glow.
  • Moisturizer and Oil: Lock in all that great hydration with an occlusive moisturizer. Oils also help lock in moisture and are incredibly important to overall skin health. In winter, I prefer oleic acids rich in antioxidants.
  • Sunscreen. I don’t care if you can’t see the sun. It sees you. Put your sunscreen on.

Lately, these are the products I find myself choosing these winter mornings. For the most part I’ll list a couple choices at different price points.

Low-pH Cleanser Options

Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser

Coming in with a skin-happy pH of 5.5, the Beste No 9 Jelly Cleanser from Drunk Elephant is my current favorite cleanser. It lathers up beautifully, has no fragrance to irritate sensitive types, and leaves my skin feeling clean and fresh but never tight or dry.



CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

For a no-frills cleanser that won’t strip your skin and even contains skin-loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser is kind of the gold standard. It has no fragrance and doesn’t lather much making it a great choice for sensitive skin.


Toner Options

Whamisa Organic Flowers Deep Rich

The Whamisa Organic Flowers Deep Rich is a Korean toner with a bouncy, silken texture that hydrates without leaving the skin sticky. It absorbs very quickly, and has only a very light scent. Rich in fermented botanical extracts, this is also a great choice for green beauty lovers.



Klair’s Supple Preparation Toner

Korean beauty really gets hydrating toners, and the Klairs Supple Preparation Toner is a fantastic addition to any skincare program. Suitable for all skin types, the Klairs toner is lightweight, fragrance free, and leaves skin supple and well hydrated. One of the best out there.




Cosrx Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence

The CosRX Snail Mucin Power Essence is a cult favorite among K-Beauty fans, and it’s not wonder why. This essence is inexpensive, very hydrating, non-sticky, and continued use leaves skin very soft with reduced redness and roughness. It’s wonderful on damaged or irritated skin. Yes, it’s made with actual snail slime.



Serum Options (Choose one or both)

Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum

The star ingredients are olive-derived squalane and Viniferene, derived from grapevine sap, which supposedly reduces  dark spots. While I can’t attest to the latter, I can say that the Vinoperfect Radiance Serum leaves the skin radiant, glowing, and bright. I noticed its effects the first time I tried it, and it’s become a staple in my routine.



Dr. Jart Ceramidin Liquid

Ceramides are “skin identical” lipids found in our skin that  create a waterproof layer, preventing skin from losing too much moisture. We lose ceramides as we age, making skin vulnerable to dryness, wrinkles, and even infection. This ceramide replacement liquid is non-sticky, very hydrating, has no fragrance, and is miraculous on dry, irritated skin.


Moisturizer Options


Lala Retro Whipped Cream

This luscious cream from Drunk Elephant is a miracle. Its light, whipped texture is deceiving: containing six different oils, this cream is actually quite a heavy hitter against winter dryness. It is rich in both fatty acids and antioxidants, both big contributors to long-term skin health. Even combination-oily folks will likely have success with this unscented, non-greasy delight.



First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration

This is another whipped cream providing deep hydration even for the driest, flakiest, more sensitive skin. The Ultra Repair Cream contains ceramides for moisture barrier repair, shea butter for moisturizing, and colloidal oatmeal for soothing. Its a lovely, rich occlusive that delivers skin-saving ingredients while trapping water in the skin, keeping it soft, supple, and smooth.



Acure Argan & Rosehip Oils

Argan and rosehip oils are great choices for mature skin: they are rich in both oleic fatty acids and antioxidants. They’re a powerful defense against winter dryness, however, they might be too rich for acne-prone, sensitive, or oily skin. If you fall into one of those camps, try an oil with linoleic fatty acids, like Tarte’s Maracuja oil.




Biore Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50

Nobody does sunscreen as well as the Japanese, and this Japanese sunscreen is my all-time favorite. Lightweight, non-greasy, doesn’t leave a white cast (even on darker skin tones), and not too expensive. It does contain alcohol, so it can be a little drying, but with a hydration-heavy skin routine, the tradeoff should be worth it.


And that’s it! With consistent, daily use, your skin will weather the winds and ravages of winter beautifully. What are your favorite products to use in winter, and what new items have you got your eye on?


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