With the fall in temperatures and humidity and high velocity of wind comes a barrage of problems for the skin. Cold weather and harsh winds (1)(2) cause moisture loss to the skin, (1) leading to dryness, cracking, and irritation.
Winter is a tough time when looking after the skin, especially for those with sensitive skin, and without proper care, it can lead to discomfort.
If you have sensitive skin and want effective care tips in the winter season, this winter skin care guide for sensitive skin is just for you.
Winter Skin Care Routine for Sensitive Skin
Follow these steps and tips to maintain optimum skin health during the cold months.
AM routine for sensitive skin
1. Cleanse your face daily with a calming cleanser
Facial cleansers are usually made of alkaline soaps or synthetic detergents (syndets) that are less barrier damaging than regular soaps. (3)
Fragrance-free, mild, and nonfoaming cleansers are suggested for people with sensitive skin. Gentle facial cleansers are also demonstrated to improve product tolerability in people with sensitive skin while facilitating foaming. (4)
Sensitive skin needs highly effective cleansers that don’t compromise the integrity of the skin barrier, restore the skin barrier, and alleviate skin dryness with moisturizers. (5)
Look for a cleanser with non-aggressive ingredients and even a moisturizing one that can strengthen the skin and not strip its natural oils. (6)
How to apply:
- Keep your hair away from your face to prevent strands from getting in the way of cleansing your face.
- Wash your hands properly to remove impurities or dust from your hands and prevent them from transferring to your face.
- Wet your face with warm water.
- Apply cleanser to your face including your jaw, neck, and hairline. Be gentle around the eye area, and massage your neck and face using the cleanser in small, circular motions.
- Rinse thoroughly so that no trace of the cleanser is left behind.
- Allow your skin to dry.
Lipid-free cleansing lotions with fatty alcohols are best for individuals with dry or sensitive skin in winter. (7)
2. Exfoliate twice a week
Exfoliation is advisable for every skin type as it makes the skin smooth and radiant. (8) It is an essential step for healthy skin, and you need to do it at least 3–4 times a week.
But for irritated skin or sensitive skin, you only need to exfoliate once or twice a week. You can use herbal exfoliants and herbal face scrubs.
Herbal exfoliants are recommended for sensitive skin during winter. They make the skin supple, soft, radiant, and re-energized. They enhance the thickness of the skin, promote collagen production, prevent premature skin aging, and inhibit the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They also help improve the skin texture and prevent acne.
Herbal exfoliants are biodegradable and aid in improving the effects of moisturizers by helping the moisturizer penetrate the skin deeply, (8) especially in sensitive skin.
Herbal face scrubs are safe to use and exfoliate the skin, making it glowing and healthy. Herbal face scrubs are preferred over chemical ones as the former contains natural ingredients, have no side effects, and are safe to use. (9)
Herbal scrubs for sensitive skin
Here are some herbal face scrubs that you can prepare and use at home.
a. Oat scrub
Oatmeal contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, (10) which are beneficial for sensitive skin. Ground oats gently unclog pores, while the saponins in them cleanse and absorb oil and dust.
How to use:
- Add a pinch of the ground oats into the palm of your hand.
- Add water to form a scrub.
- Gently massage your neck and face with the paste.
b. Oil and coffee scrub
Leftover coffee grounds can be used as a scrub all over the body or even on sensitive skin parts, such as the face. Used coffee grounds contain antioxidants and caffeine that leave the skin toned and supple. (9)
How to use:
- Combine coffee grounds and oil (rosehip oil, jojoba oil, or olive oil).
- Apply the mixture to your skin, and leave the mixture on for a few minutes.
- Slightly massage the scrub on your skin, and rinse it off thoroughly after 10 minutes.
Note: Don’t exfoliate if you have wounds, open cuts, or sunburn.
3. Apply a face mask every week
Nothing beats a face mask when you want to relax your sensitive skin. Finding non-irritating and effective face masks might be challenging when dealing with sensitive skin. This is because sensitive skin has various needs than other types of skin.
Look for face masks that contain ingredients such as aloe vera (13) or azelaic acid for sensitive types of skin. Azelaic acid has a low potential for irritation and good profile safety and is great for individuals with sensitive skin during winter. (12)
4. Apply toner
Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, aloe, and rose water are highly beneficial for the skin and work better in a toner for dry, sensitive skin types. These skin-loving ingredients provide the skin with gentle hydration without causing inflammation.
A toner free from alcohol will not aggravate any trouble spots or irritate your sensitive skin. You may choose a toner with hydrating and soothing ingredients to aid your skin in looking clearer and fresher.
You can apply a witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) water toner. It has an antioxidant (14) and astringent nature, which is an advantage for those with blistered or cracked skin, eczema, and psoriasis. (15)
5. Use a moisturizer/gel after toning
Moisturizers are topically applied products designed to increase the water content of the skin. (16) The primary function of a moisturizer is to suppress moisture loss. (17) Thus, it is highly recommended to use a moisturizer in winter if you have sensitive skin.
You can use an oatmeal (Avena sativa) lotion as a moisturizer. One research showed that oatmeal lotion has demonstrated clinical improvements in skin rashes, skin dryness, eczema, (18) and moisturization.
Oat avenanthramides are well-recognized for suppressing histamine release (which causes allergic reactions and sensitivity), plumping up the skin, restoring the skin’s natural barrier, and decreasing wrinkles. (16)
Look for products that contain oats and witch hazel (14) as a moisturizer.
6. Apply sunscreen
Yes, you still have to wear sunscreen in winter to increase the tolerance of your sensitive skin to UV rays. (19) Even in winter, UV rays are ready to strike your skin.
AK-UV sunscreen cream that contains glycoceramide is helpful for people with sensitive skin. In addition, it has hypo-allergic and hypo-irritant properties that are beneficial for sensitive skin and atopic dermatitis. (20)
Moreover, individuals with sensitive skin are prone to rosacea and psoriasis. So, winter sunscreen is helpful for them.
An SPF 50+ broad-spectrum sunscreen with high protection from UVA is advisable for photo-aggravated types of psoriasis. (21) It eliminates widespread inflammation in the form of erythema and skin exfoliation. (22) Rosacea-prone type of sensitive skin needs high-SPF moisturizers. (23)
Apply sunscreen before going outside. It takes 20 minutes for the skin to absorb the sunscreen. If you wait till you are in the sun to apply sunscreen, your skin can still burn as it is unprotected.
How to apply:
- Take the needed amount of sunscreen on your fingertips.
- Apply it from your neck up to your hairline and the back of your head in upward strokes.
PM routine for sensitive skin
1. Remove makeup before going to bed
Leaving makeup on your face overnight can result in rashes, puffiness, and other skin problems. Moreover, the artificial fragrances and colors from the makeup can lead to allergic conditions.
Use micellar water. It is a cleansing formula that is good for sensitive skin types because of its low irritation potential and ability to improve moisturization. It is a face-cleansing formula that is gaining popularity for cleaning and light removal of makeup. It has been shown to quickly increase the hydration of the skin. (24)
How to use:
- Moisten a cotton pad with micellar water.
- Wipe the moist cotton pad across your face gently.
- Wash your face with a cleanser, and apply a toner.
2. Apply night creams after toning
Apply a night cream that is specifically formulated for sensitive skin. Prefer night creams that contain herbal ingredients such as coconut oil, rosewater, almond oil, and witch hazel. (14)
You can also make your night cream:
- Soak almonds overnight. The next morning, peel them and grind them to make a smooth paste.
- Add 1–2 drops of coconut oil, 1 spoonful of witch hazel powder, and rose water to form a scrubby paste.
- Blend until it gets smooth.
- Store this cream in a container.
- Use it every night.
Note: If skin irritation occurs, stop using this cream.
What Is Sensitive Skin?
Sensitive skin is an unpleasant sensory response to some environmental, genetic, or individual issues, it can also be a reaction to any irritant(s). Sensitive skin could be characterized by a tingling feeling, pain, stinging, pruritus, and burning sensations in response to stimuli that must not provoke any sensations.
Sensitive skin will impact all areas of the body, especially the face. (28)
Symptoms of sensitive skin include:
- Dry skin that may blister, crack, or bleed
- Skin that burns or stings
- Skin redness with or without swelling
- Itchiness and redness on the skin (29)
- Hives or rashes
- Patches of skin that feel hard, leathery, and dry (30)
Essential Winter Care Tips for Sensitive Skin
If you have sensitive skin, the first thing to do is to avoid problem triggers. Follow these sensitive skin care tips and tricks:
- Eliminate hot showers. Hot showers or water baths increase the risk of eruptions, pain, or itching on the skin. (31)
- Avoid perfumes.
- Choose a face wash, body wash, moisturizer, and sunscreen formulated for sensitive skin. Individuals who have sensitive skin must use mild cleaning agents. (7)
- Do not use scented laundry detergents and beauty products. Scented products contain low-molecular-weight chemicals that can induce skin sensitization at a particular level of exposure and can lead to allergic contact dermatitis. (32)
- Apply moisturizer daily to prevent dry skin. (7)
- Use lipid-free cleansing lotions that contain fatty alcohols as these are suitable for individuals with dry or sensitive skin. (7)
What Conditions Can Aggravate Sensitive Skin?
- Irritant contact dermatitis: It is a common condition affecting sensitive skin. It can lead to eczematous inflammatory skin disease, which causes itchy and dry patches on the skin. Signs of irritant contact dermatitis include itching, soreness, stinging, burning, and pain. (33)
- Allergic contact dermatitis: It is a common skin disease that results from exposure to chemicals or objects from skin care or other products. (34)
- Eczema, also well-recognized as atopic dermatitis: It is a chronic skin condition that leads to poor or bad quality of life and recurrent infections if left untreated. (35)
The skin becomes sensitive with changes in the weather and temperature, which lead to skin irritation in the form of skin roughness, itchiness, and dryness.
A proper morning and nighttime routine of moisturizing, cleansing, toning, and applying sunscreen is necessary to maintain skin health and prevent damage to sensitive skin in the winter season.
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