10 Skin Conditions That Pop Up in Winter—And How to Fix Them

Alle Connell
winter skin

Photo: Hero Images/Getty

Seasonal skin conditions are the bane of our existence—and as we creep towards winter, we’re naturally bracing ourselves for the onslaught of winter complexion issues. But you’re not doomed to six straight months of itchy skin, chapped lips and flaky locks; not when we’ve got your back. Here are 10 common skin conditions that pop up in winter—as well as how you can beat them

1. Dry skin.
Winter air can be especially harsh—which is murder for those of us who already have naturally dry skin. Dry skin naturally produces less sebum, your skin’s natural lubricant, and so it often feels parched…especially in winter. To combat this, make sure you choose a moisturizer that’s extra-rich; slathering your face in night cream, even during the day, is usually a pretty safe bet. These creams are usually oil-based, which is exactly what dry skin needs to lock in the limited amount of sebum they create.

2. Dehydrated skin.
Dryness and dehydration aren’t synonyms—they actually refer to two totally different skin conditions. Dry skin is a skin type, and occurs when your sebaceous glands don’t produce enough oil to keep your skin properly lubricated. Dehydrated skin doesn’t always feel flaky or itchy—it can even feel oily—but it’s effectively stripped of all its naturally occurring sebum, which leads to skin that feels tight or even extra greasy. To counter this, lay off the exfoliation and harsh cleansers immediately and embrace gentle products instead. Check with your dermatologist to find out what’s going to work best for you; we’ve seen great results from using SkinCeuticals Epidermal Repair Moisturizer ($69, SkinCeuticals). Not only does it give us a much-needed dose of hydration, it also helps reduce irritation and redness. Talk about your multitasker!

3. Chapped skin.
If you spend a lot of time outside in the bitter cold, chapped cheeks can be the result. A painful combination of dehydration, sun exposure and windburn, chapped skin is the actual worst. As with many skin conditions, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure—and there’s no better way to prevent chapping than with Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($4.79, Drugstore). Smear this on any exposed skin during those cold winter days (some dermatologists say to avoid the eye area, while others say it’s fine—proceed with caution anyway) and face the frozen landscape with supreme confidence!

4. Keratosis Pilaris breakouts.
If you have KP, you know that the changing temperatures can wreak havoc on your skin. Suddenly, even clear arms and legs can be covered in red, lumpy “chicken skin”—so not cute. If you notice your condition getting seriously worse, see your doctor right away—otherwise, remain vigilant with your usual gentle exfoliation and double your moisturization efforts. If you aren’t already using a lotion with lactic acid, get on that immediately; we can’t get enough of Amlactin ($11.99, Drugstore). The smell can be a little odd, but it’s worth powering through; it really helps clear and smooth skin beautifully.

5. Oily skin.
If too much of your skin’s natural sebum has been cleansed away, your glands will start overproducing oil to compensate—which is why so many people get oiler than a piece of pizza in the fall and winter. Though “clarifying” skin toners get really popular starting in November, we recommend using gentle, hydrating products that encourage your skin to remain balanced, rather than focusing on simply removing oil from the surface. A great toner like Son & Park Beauty Water ($30, Soko Glam) is a truly fantastic place to start—we’ve seen a massive improvement in our skin since using this product.

6. Chapped lips.
For too many people, painfully peeling lips are just a natural part of winter—but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are, surprisingly, about a million things that actually cause chapped lips, but once you’ve identified what’s causing your kisser situation, you’ll be able to take steps to fix it.

7. Red nose.
It seems really unfair that the common cold doesn’t just make us feel like crap—all that nose-blowing makes our face look like hell, too. That’s right: winter means the famous chapped red nose of the permanently sniffly. To remedy your Rudolph situation, we like to apply some lip balm to the afflicted areas of our nose, which helps your skin hold onto the moisture the tissues are wiping away. We recommend Rosebud Salve ($6, Sephora), which is not just soothing but lightly scented as well. You know, on the off chance you can smell anything.

8. Dry hands and feet.
Your hands and feet have fewer sebaceous glands than the rest of your skin, which means that they’re prone to getting dry. Combine with the fact that they’re often taking the bunt of the chilly temperatures—even in boots, it sucks walking through snow—and it’s a recipe for winter dryness galore. The best way to deal with this is to get regular manicures and pedicures, and treat your appendages every day with a hydrating lotion like Aveda Hand Relief ($24, Aveda). Slater this on your hands and feet (then cover the latter in socks) before you go to bed, and wake up with practically winterproof fingers and toes.

9. Dry cuticles.
Nails often bear the brunt of cold weather, and there’s nothing that makes us feel worse than a handful of peeling, painful cuticles. Fortunately, the addition of some lovely cuticle oil massaged into your fingers morning and night can make all the difference—Sally Hansen Cuticle Oil ($6.99, Ulta) contains heaps of vitamin E to help repair even the most tortured fingertips and doesn’t leave a gross, greasy residue behind.

10. Dandruff.
Hey, your scalp is still skin—and a flaky scalp becomes exponentially more likely to occur in fall and winter. Dandruff’s causes are many and varied: it can be the way your scalp is made (and the cold, dry air makes it worse), irritation caused by too-tight hats or product buildup. If you notice you’re losing a lot of hair in addition to dealing with flakes, see your doctor—otherwise work an anti-dandruff shampoo into your haircare routine, focusing mainly on your scalp. We love Phyto’s Phytheol Intense Anti-Dandruff Shampoo ($24, Sephora), which not only helps soothe our scalp, it’s also safe for colored hair and smells amazing.

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