How To Remedy Even The Worst Winter Breakouts

For those with acne problems, summer is the most dreaded time of the year. Rising temperatures combined with humidity lead to more perspiration and oil production in the skin, causing clogged pores and breakouts. For some people, however, winter is the time of the year when they experience the worst breakouts. According to a study published in the Journal of Dermatology, 11.35% out of 452 people with acne issues being polled found their skin condition exacerbated in winter.

Winter can be the culprit behind comedones and acne flare-ups as a result of bacterial and immune system shifts, says Dr. Adam Friedman, a professor of dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (via Time Magazine). During the colder months of the year, the amount of moisture in the air decreases. Combined with the dry air of an indoor heating system, it provides an atmosphere in which we struggle to keep sufficient skin hydration. When our skin becomes overly dry, our bodies respond by creating extra sebum, which clogs pores and produces acne. As a result, pimples are as common during the dry season as they are during the hot season. With that in mind, we've rounded up some tips to help you stay on top of your breakouts during winter.

Exfoliate to buff away dead skin cells

By breaking down dead skin cells and accumulated impurities from the skin surface to reveal a new layer of skin, exfoliation is "the cornerstone of acne treatment," says Dr. Jeffrey Zwerner, a senior medical advisor of dermatology at Teladoc. Exfoliating your skin more regularly during the dry months of the year, regardless of your skin type, can also help your skincare products absorb the skin more effectively. Dr. Zwerner recommends using products that contain ingredients with powerful exfoliating effects like retinol, retinoid, or salicylic acid.

According to Jeni Montoya, an educator at Heyday Skincare, the recommended frequency to exfoliate is about three times per week. Those with sensitive skin shouldn't go past the two-times-per-week mark. Additionally, Montoya emphasizes that excessive exfoliating can irritate skin and leave it in worse shape than when you began, advising against exfoliating more than four times per week. Also, remember that exfoliation always comes directly after your cleanser and should be used in the evening only as your skin becomes more sensitive to the sun after exfoliation. After every exfoliation, make sure to add a layer of calming moisturizer.

Wash your face no more than twice a day and moisturize daily

According to LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, you shouldn't wash your face more than twice a day during winter, because excessive facial cleansing can cause dryness and irritation. At the same time, refrain from washing your face or showering with water that is too hot or with harsh soap to avoid stripping the skin of moisturizing oils needed to keep it hydrated. Warm water is the better choice for wintertime skin protection while keeping you comfortable.

At the same time, remember to moisturize your skin after a facial cleanse or exfoliation when it's still damp to help it retain moisture and prevent dryness. Moisturizing is essential to lock in moisture to keep your skin hydrated. Therefore, make a point of moisturizing your skin during winter, regardless of your skin type. If you have oily and acne-prone skin, opt for a moisturizer that doesn't clog pores, Dr. Rebecca Bialas tells The Manual. If you have facial hair, Dr. Bialas recommends using a lightweight moisturizer or facial oil, like Fur Oil, which helps reduce ingrown hair while smoothing skin. For those with dry skin or aging skin, petroleum-based products such as Vaseline, Aquaphor, and Eucerin, can help restore your skin's natural level of moisture and plumpness. Just as importantly, drink enough water during winter to keep your body warm and comfortable.

Cut down on retinol

Because of its pore-unclogging and collagen-boosting capabilities, retinol is a highly sought-after component in skincare products. However, you might want to ease up on this powerhouse ingredient once winter sets in. Despite its numerous benefits for the skin, retinol is harsh and able to cause irritation and redness, especially when you're using it for the first time, dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman warns (via Sunday Riley). Besides, retinol can trigger a side effect known as "skin purging" where increased cell turnover facilitates oil production in the skin's surface, leading to clogged pores and breakouts, he says.

To safely incorporate retinol into your winter beauty regimen, consider alternate day applications instead of daily and add a thick layer of moisturizer two hours later, per First Derm. It's worth noting that retinol is best applied at night because sunlight can compromise its efficacy. When you go outside, slather on sunscreen to protect your skin from photodamage and aging.

Invest in a humidifier

Dry skin is associated with low humidity levels, and using a humidifier to raise humidity levels can make the skin more hydrated. Per a study published in the medical journal Clinics in Dermatology, when the level of humidity drops below 10%, it can cause the outer layers of skin on older persons to become dry, while humidity levels higher than 70% can hydrate skin. Since we tend to get cooped up indoors most of the time during winter with thermostats on, it's not a bad idea to humidify the room with a humidifier to keep the skin from drying out.

A device that increases humidity in a room, a humidifier lets out cool mist and adds moisture to the air, which helps to keep your skin and hair moist. Using a humidifier can help with dryness-induced conditions including cracked lips, weak hair, itchy skin, and severe allergies, dermatologist Marina Peredo tells Real Simple. However, Dr. Peredo also notes that while humidifiers can help lock in moisture to a certain extent, they cannot replace your daily skincare routine. "Using creams and moisturizers daily is still important to draw moisture back into the skin," she adds.

Make dietary changes

Harsh winter weather can do a number on your immune system and your skin. Sometimes, moisturizing and exfoliating aren't enough to restore healthy summer radiance to your skin. Therefore, you might need to make a few seasonal changes to your diet to keep your skin healthy from the inside. The rule of thumb for eating healthily during winter is to steer clear of processed and sugary foods, which can lead to acne, dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Chwalek tells InStyle.

Instead, prioritize foods that truly benefit your skin. Olive oil, which is rich in fatty acids and vitamins A and E, contains emollient properties that keep the skin hydrated and retain its flexibility. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, which protect the skin from free radicals and discoloration. Seafood species that are loaded with vitamin D like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines, also aid in nourishing and hydrating your skin during winter months. If you're a salad aficionado, consider adding carrots to your daily menu. Containing the antioxidant beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, and lycopene, carrots can help shield your skin against UV damage, says dermatologist Kenneth Howe (via The Healthy).

Colder months might not go easy on your skin, but you can winter-proof your skin and keep it healthy by incorporating some easy tweaks to your skincare and dietary routine.