Winter Skin Care: 8 Step Routine for Dry Skin

Female with facial cosmetic mask
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
winter dry skin fix

Is your skin as dry as the f-ing Sahara? Ugh. I know the feeling. Looking all scale-y and snake-y sucks. (Not to mention trying to apply makeup on top of dry skin is a literal nightmare.)

Wow, I’m FIRED up about this topic aren’t I? Without further ado, my 10-step plan to battling Sahara face. You can thank me later.

How to Get Rid of Dry Skin in Winter


This might seem counter-intuitive, because why would you want to scrub a face that’s already dry, right? Wrong.

Dry skin = dead skin, and you MUST get the dead stuff off in order to “start over.”

Plus, if your face is covered in dead dry patches of skin, how can you expect your moisturizer to actually penetrate and do its job?

(Editor’s note: if your skin feels raw or extremely sensitive/irritated, speak to a dermatologist before following any of the below advice please!)

Also: play close attention to the corners of your nose. That area tends to get extra dry, and is often overlooked when exfoliating.

As I’ve mentioned 9 million times, my favorite exfoliant is Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Pads. If you know, you know.

One more thing on the topic of exfoliation: you guys are aware that there are two different kinds of exfoliating right? Here’s the difference between “physical” exfoliation and “chemical” exfoliation.

  • Physical comes in the form of scrubs (the ones with little beads that you physically feel sloughing off dead skin)
  • Chemical comes in the form of chemicals (which remove your dead skin without you really realizing it.) Peel pads fall into the chemical category. Here’s a list of some other exfoliating faves.

Often, dermatologists will say they aren’t big fans of physical because scrubs can be too harsh and abrasive. But to each their own.

If you’re going to go with physical, be gentle. Scrubbing aggressively can cause tiny tears and ruptures in the dermis…and no one has time for that.

And, an important note! As great as exfoliation can be, a little goes a long way. I would suggest exfoliating 2-3 times a week to avoid damaging your moisture barrier.


If you’ve been using a strong glycolic or retinol serum for anti-aging, you might want to take it down a notch during the winter. Or try using it every other night.

Skin can be super sensitive this time of year, so consider giving yourself a break.

A great option to use instead is a hyaluronic acid serum, which doesn’t have any “active” ingredients but essentially works as a magnet for moisture, helping your skin stay as hydrated and plump-looking as possible.

(For the record, I’m OK with you continuing to use your vitamin C serum underneath your HA serum—just make sure that you’re moisturizing.)

As far as HA’s go, I like this one from L’Oreal because the price is friendly but it still packs a hydrating punch. (I actually went to the launch of the product and heard from a bunch of high-profile derms who vouched for its effectiveness.)

I’m also a big fan of this one by Bliss, which is available at Target, and this one by The Ordinary that is somehow, miraculously, under $10. Unclear how/why it’s so inexpensive, but I’ve used it many times and actually love it.

And if you don’t mind splurging, one of the absolute best HA serums is this one from Skinceuticals. It’s a HOLY GRAIL, game changer etc etc. You can take my word for it…or just read the reviews.


The moisture barrier does not get the press it deserves. As the outermost layer of the skin, the moisture barrier helps retain water and moisture and defends against external irritants that can cause damage to the skin.

In short, a happy moisture barrier means happy skin. But a damaged skin barrier (which can be caused by over-exfoliation, sun exposure, dry climates, etc.), means dehydrated, dry, rough skin.

It’s important to give your moisture barrier a little extra loving during those dry, cold, winter months. Add a barrier-repairing serum to your routine to keep the barrier in tip top shape.

I like this one from Krave (my assistant editor is obsessed—you can read her review here).


First Aid Beauty - Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream with Peptides and Niacinamide 1.7 oz/ 50 mL

Take a look at the moisturizer you’ve been using at night. Is it thick and creamy, or is it lightweight with a gel-like consistency? If the latter, it’s time to swap ASAP.

Below are a few of my favorites for night time during the winter.

If you have the funds and can swing it, I really do LOVE La Mer Soft Cream (go for the mini tub which retails at $90) and La Prairie Skin Caviar. The consistency and texture is hard to compare to anything else.

Otherwise, Elemis Marine Cream is fantastic (still pricey, but less so), as well as Sunday Riley Ice Ceramide Moisturizing Cream.

A newer favorite is the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream. It’s similar to the brand’s best-selling original Ultra Repair Cream, but it has some added anti-aging benefits (and who doesn’t love that?!)

Another obsession of mine is the Dr. Jart Ceramidin Moisturizing Cream.

It’s SO GOOD. Didn’t even realize it had such a cult following until I posted it on my IG story and got a flood of DMs about it.

They recently reformulated and apparently it’s now even better than it was before. Love the fact that it’s in a tube, and also that it’s REALLY rich and hydrating but not greasy at all.


A cream and an oil? You heard that right. I like to layer a few drops of oil on top of my night cream in the winter as a way to “seal it in.”

No need to spend a million dollars on something super fancy – this Josie Maran Argan Oil is a cult favorite and works really well.

It also comes in a “light” version if you’re hesitant to go for the regular stuff.


My under eyes get crazy dry during the winter, so I tend to stop using anything with strong actives that might cause irritation. Nothing is worse than when your concealer starts getting cakey on you, you know?

I loooove this Kiehl’s Avocado Eye Cream. (In fact, I named it one of my top 10 eye creams of all time.) It’s so thick and goes on like butter.

I’m also a big fan of Sio Beauty’s under-eye patches, which you wear while you sleep. I definitely notice a big difference in my puffiness and fine lines when I use them, and the nice thing is they can be reused like 15 times.

(Check out my list of the best under-eye patches for dark circles here.)

sio beauty undereye lift
Sio Beauty Eye and Smile Lift, $29.95 for 4 pads


I usually avoid any kind of “detox” or “pore tightening” sheet masks when my skin is already dry and irritated.

Instead, go for anything that says “hydrating” or “moisturizing.” This Egg Cream mask worked wonders for me the last time I was struggling with crazy snakey skin.


I still swear by my go-to lip treatment from Algenist (which you can read my review of here) but I also love slathering this lip mask on before bed. The texture is hard to compare with any other balm—it’s suuuuper silky and gorg. Plus, it smells amazing too.


You might not be able to see the sun during the winter, but it can definitely see you. And if the sun can see you, it can hurt you.

I get that’s kind of dramatic sounding, but I swear it’s true. Daily use of sunscreen is perhaps the most important thing you can do for your skin. Yes, even if you’re not going outside.

I’ve been using the Glowscreen from Supergoop! lately, and I’ve been loving the extra boost of hydration.


Ok, ok I know.

This is literally the most annoying advice ever. But I swear it’s an actual thing because I did a fucked up little experiment to prove it: one particularly boozy weekend, I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t drink a single sip of water for 2 whole days—my liquid intake consisted solely of alcohol, coffee, and Diet Coke (this is gross, I’m aware, but stick with me.)

Anyway, by Tuesday morning, I woke up and my face was literally PEELING off it was so dry. Like, I couldn’t even put on foundation because I was such a scaley snake.

That day, I chugged two liters of water, and did the same for the rest of the week, but I kept my skincare routine exactly the same because experiments need a CONSTANT, right? Well well well, what do you know…by Friday, my skin was right back to normal.



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