How I Tackle My Winter Dry Skin

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how to tackle dry winter skin

In the winter my skin can get super dry. I’ve dealt with it so bad that the skin on my knuckles and between my toes will crack and bleed and my skin will feel so tight it hurts to bend my elbows. I’ve learned over the years how to handle my dry skin in winter and keep it soft and happy. Below is my current dry skin routine for winter.

Hydrate from the Inside Out

I have three of these water bottles from Pogo (the one with the “chug lid”). I don’t know why but I will drink more water during the day if it’s in this bottle. The loop makes it easy to slip over a finger when carrying an armful of stuff, it’s easy to open and close with one hand, it makes a snapping sound when closed so you know it’s shut, it won’t spill even if you knock it off your desk or nightstand, and it’s easy to wash with no little nooks and crannies that can harbor mold and funk. I have one on my desk, one on my nightstand, one for the gym and I'm thinking of getting a fourth for backup. I make sure to finish one by time I get home from the gym every morning and finish at least two more refills during the day. While writing this paragraph I drank half a bottle. Yes, this requires many visits to the facilities but in exchange, I get fewer headaches, my allergies are reduced, my skin is clear, and my body is more hydrated and supple.

Supplements for Happy Skin

Every morning I add a tablespoon of flaxseed oil to my oatmeal. I find this small addition helps my skin by making it less itchy and more hydrated. One tablespoon contains 7,196 mg of essential omega-3 fatty acids which strengthen skin against environmental damage, calm sensitive and irritated skin, and increase hydration.

I also take borage oil pills every morning. I started taking these because they seemed to improve my knees, making them feel more lubricated, but I also noticed they helped with dry skin. Borage oil is the richest known source of gamma linolenic acid (also known as GLA), another essential fatty acid.

Before I switched to a plant-based diet, when I remembered to do so, I took collagen peptides. I added it to smoothies and protein shakes (those who say it's tasteless in coffee… I am not one of you). I found it helped my joints, made my hair and nails grow faster and stronger, and also kept my skin feeling soft and supple. I haven’t found a vegan alternative that is as successful, if you know of one do let me know!

Related: My 2014 post about The Benefits of Dry Brushing


Every morning as soon as I wake up I dry brush. I have this dry brush. I stroke up my arms towards my neck, swirl on my collarbone out towards my shoulders, swipe up my legs towards my torso. I swirl on my stomach and reach every other part of my body with strokes towards my heart. This takes just a minute, is a great pick-me-up, has made my K.P. virtually disappear, and provides gentle exfoliation to help moisturizers absorb better.

In the shower, I use this skin towel in place of a bath pouf. I scrunch it up like a pouf to wash most of me, but stretch it out to be able to also scrub my back. This additional exfoliation has made a major impact and I think it gets me cleaner. Not all skin towels are created equal; I am partial to this one which is really scrubby.

Both dry brushing and skin towels may take some getting used to. It’s okay to start with light strokes, but you may find that your skin craves the exfoliation and you’ll use a heavier and heavier hand to get off that dry skin!

Related: A 2018 post discussing skin towels and Atoderm

Choose a Gentle and Hydrating Body Wash

There are many hydrating body washes on the market; my absolute favorite is Bioderma’s Atoderm Cleansing Oil. It’s reasonably priced, not heavily fragranced, and gentle enough that it can be used on infants. Don’t let the oil name fool you, this is more the consistency of a lightweight shower gel and lathers like one too. It rinses easily and leaves skin soft and happy, no film or greasiness. By switching to Atoderm I have seen a marked difference in my skin, much more of a difference than any dry-skin lotion on the market.

Double the Moisturizers

Instead of a super thick moisturizer, I have found more luck in layering my moisturizers to stop dry skin. A lotion or cream first, and then I put an oil over it. I then throw on a bathrobe to let all the layers soak in before I try to put on clothes.

For years I swore by Body Shop’s Body Butter, but I hated the tub instead of a pump. It’s hard to handle a tub when you’re wet, cold from the shower, and in a rush. I’ve used Curel, AmLactin, Eucerin, and other drugstore brands that specialize in dry skin and they work but they are very thick and often have a weird plastic smell. I’ve really enjoyed Neutrogena’s HydroBoost line for face and saw they had a body lotion too. Well I am obsessed. This stuff isn’t thick, it has a lotion mixed with a gel sort of watery consistency that absorbs fast, doesn’t feel heavy or greasy, doesn’t have any lingering smell, and hydrates just as well as the thick sticky creams. The pricepoint is also nice.

After that, I apply Neutrogena Body Oil. This is my favorite year-round body moisturizer and I adore the fragrance. It sometimes felt gross and sticky applied over heavier lotions but it plays really nicely with HydroBoost. It’s all absorbed in just a few minutes – by time I’ve brushed my teeth and moisturized my face, I can get dressed.

Related: Friday Favorite: Sweet Almond Oil

Moisturize at Bedtime

On my nightstand, I have like 5,000 lip balms (this is my current favorite), hand cream, face mist, face oil, and organic sweet almond oil. I add almond oil to under my eyes (supposedly it reduces dark circles, not sure if that’s true but it hasn’t hurt), my decolette, shoulders, arms, neck, knees, and feet. If I’m super dry I’ll do my entire legs. Hand cream, face mist over all my face potions and if I am still feeling dry a bit more oil, thick layer of lip balm and I put some of it on my cuticles too. I’m all about slathering up before bed. I know a lot of people worry about oil on their sheets… I really haven’t found that to be a major problem. We have gray sheets and white sheets, the gray ones occasionally end up with oil spots but they come out in the wash. I use a black silk pillowcase and it doesn’t show spots (I wash it gentle in a lingerie bag and line dry).

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Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you battle dry skin in winter? What are your methods for getting happy winter skin?

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  1. My skin is very dry and at the same time oily, I used to try to do something with it for a long time, used different masks, did the procedures, but then I read that the thing was that I did not drink enough water. And this is really very important, I began to control how much fluid I drink per day, I also used a regular baby moisturizer and my face began to look much better. Dryness passed, the skin began to look fresher. Thanks for the great tips, have a nice day!

  2. Water, primrose oil supplements, collagen peptides in coffee, the bioderma cleansing oil and then a layer of almond oil followed by that biodermas line balm. I use fit glow lip serum night as once a evening balm. Solid lotion for hands and I make sure I use humidifier, nasal spray and a hair oil treatment once a week. Everything gets dry. I also use a hydrate powder but I fly a lot!!

  3. This winter my skin has been super dry! I think that because I’m working in a place with no AC for the first time ever, it’s making my skin very dry to the point it breaks and bleeds on my hands. One thing I never used to do but now I do it all the time is exfoliating. I use the one from The Body Shop with shea butter and my skin feels super soft afterward. And I’ve been moisturizing a lot more too, I’ve already gone through one bottle of hand cream and I’m almost finished with a body oil from Rituals, it feels and smells great.

  4. The best lip balm in the world is a tube of pure lanolin nipple cream that lactating moms use…find it in the baby aisle of any drugstore. It’s in a purple tube and usually on the very bottom shelf. When my youngest had braces, he suffered with terrible chapped lips and his orthodontist told us to use it. Don’t leave it in your cold car…you’ll never get it out of the tube. Otherwise, it’s a miracle. I was taking my granddaughter to gymnastics yesterday and there were tons of kids with big, red chapped rings around their mouths and I wanted to put this on all of them! Obvy, I didn’t. No need to get kicked out of the kid gym.

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