Winter is Coming | How to Transition Your Skincare Routine

If you read the title of this post and thought, "fool, it's September, winter is not coming yet" you're correct, but also missed my Game of Thrones reference.

Here on the east coast of the US, the weather is all over the freakin' place. One day it's 80 degrees with sunny skies and the next day it's 55 degrees and dry as fuck. And my skin is not having it. So I've started transitioning my skincare for the colder months and thankfully it's helped calm my skin down.

I don't think it's necessary to buy a whole new wardrobe of skin care for the winter months, but there are a few changes and additions that I personally like to make. Honestly, my skincare isn't actually dictated by what season it is but rather is dependent on how my skin is behaving. Like most people, my skin gets drier as winter settles in and my skincare changes accordingly.

1. Gentler Cleansers

If you're a fellow skincare addict, you've probably heard about the importance of low pH cleansers. And if you haven't, read this life-changing post on the Asian Beauty subreddit to find out why it's beneficial to stick to cleansers with a slightly acidic pH.

Personally, I stick to low pH cleansers all year round because I like my skin's moisture barrier intact. But that doesn't mean that there aren't cleansers out there that are more or less drying!

In the summer I like reaching for cleansers with a clay base as I find they cut through the layer of sebum and sweat that usually builds up through the day. But come winter when my skin is dry as hell and crying for every ounce of moisture possible I prefer using cleansers that are more soothing and hydrating. Because I don't have that sebum + sweat shell on my face in the winter, using the heavy duty clay-based cleansers tends to dry out my skin and cause flaky patches.

I keep mentioning clay-based cleansers because those are the ones I personally use but there are plenty of other cleansers with drying ingredients that I would avoid in the winter as well. Cleansers that feature tea tree oil, witch hazel, salicylic acid, willow bark extract, lactic acid, and more can also be potentially drying. At the end of the day, it all depends on what your skin can handle.

Fresh's soy face cleanser has been a tried and true staple in my winter skincare wardrobe over the past two years. With soothing ingredients like aloe juice, rosewater, and cucumber extract, it does an excellent job of cleansing my face without stripping it.

A newer discovery to me is the Indie Lee Rosehip Cleanser. I recently picked it out as a Dermstore PR gift and have been really impressed with it so far. It has a very short ingredient list so if you have sensitive skin with a long list of ingredients that potentially irritated your skin, I would highly recommend checking it out. It's free of synthetic fragrances, glycols, coconut-based surfactants, and preservatives. The downside is that it has a relatively short shelf life of 6 months.

2. Toners, Ampoules, Emulsions, Oh my!

Just like how my favorite part of winter fashion is layering, my favorite part of winter skincare is layering too!

In the summertime my only layers are mists. And while I love me some mists, I crave the extra-ness that winter allows. Too many thin liquidy layers is a bit much for my skin in the summer, but my skin craves it in the winter.

And if you're wondering what the difference between toners, essence, ampoules, emulsions, and serums are-- I got you, boo. The main differences between the categories are their consistency as well as the concentration of active ingredients that they contain.

First up are toners which I think are the trickiest to define. There are a variety of toners but what they all have in common is that they help balance your skin's pH after cleansing. Some toners can be applied on a cotton pad and then swiped across your face while others can be pat on like an essence.

Speaking of essences, they are the most watery and usually have the lowest concentration of active ingredients. Many times they come in large bottles (think 500 mL) because of their low concentration and thin consistency.

Next up: serums! Serums are typically thicker than essences and have a higher concentration of active ingredients. If you kick up the concentration of active ingredients another level, you've got yourself an ampoule.

Emulsions are the thickest of the bunch and are essentially a lightweight, liquidy lotion.

As far as layering goes, I don't believe in any hard and set rules where essences must come before serums or anything like that. Rather, where I layer a product in my routine depends on the product's consistency. Thinner, more watery products are applied first and thicker, more viscous products are applied last. Anything with a pH dependent active ingredient (AHA, BHA, or vitamin C) is always applied first. Like 95% of my skincare philosophies, I picked this up from the Asian Beauty subreddit ๐Ÿ˜Ž Snow White & the Asian Pear has a handy in-depth post on how to layer your skincare here.

I don't have many (if any?) ampoules or emulsions in my stash but I do have toners and essences! Two that I've already started rotating into my routines are the Whamisa deep rich essence toner (also available at Costco!) and the Indie Lee CoQ-10 toner (PR gift from Dermstore.) I love patting both of them onto my skin and they both instantly plump up my skin. The Whamisa is a bit thicker and richer but also has the potential to make my skin very sticky. The Indie Lee is a bit thinner, almost as hydrating, and smells like the Papa Recipe honey bombee sheet masks ๐Ÿ˜

3. Sheet Mask Bonanza

You would think that slapping a cooling sheet mask on a hot summer day would be my kinda thing, but it ain't. I actually prefer to use sheet masks more in the winter time. I'm one of those weirdos that kind of likes being cold?

While there are a shitton of different sheet masks out there-- ones for brightening, tightening, clearing up acne, prepping your skin for makeup, etc. the bottom line is that they all add hydration and moisture to your skin.

I don't have any specific sheet masks to mention here because the options are endless. I have an out of control sheet mask collection and will definitely work at getting it under control through the colder months ๐Ÿ˜…

4. Thick Thick Thick Creams

I do love my lightweight, dewy moisturizers, but I'm ecstatic to re-introduce some thicker creams to my routine. There's something so satisfying and relaxing about rubbing in a ridiculously emollient and moisturizing cream to lock in all my layers of skincare.

There are a shitton of ingredients I like to keep my eye out for in my moisturizers. The big 3 (as I learned from the Beauty Brains) are hydrators which will add moisture to my skin (aka water), humectants to add even more moisture since they can grab moisture from the atmosphere (aka glycerin, hyaluronic acid, sorbitol), and occlusives which help lock in all that moisture I built up through my 238423984 layers of skincare. There are a ton of different occlusive ingredients with varying degrees of occlusiveness, I wrote a post all about them here!

Beyond the big 3, I like looking for nourishing ingredients which are often found naturally in our skin and help reinforce our moisture barriers such as ceramides and fatty acids. The latter are often found in emollients which also help prevent water loss and help smooth out the skin. Think ingredients like coconut oil, squalane, sunflower oil, and all sorts of other plant oils.

Last but not least-- the extras! I'm talking about ingredients like niacinamide, Centella Asiatica, ferments-a-palooza, and such. Ingredients that offer a wide variety of benefits and put the oomph in my skincare.

If I'm being honest, while I like looking at ingredients the first thing I will look for in a winter moisturizer is its texture. Naturally, something that's quite thick is probably going to be quite moisturizing. On the same hand, I don't want something that's so heavy that it's going to sit on my face and make me turn into a greasy potato-head.

If you're a regular reader, you probably already know of my number one lover, my ride or die go-to guy, Dr. Jart+'s ceramidin cream. I'm on tube number 3 and my fingers are itching for Black Friday sales so I can stock up on a few tubes. I've already reviewed it along with Skin rx's madecera cream which is pretty similar and packaged in a prettier tube.

Another staple from last winter is La Roche-Posay's cicaplast baume b5. When I first tried this I was sure it would be too greasy for me because it is very, very thick. But surprisingly it doesn't feel heavy when applied! It's so soothing and I've used it on patches of dry skin not only on my face, but all over my body! You can pick it up at Target or CVS or Dermstore where all La Roche-Posay products are 25% off at the moment with code "LRP25" ๐Ÿ˜‰

A newer discovery is Hyggee's all in one cream all in one cream (PR gift from Beautibi.) First and foremost, it smells like bergamot. Some nights if I'm too lazy to light a candle, I can be found huffing this stuff ๐Ÿ˜… It has a crapton of yummy ingredients like japonica juice and ferments and niacinamide. It also has the quintessential "winter cream" texture. Thick and so satisfying to spread on your face. Think of the satisfaction you get from spreading a generous dollop of Nutella (or avocado if you're healthy like that) across a crisp piece of toast but instead of Nutella it's Hyggee's moisturizer and instead of toast it's your face. YUM.

5. Bring Me the Oils
Oils are not something I relied heavily on in previous years. But ever since I've discovered the magic of squalane oil, I'm all about dat oil life.

I won't get into my love affair with squalane cause that's going to be my next post.

I think it's quite obvious that introducing an oil to your winter skincare routine is a good idea, right? If not perhaps I'll write a post one day on all the benefits of oils! In the meantime, you can read this piece by Paula's Choice on the benefits of adding an oil to your skincare routine and check out this handy infographic on various oils by Goals to Get Glowing.

And I'd just like to say, it's not only dry skin types that benefit from oils! Oily skin types can soak up the oil goodness too.

6. Keep Up the Sunscreen!!

One thing I'm not transitioning in or out is sunscreen! I wear sunscreen 365 days of the year. Even on a cloudy day, you're susceptible to UV damage. And yes, UV rays do penetrate through windows.

My post last week is a review of 12 different sunscreens so if you're in the market for one, perhaps you'll find one for you there ๐Ÿ˜


And those are all the ways I'm transitioning my skincare wardrobe for the upcoming months. Did I miss anything? What's your favorite part of your winter skincare routine?

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