Winter represents a time for cozy comfy days of relaxation with a warm blanket, a cup of tea and a good book. It’s a time of quiet energy, reflection and self-care. I find myself going about things more thoughtfully and pausing to see if things align with my values and best interests. I also take longer, warmer showers and add in more warm, relaxing baths to my self-care routine.

Unfortunately, the warmer showers and baths tend to dry out your skin more in the winter. Then you add in the cold, dry air from outside and the blowing indoor heat in your home and you have the perfect set-up for dry, winter skin. You may be noticing recently that your skin is becoming dry, dull, and sometimes flaky. Well, it’s time to ramp up and shift your skincare routine to restore your skin’s moisture.

The key to combating dry, winter skin is moisturize, moisturize, moisturize…and maybe even moisturize again and again and again….

There are a couple of different types of moisturizers to choose from and with patients coming to my clinic in the winter months, I typically recommend a cream over a lotion.

The reason why I advise more creams this time of year is because creams are made with more oil and lotions are made with more water. This is why creams tend to feel stickier than lotions.

Creams and lotions are considered emollients that fill the spaces between the cracks of the skin and make it appear fuller and softer. Look for creams with ceramides, which is a type of lipid that is found in the upper layers of the skin, to help your skin’s lipid barrier stay intact.

When it comes to dry, cracked fingers and heels, I recommend spot treating with an occlusive type of moisturizer at night or even more often if needed. Occlusive moisturizers are thick and heavy and sit on top of the skin to provide a seal to trap in moisture like pure shea butter, petrolatum jellies, lanolin etc. FYI: these types of products can cause breakouts when used on the face.

Humectants are another type of moisturizer that can attract moisture from the environment into the skin, but I don’t always recommend these types of moisturizers in the winter mostly because there is less humidity in the air for them to draw from and also because they also can draw water from the deeper part of the skin called the dermis creating a drying effect. Some examples of these are hyaluronic acid, aloe, and glycerin.

Oils are a great addition to your winter skin care as some of them act as both emollients that seal in the cracks and occlusives that sit on top of the skin and give you barrier protection. Some examples of oils that have properties of both emollients and occlusives are jojoba oil, mineral oil and castor oil. Squalene oil, safflower oil, copaiba oil and cannabinoid oil are great oils that work as emollients that seal in the cracks in the skin without being too occlusive and are safer for blemish-prone skin.

TIP: If you tend to have sensitive skin or blemish-prone skin, but sure you do a test of your moisturizer/oil of choice before you apply it to a larger area of your skin. This can be done by using a small amount of the moisturizer or oil on a small area of skin a few times per day for several days in a row and watch how your skin reacts. If it breaks out or develops a rash, then don’t use that product. If the skin continues to appear normal, then widen the area that you apply the moisturizer to the skin gradually as different parts of your skin may react differently. Go slow and eventually if you seem to be tolerating it on larger and larger areas then you can move forward with applying it everywhere you need it.

Here are my 5 Expert Tips on How to Hydrate Your Winter skin:

1. Shorten your time in the hot shower or bath

I know….it feels so luxurious and relaxing to spend extra time standing under warm shower or resting in the warm tub, but the hot water tends to dry out your skin. I don’t have the heart to say don’t engage in hot shower or bath during the winter months, but maybe you could turn the temperature down just a little bit and not stay in there as long? Next are tips on what to do in the shower/bath and what to do when you immediately get out that will help moisturize your skin if you decide to skip this step.

2. Avoid harsh soaps when cleansing the skin

Harsh soaps tend to strip the natural oils off of your skin, so don’t aim for that squeaky clean feel. Use a mild or hypoallergenic soap that leaves your skin feeling cleansed and soft. About once a week, you can use an exfoliating sponge to cleanse your body, but remember not to scrub too hard. For the face, if you wear makeup, you may want to use a sonic cleansing brush, facial exfoliating cloth or konjac sponge once or twice a week to help gently exfoliate your facial skin and remove residual makeup. Be sure to completely rinse-off any soap residue. This is especially true for later in the day when you wash your hands. And don’t forget to keep your brush heads and sponges clean.

3. Pat dry, don’t rub and quickly apply your moisturizer

As soon as you are done bathing, be sure to pat dry and not rub. Rubbing can irritate the skin and make matters worse if your skin already has started becoming sensitive in dry. It’s ok to leave some water on the skin. Then, quickly, within just a few seconds to minutes from patting dry, even if your skin is still a little wet, apply a thick moisturizing cream. You may also want to use a touch of an occlusive moisturizer on top of your moisturizing cream on the hands and feet and anywhere else that is exceptionally dry or cracked. You can also layer an oil on top of the cream to seal the cream in. If you are using a moisturizer in a container like a tub, don’t dip your hands into the tub to avoid contaminating the tub with bacteria on your hands. Use a tool to scoop the moisturizer from the tub instead and remember to clean the tool with each use.

4. Reapply your moisturizers….often!

At least one other time per day, be sure you take the time to re-apply your thick moisturizing cream to your body. That means at least twice a day your body’s skin gets some hydration from your moisturizing cream. That may not be enough depending on your bathing ritual, products you use on your skin, your climate etc. Throughout the day, feel free to moisturize more frequently if you notice your skin is still dry.

You may also notice your hands becoming very dry and irritated in the winter months and this is due to a combination of frequent hand washing, harsh hand soaps and hand sanitizer use, rubbing hands dry or using hot air hand dryer and not using enough moisturizer. To combat this early so you don’t end up with an itchy hand rash, I typically advise avoiding the harsh soaps and hand sanitizers, skip the hot air hand dryers and instead allow the running water to do its job and use a small amount of gentle soap, rinse well, pat dry and reapply your moisturizer after each and every hand washing. Yes, that often! You may be applying moisturizer to your hands over 20 times per day in the winter!

5. Eat hydrating fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water

Comfort foods seem to be a priority at mealtime during the winter, but don’t forget to continue to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables year round. Cucumber, celery, radishes, zucchini, spinach, grapefruit, tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, peaches, strawberries, pineapple, apricots and leafy greens all have higher water content so if you aren’t sensitive to those foods, be sure to add them into your daily consumption. When you add in these hydrating foods and continue to drink plenty of water you will be hydrating from the inside out as well as moisturizing with the tips from above from the outside.

Take some time this week to slow down and pay attention to your skin care routine. Keep these tips in mind and make some modifications to keep your skin nourished from the outside in and the inside out this winter season.