Winter Skincare Routine
MILAN, ITALY – FEBRUARY 21: Model Fran Summers is seen backstage at the Etro fashion show on February 21, 2020 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images)

Winter skin can be a confusing game. One minute everything is fine, but (literally) overnight it can all change: your face feels like sand paper, your cheeks are ruddy and cleansing goes from an enjoyable pastime to a tortuous experience. Basically, changes in temperature, humidity, water consumption and internal heating can wreck havoc on your complexion, leading to undesirable outcomes like irritation, itching, flaking and severe moisture and oil loss.

Products that claim to help are in no short supply, but the talent pool grouping what actually works is much smaller. To help us understand (and achieve optimum hydration levels) we’ve tapped the expertise of Charlene DeHaven MD, Clinical Director at iS Clinical (whom recently launched in Australia). For those new to the brand, iS Clinical is a favourite of everyone from Melanie Grant to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, revered for combining botanical ingredients with modern science, resulting in products that actually do what they say. Here, DeHaven talks us through winter-specific skin issues, reasons why they occur and ingredients that will help, alongside extra product recommendations from our editor.

See the full interview below.

GRAZIA: Dry and dehydrated skin. What exactly is the difference?

Charlene: Although people often think that dry and dehydrated skin are the same, these are somewhat different. Dehydrated skin is deficient in water whereas dry skin has deficient lipids (fats) in the skin barrier. Although dry skin may start with a problem confined to lipids in the skin barrier, it quickly progresses to involve both lipid and water deficiencies. An impaired skin barrier cannot hold the necessary water within skin cells.

Anyone can have dehydrated skin, even from exercising vigorously. This dehydration should be a short-term problem, corrected when normal water intake is begun again. Some persons, however, may be chronically dehydrated because they do not consume enough water daily.

Many individuals suffer from dry skin – skin that is deficient in both barrier lipids (fats) and water. The solution for this can include appropriate skin care products, dietary modifications, lifestyle modifications, or a combination of these.

GRAZIA: And what about winter-specific skin concerns? What else do you typically find can flare up when the weather cools? 

Charlene: Dryness, flakiness, and an increase in the visual appearance of wrinkles – with these progressing to itching, redness, and irritation. During winter, a condition called “winter itch” is common – a type of sensitive skin induced by exposure to cold, dry weather.

GRAZIA: So what ingredients should we be using to combat the above?

Charlene: Some of the best skin care products contain bio-identical lipids – lipids exactly like those of the human skin barrier. As the normal skin barrier becomes damaged from winter exposure, these lipids will temporarily replace the damaged molecules until natural repair processes catch up.

Antioxidants can exert anti-inflammatory action on the redness, itching, and irritation associated with dry skin. Other ingredients helpful in this regard are wound healers such as Centella asiatica (used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine and for wound care in Western medicine), and botanical anti-inflammatories, such as olive leaf extract with high concentrations of oleuropein.

Is Clinical Pro-Heal SerumAdvance, $258. SHOP NOW

Containing vitamin C, A, E and olive leaf, this serum will heal and protect thanks to highly anti-inflammatory ingredients with strong antioxidant activity.

Skinceuticals Epidermal Repair, $121. SHOP NOW

Specifically designed for compromised or post-procedure skin, this repairing balm has Centella and Beta Glucan to calm down redness and reinforce the outer layers of the skin.

The Jojoba Company Australian Jojoba, $20. SHOP NOW

A wax ester that mimics the structure of skin, this will properly replenish lost oils and help restore barrier function. As the brand puts it, it helps skin help itself.

Rationale Antioxidant Lipid Concentrate, $156. SHOP NOW

Fatty acids prevent water loss and increase the skin’s natural moisturising factors.

Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Cream, $82. SHOP NOW

One of the original “cica creams” this rich lotion is full of Centella Asiatica for soothing and repairing red, itchy, compromised skin.

Drunk Elephant La La Retro Whipped Cream, $96. SHOP NOW

This moistusier is almost like a whipped facial oil, making it rich in ceramides and fatty acid, thus great for properly moisturising a dry face.

Is Clinical Sheald Recovery Balm. SHOP NOW

This heavy lifter contains bio-identical lipids to support the skin barrier. It’s also soothing, moisturising and improves collagen synthesis for maintenance of proper skin thickness and structural support.

Winter Skincare Routine
MILAN, ITALY – FEBRUARY 21: Model Alexandra Micu is seen backstage at the Etro fashion show on February 21, 2020 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images)

GRAZIA: What about reddened or sensitised skin? What typically causes this to flare up?

Charlene: Even though the problem begins with the skin feeling dry and becoming flaky, it quickly progresses to increased sensitivity followed by redness, inflammation, and discomfort. Cold, dry winter weather is tough on the skin barrier and can exhaust its protective abilities, setting up a cycle of worsening. Mast cells within the skin, one type of immune cell, release histamine during cold exposure. Histamine causes itching and a desire to scratch, even though scratching skin will further damage it and increase the inflammatory process.

GRAZIA: What about cleansing. Can this strip the skin? What should we be using?  

Charlene: Do not underestimate the importance of choosing the right cleanser. The wrong cleanser will further strip the skin of lipids and worsen winter skin problems. Avoid toners which tend to be very drying. Cleansing Complex by iS Clinical has the same pH as skin and thoroughly yet gently cleanses. For skin needing more lipid support, the Cream Cleanser is an excellent choice and can be used with or without water.

Is Clinical Cleansing Complex. Shop Now

Is Clinical cream Cleanser. shop now

Also, do not forget the importance of drinking adequate water, especially during winter sports, and of eating a healthy diet containing the essential fatty acids oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids, which are found in salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, nuts and seeds, and plant oils.