I’ve lived in the Midwest for most of my 37 years on this Earth, so you would think my skin would know how to react when winter comes every single year, but alas, each year my skin ends up dry, flaky, and sometimes even itchy and red. This year, my skin started to shift from oily to dry in the middle of summer, so there are likely hormone changes or something else at play here, but I knew something had to be done when it became normal for my liquid foundation to look horrible on patches of my skin where you could see my dry, flakey disaster. I wear foundation to feel better about my skin, not worse. I knew I had to figure out a solution ASAP.
After a little experimentation, I have finally discovered the perfect combination of products to help me keep my skin hydrated, soft, and flake-free. These 5 products have taken my skin and transformed it back into a soft, foundation-friendly canvas for my makeup-wearing days.
The best addition to my dry skin routine
Let’s get started with the product that is the newest addition to my routine, but it is also the most game-changing addition to my winter skin woes. After my routine mole check at my dermatologist, I asked if she had any suggestions for skin care products for the dry skin that I have suddenly developed on my chin. Her go-to is good old, no-frills, budget-friendly, CeraVe moisturizing cream. The way I’ve decided to use this cream was inspired by Sharon McMahon (aka @SharonSaysSo on Instagram) and her technique for combating dry lips using a different product (which is lower down on this list). Instead of using the CeraVe as my only moisturizer, I use it as a base layer for all my other products. That means as soon as I wash my face whether it be in the shower or over the sink, I pat my skin mostly dry then put a generous layer of this moisturizer on my skin and let it sink in for about a minute. Then I do all of my other skincare on top of this base layer of CeraVe. What I have found is that this extra layer helps lock in moisture and helps my skincare products do a better job. I notice a significant difference when I do this versus when I don’t, so this is now a staple in my winter (and potentially my all-year-round) skincare routine.Read more: My Winter Dry Skin Must-Haves
My ride or die serum
True story, this product has been in my routine on and off for probably the last six or seven years, and for good reason: it works! The Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate Serum has a proprietary blend of seed, plant, and flower oils that make my skin look and feel amazing every single morning. I’ve also found that it boosts my skin’s hydration better than many of the other serums I have tried, so much so, that sometimes I put it on in the morning as well, even though it is an evening serum. This is one of the only serums I have used that regularly makes my skin feel hydrated, and quite frankly look stunning every single day. When I reincorporated this into my routine in the last six months, it leveled up the way my skin felt and started to minimize the dry, flaky patches I had to deal with. It’s a serum that I am not likely to be without anytime soon. I do have one issue with the product, and that is solely with the packaging. This particular dropper does not work well with my disabled hands, so I will likely be transferring it into another dropper bottle once I empty one of my other serums.
Knock out the dead stuff first
Did you know that you need to get rid of the dry, dead flakes on your skin before you can properly hydrate what’s underneath? This means that part of your dry skin treatment needs to be regular exfoliation. I have a few ways I like to do this, and they all have varying intensity levels, but one product I have found to be both gentle and effective is the Mad Hippie AHA Exfoliating Peel. This serum uses both lactic and glycolic acids to gently eat away at the dead, dull skin revealing the fresh skin underneath. I use this 3x per week at night. Note: use after you wash your face, but wait about 10 minutes before applying other products so you don’t change the pH of your skin before the product has a chance to work. I have seen a drastic improvement in my flakey skin under makeup since regularly incorporating this into my routine.
Sharon made me do it
If you aren’t following Sharon McMahon (@Sharonsaysso), you’re missing out. Her tagline is “America’s government teacher,” but she’s full of other useful information as well. One thing she taught us was how to keep our lips flake-free in the Minnesota winter, which is a hard task. This comes with a 3-step system, and Vanicream is step 2. After exfoliating your lips with a wet washcloth, while they’re still damp slather on a generous (which is still a really small amount compared to the size of the container) amount of Vanicream. Let that sink in, then top with Vaseline or Aquaphor. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this 3 step process is what inspired me to start using the CeraVe on my face like the Vanicream on my lips. My dermatologist did say that Vancream would also be okay on my face, so you could knock out all of your hydration needs with this one product if you wanted to. This does amazing things for my lips, but I have also used it on my elbows, knees, hands, and other dry patches, including particularly dry spots on my face. Works like a charm. The best part: it’s less than $15 for a tub at Target.
Kissable lips all year
I know there are a ton of lip moisturizers out there, but one of my favorites for several years now is the Laneige lip sleeping mask. Meant to be slathered on at night before bed, this mask is soft, smooth, and feels very luxurious. I put on this over my Vanicream and night, and wow! As someone who struggles with dry lips not just in winter, but all year round, this product has helped me keep my lips soft and makeup ready. I mean, have you ever tried to make lip color of any kind look cute on dry, flaked lips? It’s pretty impossible. What I love about this mask is, that while the price point seems high, this jar lasts a long time.
Want something you can get at the drugstore or Target? I also keep a steady supply of Aquaphor lip handy for on-the-go and that works great.
Now you are ready to face the brutal winter weather and keep your skin soft and hydrated. It might be the less glamorous side of self-care, but it’s worth it. Enjoy!