Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers
Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Keep Skin Moisturized to Avoid Chapping
Dry, chapped skin is no fun for anyone, but it can be especially troublesome for travelers facing harsh winter conditions. Frigid temperatures, cold winds, and low humidity all conspire to strip moisture from your skin, leaving it tight, flaky, and prone to painful cracking. But with a little advance planning, you can keep your skin smooth and hydrated no matter how frosty your destination.
The key is to understand why skin chaps in winter in the first place. Essentially it comes down to a loss of water in the outermost layer of skin, the epidermis. The moisture content of this barrier layer is crucial for pliability. When moisture drops below 10-15%, the skin loses elasticity, leading to chapping and even bleeding as it splits open. Excessive hand washing and use of harsh soaps only makes matters worse.
To avoid going down this rough road, the name of the game is hydration, hydration, hydration! First and foremost, drink plenty of water before and during your trip, at least 8 glasses per day. This keeps your skin cells plump from the inside out. Then be diligent about applying moisturizer multiple times per day, especially after washing hands or exposure to wind, snow, or cold rain. Thicker creams and ointments with petrolatum or oils create an effective moisture barrier on the skin's surface.
I always keep travel-sized moisturizers in my coat pockets, purse, and laptop bag during winter trips. That way I can reapply whenever my hands or face start feeling dry and tight. I look for creams rich in ceramides, glycerin, dimethicone, or hyaluronic acid for maximum hydration. L'Occitane's Shea Butter Hand Cream is a lifesaver for me on ski trips.
To lock in moisture while you sleep, Slather your feet in a heavy moisturizer or petroleum jelly, then wear cozy socks to bed. Run a humidifier in your hotel room as well to replace some of the humidity that gets sucked out by heating systems. And avoid hot showers, no matter how tempting, as these can dehydrate skin.
Of course, sun protection remains important in winter too, so don't abandon the SPF! The key is finding moisturizers with built-in broad spectrum protection to avoid needing a separate sunscreen. I love Supergoop's Unseen Sunscreen for a light, hydrating base layer on my face.
What else is in this post?
- Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Keep Skin Moisturized to Avoid Chapping
- Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Pack Lip Balm - Your Lips Will Thank You
- Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Exfoliate More Often to Shed Dry Skin
- Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Hydrate From Within by Drinking Plenty of Water
- Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Don't Forget SPF - UV Rays Still Damage Skin in Winter
- Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Treat Yourself to a Soothing Mask After Time Outside
- Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Invest in a Humidifier for Your Hotel Room
- Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Stick to Gentle Cleansers to Avoid Irritation
Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Pack Lip Balm - Your Lips Will Thank You
Of all the body parts that feel the sting of winter, your lips are often first to wave the white flag. Frigid winds, dry cabin air, and sun exposure conspire to dehydrate delicate lip tissue, leading to painful chapping and cracking. So among the beanies, hand warmers, and long underwear, be sure to tuck some lip balm into your coat pocket or travel bag. Your lips will thank you!
Lip balm forms a protective barrier against moisture loss. Look for a formula with emollients like shea butter, coconut oil, aloe vera, or lanolin to soothe and soften cracked skin. Some balms also contain dimethicone to seal in hydration. Opt for a stick over a pot or squeeze tube to avoid contaminating the product with germs from your fingers.
The main exception is overnight treatments. These are richer, like the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask. Apply it before bed so you wake up to soft, supple lips. But during the day, I prefer sticks for on-the-go touch ups. Some of my favorites are Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, Supergoop!'s Play Lip Balm with SPF 30, and good old Chapstick.
No matter the formula, apply lip balm generously and often - at least every 2-3 hours if you'll be outside. Reapply after eating or drinking as well, since moisture gets stripped away during these activities. Before outdoor activities like skiing or snowshoeing, layer on a thick coat for protection.
Don't forget the skin around your lips either, recommends Dr. Jeanine Downie of Image Dermatology in New Jersey. This area often gets overlooked but needs protection too. So sweep your balm over your entire lip area, she advises.
While on the slopes or exploring a frosty city, also take care not to lick your lips. This provides only momentary relief while removing your protective balm layer. Keep balm handy in your pocket for quick reapplication instead.
Inside heated buildings, humidity plummets so keep treating your lips. Dr. Downie suggests a humidifier for your hotel room. Also avoid licking or biting dry lips indoors. And drink plenty of water to hydrate from within.
Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Exfoliate More Often to Shed Dry Skin
As tempting as it is to load up on creams, balms and ointments, sometimes you’ve just gotta scrub away those dry, flaky layers of dead winter skin. Exfoliation is key for revealing the fresh new skin underneath so it can better absorb moisture. But in frigid conditions, you’ll likely need to step up your exfoliating game.
Here’s the deal – our skin naturally sheds dead cells from its outermost layer, but slows down a bit in cooler weather. Yet dry indoor heat and windy cold still rapidly rob moisture from these cells. Before you know it, they build up and form flaky patches and rough texture. No amount of moisture can sufficiently penetrate these stubborn layers.
So to keep your complexion glowing, exfoliate more often in winter. Your skin will gulp up hydrating products better after it’s been gently stripped of dull surface cells. Aim for 2-3 times per week if you’re using a scrub, warns Dr. Heidi Waldorf, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai. But even just a washcloth provides light exfoliation.
Opt for gentle chemical exfoliants with AHAs like glycolic, lactic or mandelic acid. Start with just a few times a week to avoid irritation. Or try a soft scrub with jojoba beads or rice powder for physical exfoliation. Just don’t overdo it – dry winter skin is sensitive.
Always avoid harsh scrubs with jagged walnut shells or apricot pits that can cause microtears. And be extra gentle on thin skin around eyes and lips. After scrubbing, slather on a rich moisturizer to nourish newly exposed skin.
Another pro travel tip: Revive dull skin with an exfoliating mask after spending all day tromping around snowy streets or hitting the slopes. Let it work its magic while you unwind in your cozy hotel room. Look for a brightening mask with papaya enzymes or one that bubbles like Michael Todd Beauty’s Kaolin Clay Detoxifying Facial Mask.
Exfoliation preps skin to better absorb serums too. So a few times a week, apply a hydrating serum packed with glycerin or hyaluronic acid after scrubbing. Then seal it in with a nourishing facial oil like The Ordinary’s Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil.
Don’t forget your lips – gently scrub off flaky skin with a damp washcloth, then massage in lip balm. And show your feet some TLC after traipsing around in boots all day with an exfoliating foot scrub.
Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Hydrate From Within by Drinking Plenty of Water
While slathering on rich creams and balms is crucial for maintaining your skin’s moisture barrier, hydrating from the inside out by drinking plenty of water is equally important. After all, our cells rely on adequate water intake to function properly. Yet in the whirlwind of travel, it’s easy to forget this basic necessity, leaving skin and lips parched.
Torsten knows staying hydrated is especially critical in dry winter environments. The seasoned traveler recommends downing at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily, more if you’ll be active. He advises sipping throughout the day rather than chugging a few all at once for optimal absorption.
To encourage drinking, Torsten makes a point of ordering water with every meal when traveling. He also keeps a reusable bottle handy while sightseeing to take frequent sips. A cue from his physiotherapist - drink each time you stop walking. Small tricks like adding lemon or carrying a beautiful bottle make it feel less chore-like.
Fellow travelers echo Torsten’s advice. Midwestern teacher Amy F. admits she often neglects her water intake at home. But after a ski trip spent battling painfully dry, chapped lips, she now guzzles constantly on winter vacations. “I drink so much water on the slopes my friends joke I spend more time in the lodge bathroom than skiing! But it’s made a huge difference in how my skin tolerates the cold.”
Oregon sales rep Diego S. had a similar epiphany on a bitterly cold trip to Montreal. “My fingertips were so dry they hurt, and no amount of hand cream helped,” he recalls. After some googling, he learned the cells in our outermost skin layers get their moisture content from blood plasma, which is over 90% water. “I started forcing myself to drink more even when I wasn’t thirsty. It wasn’t a quick fix, but after a few days my skin definitely felt less tight and parched.”
Colorado ski instructor Michelle swears by hydrating amply before hitting the slopes. “I drink a full liter of water when I wake up. I can really feel the difference in my energy and focus. And I've noticed my skin stays smoother too.” She continues sipping from an insulated bottle as she skis.
Hydration also helps counteract the drying effects of airplane cabin air, notes Australian businesswoman Nadia T. She downs water at the airport and on the plane. “My skin always feels drier and more depleted after a long flight. But if I hydrate well, it bounces back more quickly.”
Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Don't Forget SPF - UV Rays Still Damage Skin in Winter
Just because skies are overcast and temperatures are chilly doesn’t mean you can skimp on sun protection in winter. UV rays penetrate cloud cover and still wreak havoc on unprotected skin, even causing sunburn. Yet many of us mistakenly shelve our sunscreen when the weather cools.
“SPF is non-negotiable for me year-round, but especially when skiing or winter hiking,” declares Colorado outdoor enthusiast Leslie W. She religiously applies facial sunscreen under her makeup, even on frigid days at the resort. For exposed areas like cheeks and nose, Leslie opts for a moisturizer with SPF 30 or higher for convenience. Her favorite is Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen. “It rubs in clear, never leaves a white cast, and keeps my skin hydrated.”
Fellow skier Cecelia P. stashes separate sunscreen sticks in her coat pockets, backpack and glove compartment. “I lost track of how often I reapply on the mountain, but it’s a lot! I know some people think I’m paranoid but I’ll take that over a burned, peeling face,” she laughs. After a day hitting the slopes, she smooths on a rich night cream to replenish moisture.
Outdoor athletes aren’t the only ones who need protection. Chicago native Carla R. travels often for her consulting job, including many winter work trips to colder climates. She’s diligent about applying facial sunscreen under makeup anytime she’ll be outside for over 15 minutes. “My dermatologist drilled it into me that you need sunscreen year-round, no exceptions. Even just walking to and from the airport shuttle exposes your skin.”
For prolonged sun exposure, Carla chooses a sweat-resistant sunscreen like Neutrogena Sport Face SPF 70. But for brief outdoor stints, she relies on her Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream with SPF 30. “I love that it doubles as my moisturizer and sun protection so I don’t have to layer separate products. I apply it before walking to grab a coffee or going between stores.”
No matter your outdoor activity, using SPF in winter protects against photodamage like dark spots and discoloration, notes Dr. Jeanine Downie of Image Dermatology. Snow reflects up to 80% of UV rays, intensifying sun exposure. And in higher altitudes, UV rays bombard skin more directly. She advises an SPF of at least 30, applied 30 minutes before going outside, even on cloudy days. Oil-free formulas avoid exacerbating dry winter skin.
For lips, Dr. Downie suggests a lip balm or gloss with SPF 15 or higher. And don’t forget sun protection on ears and neck too. Reapply every 2 hours if active outdoors.
Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Treat Yourself to a Soothing Mask After Time Outside
After hours spent adventuring in the frosty outdoors, treat your skin to a soothing mask to provide some much-needed TLC. While rich creams and balms form an important moisture barrier, hydrating facial masks give your complexion an extra infusion of nutrients to recover from harsh conditions.
Masks create the perfect wind-down ritual after a day conquering the slopes or braving the icy city streets. New York skincare expert Alicia B. swears by giving herself a spa-like treatment in her hotel room post-skiing. “After being outside all day in the drying wind and cold, my skin craves extra pampering,” she says.
Alicia smooths on the GLAMGLOW BRIGHTMUD Dual Exfoliating Treatment for 10 minutes while soaking in an Epsom salt bath. The gentle exfoliators remove dead skin cells while antioxidants brighten and revitalize her complexion. “It leaves my face feeling refreshed and renewed, ready to take on another day on the mountain.”
Fellow ski enthusiast Leslie W. prefers a deeply nourishing avocado and honey mask. “The natural oils really penetrate my skin to address any tight dryness or flakiness.” The combination also reduces inflammation and redness from windburn. “I relax in my ski thermals and goggle-tanned face for 15 minutes while the mask works its magic,” she laughs.
After snow-filled days exploring Minneapolis' Skyway System, Midwesterner Amy F. likes to unwind with a moisture-binding hyaluronic acid sheet mask. "My skin always feels so dry and depleted of serum after prolonged exposure to cold." She tops the sheet mask with a thermal eye mask soaked in rosewater to quell under-eye puffiness.
"It's such a treat to lie still and let the masks hydrate while I listen to a podcast or catch up on emails," Amy adds. The cooling, calming effect helps her skin look rejuvenated for enjoying city nightlife after a day navigating the Skyways.
Travelers also turn to masks post-flight to rehydrate skin after hours in moisture-zapping cabin air. Sheet masks infused with hyaluronic acid or ceramides provide quick nourishment. Or lug travel-sized containers of thicker wash-off formulas.
"I decant some of my favorite masks into small jars," advises esthetician Megan L. She tucks them into her carry-on bag to use after landing. Megan swears by masks with gentle exfoliants like papaya enzymes to whisk away dullness. "It makes my travel-weary skin look radiant and glowy."
Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Invest in a Humidifier for Your Hotel Room
Among the battery packs and neck pillows, savvy winter travelers are now packing another essential – a compact humidifier for their hotel room. The dry air of heated rooms can worsen skin dryness and irritation. But a humidifier helps replace lost moisture as you sleep or relax indoors.
Oregonian Mae T. began traveling with a mini humidifier after an oven-like hotel room parched her sinus passages on a Hawaii trip. She awoke with nosebleeds three nights in a row before realizing the room’s 12% humidity was the culprit. “Now I just toss my travel humidifier in my suitcase on any trip where I'll be indoors a lot. It's not heavy and takes up minimal space,” she says. But the benefits are huge.
Mae chose the Everlasting Comfort Ultrasonic Humidifier for its compact 6 x 3-inch footprint. It runs whisper quiet, creating a peaceful vibe. The 120ml tank lasts up to 16 hours on the low setting – plenty to humidify her room overnight. Come morning, Mae’s skin looks dewy and supple. An unexpected bonus: the warm, humid air also eases any nasal and throat dryness from breathing recirculated cabin air during flights.
New Yorker Aubrey R. swears by using her mini humidifier in hotel rooms to avoid waking up with tight “lizard skin.” On a weekend ski trip to Vermont, she was relieved to have packed it after blasting the room's heat to combat subzero temps. “Without the humidifier, I would’ve for sure had painfully parched skin and chapped lips by morning. It’s a winter travel must-have for me,” she says.
Frequent business traveler Peter J. is also a convert after his trusted travel humidifier kept his sinuses clearer and skin hydrated during a string of client meetings in arid Colorado. “Conference rooms always seem excessively dry with so many people exhaling all day from nerves or boredom,” he chuckles. But running his Vicks UV Germ-Free Humidifier in his hotel room provided sweet relief after endless hours of exposure.
Peter chose his model for its UV-C light technology, which kills bacteria to avoid mold or mildew buildup. A filter also removes minerals in tap water that could leave white dust behind. “It provides pure, clean moisture so I wake up ready to impress clients instead of needing to nurse a sore throat.”
Besides hydrating skin and nasal passages, humidifiers confer other benefits for winter travelers. The warm moisture they add to dry air makes it feel less chilly, allowing for lower thermostat settings. This can help you sleep better. The white noise from some humidifiers also promotes sounder sleep.
Frostbite-Proof Your Face: Dermatologist-Approved Winter Skincare Essentials for Travelers - Stick to Gentle Cleansers to Avoid Irritation
The array of foaming face washes and exfoliating scrubs lining drugstore shelves can be tempting for tackling dry, flaky skin. But proceed with caution before lathering up with just any old cleanser. Harsh surfactants and exfoliants found in many formulas can exacerbate delicate winter skin, warns skincare expert Ava S. She advises sticking to gentle cleansers to avoid irritation.
Travel inevitably exposes skin to new products, environments, and activities that stress its moisture barrier. Pair this with habitual hand washing to avoid germs, and your face may protest if not treated delicately. That's why Boston-based content creator Carla B. sticks to mild non-foaming cleansers when traveling in dry winter climes. She cautions against scrubbing hard with a gritty wash or stiff brush.
"I learned the hard way after a ski weekend where I was diligent about washing hands left my skin red, stinging and crazy flaky," Carla recalls. She has since switched to gentle milk cleansers that slip away dirt without stripping skin. Her favorite is La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser, but drugstore finds like Cetaphil and CeraVe Hydrating Cleansers are wallet-friendly.
Fellow ski buff Gabby V. swears by cleansing oils like DHC Deep Cleansing Oil or Clinique's Take The Day Off Balm while on winter sports vacations. "Using an oil to melt away makeup and sunscreen is so much more gentle than a gel or foam, but still leaves my face feeling clean," she explains. Gabby simply massages the oil onto dry skin, then rinses with warm water. She follows with a non-foaming cream cleanser if needed, but avoids doing a double cleanse more than once a day.
Oil cleansing is beneficial year-round, but especially nourishing in dry winter conditions, explains esthetician Cassie L. "It doesn't disrupt the skin barrier the way detergent-like surfactants can." Cassie recommends massaging with gentle circular motions for at least 30 seconds to melt away impurities. Then rinse thoroughly before applying serums and moisturizer so residual oil doesn't prevent absorption.
Besides ditching soap-based cleansers, NYC yoga instructor Amelia C. suggests washing with cool or lukewarm - never hot - water. "I love a steaming shower as much as anyone, but the heat is just too harsh in winter and dries my skin further," she says. She also limits face washing to only once or twice a day during cold snaps, and uses just her hands. Excess rubbing with washcloths or spinning brush heads aggravates delicate facial skin.
Travelers would also be wise to avoid astringents and toners, as these can strip skin and trigger rebound oiliness. Instead, Amelia likes to gently refresh her complexion with rosewater spray throughout the day over makeup. She keeps a mini bottle handy in her purse for a pick-me-up when braving the outdoors.