Here comes the cold.
Even though we’ll all (hopefully) be masking up this winter, that doesn’t mean we don’t need to take care of our skin and protect it from the harsh, cold weather. While there are a million products and brands to choose from, there are certain ingredients to look for that will help keep skin healthy, hydrated and protected during the long Northeast Pennsylvania winter.
The best way to understand ceramides is to think of a tile floor. If your skin cells are the tiles, ceramides are like the grout holding them together and filing in the cracks for a solid floor. Ceramides hold together skin cells and form a protective layer that keeps the good stuff (like moisture) in and the bad stuff (think pollution and bacteria) out.
However, ceramides break down over time, whether because of aging; environmental stressors, such as sun damage or excessive cold weather; or by overusing harsh products that break down the skin’s barrier. By using products with ceramides, you strengthen your skin’s line of defense to the outside world, which, in turn, makes it smoother, softer and more hydrated.
Drugstore darling CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser contains three kinds of ceramides and is great for cold weather. A cleanser like this won’t lather but instead will gently cleanse while helping to restore your skin’s barrier.
Some ingredients actually help to facilitate skin’s hydration. Lactic acid is one kind of alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA. As an exfoliator, it works to dissolve the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together to reveal smoother, brighter skin. Once that layer of dead skin is out of the way, it’s easier for your heavy creams to penetrate skin and quench its thirst. Plus, lactic acid also has humectant properties, meaning it helps to pull moisture from the air into the outer layer of skin, for added hydration. Something like REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic will check both boxes for exfoliation and hydration in addition to prepping skin for the next steps.
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, meaning it attracts water from the air and into the skin. It’s an amazing way to hydrate the skin and give it a really good drink and also helps maintain the skin’s moisture barrier.
For the best results, choose a hyaluronic acid serum since it’s thinner and made of smaller molecules than a moisturizer, which allows the hyaluronic acid to penetrate deeper into the layers of the skin. You also could choose a hyaluronic acid combined with its ingredient and BFF, niacinamide, such as Bliss Glow & Hydrate Day Hyaluronic Serum.
Last but not least, remember to seal in your hyaluronic acid by applying a moisturizer (or an oil) on top. If not, it could backfire and actually dry out your skin even more.
If there’s anything you take away from this column, I hope it’s that all skin, even oily skin, needs oil. Even so, all oils are not created equal, and there ARE oils out there that will clog your pores and exacerbate acne-prone skin. Thankfully, jojoba oil is not one of them.
Derived from the seeds of a drought-resistant shrub native to the deserts of southern Arizona, California and Mexico, jojoba (pronounced ho-ho-ba) oil is a serious hydrator. It’s also super light and won’t clog pores, as it mimics the sebum found naturally in our bodies. This causes it to condition and seal in moisture without any negative side effects.
You can buy jojoba oil on its own (such as Desert Essence 100% Pure Jojoba Oil) or, since it’s known to play well with other ingredients, find it in a host of products. Check out In Your Face Skincare The Cream for an ultra rich and velvety blend of jojoba oil mixed with antioxidants and botanicals to quench even the driest skin.
Tiger grass (centella asiatica)
Also known as cica cream, this magical balm’s cute name comes from a legend that wounded tigers in Asia would roll around in this herb to help heal their injuries. (For a much-needed mental vacation, think about tigers adorably rolling around in grass.) Cica creams are great for any sort of sensitized, angry skin, since centella asiatica is naturally rich in saponins, a fancy word for the carbohydrates found in plants that are rich in antioxidants and help calm irritation or redness. As a plant, it also contains chlorophyll, which helps stimulate the skin to renew and repair itself and strengthen the skin barrier. And a strong barrier equals hydrated, smooth skin.
My year-round go-to for angry, irritated skin is Laneige Cica Sleeping Mask, but I especially love to use it in the wintertime. I apply before bed for soothed, hydrated skin by the morning.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT