How to moisturize and exfoliate during the winter, depending on your skin type

How to moisturize and exfoliate during the winter, depending on your skin type
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  • People who experience dry skin in the wintertime might require different products on a seasonal basis.
  • Heavier creams with ingredients that draw in moisture are essential for combating dryness.
  • An exfoliating lotion or a gentle manual exfoliant can prep dry skin for moisturizer to penetrate, while people with oily skin might opt for a stronger chemical exfoliant.

Dry, cold winter air can spell a nightmare for your skin, especially when paired with the toasty heat of radiators indoors.

It's extra important to be mindful about hydrating your skin during the fall and winter months, dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, told Insider. This might mean trading in your regular moisturizer for a heavier cream, or opting for a gentle cleanser instead of bar soap.

"The products that you're using in the summer are not always the best products to be using in the winter," Garshick said. "Sometimes skincare just has to evolve with the seasons."
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Exfoliating is also an essential piece of skincare during any season, Garshick said, as it clears away dead cells from your skin's surface and allows other products, like moisturizer, to fully penetrate the skin.

Most people should exfoliate two or three times a week, but that can vary depending on how sensitive your skin is. You can also experiment with manual or mechanical exfoliants, like facial scrubs or brushes, versus chemical exfoliants that contain acids.

Insider spoke with dermatologists about what moisturizers and exfoliants are best for different skin types this winter.
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If you have dry skin during the winter, make sure you're being gentle

Everything from exfoliation to towel-drying can be extra harsh on dry skin, so make sure every step of your skincare routine is gentle and won't take away too much natural moisture, Garshick said.

She recommends taking short, medium-warm showers, patting dry with a towel, and applying a thick layer of moisturizer to your face and body. Regular bar soap can strip the skin of its natural oils, so she recommends using a hydrating cleanser if your skin is especially dry. Joshua Zeichner, MD, recommended using a manual exfoliant during the winter because you can control the level of exfoliation based on how much pressure you use on the skin.
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"Look for ultra gentle exfoliating ingredients like sugars, bamboo, or rice bran that are less likely to disrupt the skin barrier," he told Insider.

If exfoliating with a scrub is leaving your skin red and sensitive, Garshick suggested using an exfoliating lotion like AmLactin, which contains lactic acid for gentle exfoliation along with hydrating ingredients.

Use a humectant to draw moisture into your skin and keep it there

Those with dry skin should look for a moisturizer that both brings moisture in and seals the skin barrier to keep it there.
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Garshick recommended choosing a moisturizer that contains a humectant, or a substance that retains moisture. Hyaluronic acid, for one, can hold nearly 1,000 times its weight in water and will draw that moisture into your skin.

Glycerin is another powerful natural humectant. It pulls water from the air into the skin's outer layer and helps form a protective barrier to prevent future moisture loss, Debra Jaliman, MD, wrote in an email to Insider.

For winter skincare, Jaliman recommended CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream, which contains hyaluronic acid to draw moisture in and ceramides to restore the barrier that helps your skin retain that moisture.
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If you have oily skin, you can stick to a lighter moisturizer and a chemical exfoliant

While some people experience drier skin during the winter, others are oily year round and may not require a thick moisturizer.

Those with oily or combination skin can stick to a light lotion or gel moisturizer, which will provide enough hydration without causing acne or clogging pores, Jaliman said.

As for exfoliating, people with oily skin may opt for a chemical exfoliant that contains salicylic acid, Garshick said. Salicylic acid dually strips away dead skin cells and clears pores of acne-causing debris, but it's a bit harsher than other exfoliants.
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"Just be careful not to go at your face as if you are scrubbing a frying pan," Zeichner said of chemical exfoliants. "A toner or pad is meant to be gently wiped once over the face."

Read more: A dermatologist explained why my simple skincare routine is 'a big no-no,' and how to fix it
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