Dehydrated Winter Skin Can Make Signs of Aging More Visible—Here Are 5 Dermatologist-Approved Ways To Combat It

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When the temperature tanks, it’s not uncommon for your complexion to get red, flaky, or itchy—three telltale signs of dehydrated skin. Not only can these textural changes be uncomfortable, but they may also make signs of aging more visible. “Moisturizing is essential year-round but even more so during the winter months because dehydrated skin makes fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable,” says Celia Forner, founder of Alleven Skincare. “The cold temperatures combined with indoor heat simply suck the moisture right out of your skin.” Womp womp.

While your usual hyaluronic acid serums and moisturizers can help with this, on their own, they may not be able to give you the relief (or the dewy skin) you're after. If you really want to maintain a healthy, bouncy complexion during the coldest months of the year, you need to hydrate on multiple levels.

Experts In This Article

“Research has shown that the fatty acids in our skin that keep it supple and smooth decrease by up to 20 percent during the winter months,” says Anna Lahey, founder of supplements brand Vida Glow. She explains that since skin care only reaches about 3 percent of your skin, a rich cream can only do so much—which is why you may need to pair these products with other forms of hydration to close the loop.

These days, we have a whole lot of different ways to do exactly that. Keep reading to find out why it's worth adding more than one of them into your routine to combat the effects of winter skin.

1. Topical products

There are certain hydrating ingredients that any dermatologist will tell you should be mainstays in a winter skin-care regimen: Hyaluronic acid draws moisture into the skin, ceramides strengthen the skin barrier to lock in all that moisture, and squalane (which derms have called"the big gulp of moisture") acts as a lubricant to soften and smooth your complexion.

“Another lesser-known but super hydrating ingredient is Chlorella Vulgaris extract, which helps skin retain moisture while soothing and hydrating, and niacinamide, a more popular ingredient, which helps to increase the collagen and keratin production to keep skin firm and healthy,” says Forner.

To make the most out of your topicals this time of year, dermatologists recommend avoiding harsh cleansers, swapping out lighter lotions for heavier creams (and applying them when skin is wet so they can work to their maximum potential), and opting for occlusive formulas (think: the Vaseline people swear by for slugging) that create a protective seal over the skin to prevent moisture from escaping into the environment.

2. Injectable moisturizers

Thanks to innovation on the cosmetic dermatology front, there's now a new (and extremely effective) method for getting moisture way down deep into your skin. Skinvive, a treatment that hit the market earlier this year, involves injecting hyaluronic acid into the dermis and purports to keep skin hydrated for six months.

"It isn't a filler, but rather a 'skin booster,' as the injections give a fresh, natural glow rather than add volume," says Anush Movsesian, a Los Angeles-based aesthetic practitioner who offers Skinvive in her clinic.

Because hyaluronic acid can hold 1,000 times its weight in water (impressive, no?), it's great for enhancing skin hydration. Our bodies store their natural reserves of hyaluronic acid in the dermal layer, but reserves start to deplete as we get older (and contribute to visible signs of aging like wrinkles, dullness, and sagging)—which is where Skinvive comes in. "It replenishes depleted hyaluronic acid stores leading to an increased ability to retain water and ultimately improving skin quality,” board-certified dermatologist Carmen Castilla, MD, previously told Well+Good.

While cosmetic treatments aren't for everyone, if you're looking to add a lot of moisture into your skin this season, this treatment can be a great pairing for your usual topical routine (and that goes double for those with mature skin).

3. Supplements

Wellness experts make a strong case for skincare from the inside out. Though this isn't a new concept, it's continuing to expand, and hydration supplements are the latest way to help boost your glow from the inside out.

Collagen [supplements]1, for example, increase the production of molecules like hyaluronic acid, which in turn boosts hydration by binding to and attracting water molecules to the skin,” says Lahey.

She adds that other nutrients, like essential fatty acids, improve the skin barrier by preventing moisture from escaping, while vitamin C2 contributes to the production of ceramides, which are pivotal to healthy barrier function. Furthermore, a handful of clinical studies3 have shown that ingesting hyaluronic acid can increase skin hydration and barrier function.

4. Water

When talking about the importance of inside-out hydration, we can't skip out on one of the most effective methods of all: Good, old-fashioned H2O.

When you drink water it runs through the intestines, gets absorbed into your bloodstream, and then gets filtered out by the kidneys, hydrating the cells inside the body,” says Forner. “And electrolytes are essential minerals—like sodium, calcium, and potassium—that are vital to many key functions in the body like regulating muscle contractions to keep you hydrated.”

That said, just upping your water intake likely won't be enough to stave off dehydration in your skin. Adequate hydration helps the skin to optimize circulation to the skin and toxin removal from the skin, but only in extreme cases does it correlate with skin hydration levels," says Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. However, a solid hydration routine can help flush out toxins and keep inflammation at bay, which in turn can stave off certain skin conditions. "Increased inflammation in the body disrupts its ability to regulate the immune system and can, therefore, lead to flares of skin conditions like acneeczema, and psoriasis," adds Dr. Engelman.

And considering there are plenty of other benefits to clocking those eight 8-ounce glasses every day (like more energy, better digestion, and fewer tension headaches), it certainly can't hurt to commit to sipping them all winter and beyond.

5. Humidifier

If you think your nighttime skincare routine is maxed out, consider one final step. Because the combination of low humidity outside and artificial heating inside is the ultimate recipe for dehydrated skin, pros recommend sleeping with a humidifier during the colder months.

The dry air that's seemingly everywhere this time of year sucks moisture out of your complexion, and according to Lahey, humidifiers fight this process by infusing air with moisture so that it doesn't need to borrow from your skin—making it easier for your body to hold onto water and stay hydrated.

Forner agrees that a humidifier can be beneficial to skin health, but notes that it's an additive measure—meaning that it should be paired with one (or many) of the other hydration methods listed above. "A humidifier does not replace a consistent skincare routine—it simply adds water back into the air, which will replenish moisture only to the skin's top layer,” she says.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Al-Atif H. Collagen Supplements for Aging and Wrinkles: A Paradigm Shift in the Fields of Dermatology and Cosmetics. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2022 Jan 1;12(1):e2022018. doi: 10.5826/dpc.1201a18. PMID: 35223163; PMCID: PMC8824545.
  2. Kim KP, Shin KO, Park K, Yun HJ, Mann S, Lee YM, Cho Y. Vitamin C Stimulates Epidermal Ceramide Production by Regulating Its Metabolic Enzymes. Biomol Ther (Seoul). 2015 Nov;23(6):525-30. doi: 10.4062/biomolther.2015.044. Epub 2015 Nov 1. PMID: 26535077; PMCID: PMC4624068.
  3. Kawada C, Yoshida T, Yoshida H, Matsuoka R, Sakamoto W, Odanaka W, Sato T, Yamasaki T, Kanemitsu T, Masuda Y, Urushibata O. Ingested hyaluronan moisturizes dry skin. Nutr J. 2014 Jul 11;13:70. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-70. PMID: 25014997; PMCID: PMC4110621.

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