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 • Skincare  • Skincare Guides  • In the Treatment Room with Grace Day: Let’s Talk Your Post-Winter Skin

In the Treatment Room with Grace Day: Let’s Talk Your Post-Winter Skin

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Grace Day is an esthetician and beauty editor who divides her time between testing and reviewing the latest launches, and providing treatments and skincare routine coaching from her Manchester studio. Each month, Grace shares her learnings and observations straight from the salon, along with her verdict on the latest trends and product launches, here in her series “In the Treatment Room with Grace Day.”

It’s March, and here in the UK, spring is just around the corner after what’s felt like a particularly long, cold, dull winter.

I could not be more excited for temperatures to rise, for morning sunshine to boost my serotonin levels, and for my clients to finally feel the relief of winter dryness subsiding.

Dry skin is a funny old thing. Some people live with it all year round, some find it flares up with the onset of cold weather (and increased time spent indoors), and others won’t see the symptoms until we’re nearing the very end of winter. 

Now I’m a huge advocate for switching up your skincare routine based on the seasons or changes in climate—the environment we spend our time in plays a significant role in the way our skin functions and behaves. This is never more evident than in the final months of winter, when icy winds and four months of central heating have finally taken their toll on skin.


Image – Courtesy of writer


At this point in the season, nearly all of my clients (even the typically oily-skinned ones) are struggling with dry patches, increased redness and sensitivity, tightness after cleansing, and a seemingly impossible hunt for the right moisturiser.

I’ve found myself repeatedly reminding them that just as there’s no one-size-fits-all skincare routine for everyone, the same products you use and love in the summer aren’t going to serve you in the same way during the colder months.

So, just as you’d switch up your wardrobe for winter, it’s important to do the same for your skin. Especially since, alongside dryness, people will find their skin is breaking out and looking dull too.

The science behind these symptoms is fairly simple—cold temperatures and low humidity levels result in dry air, which draws the moisture away from skin. In addition, the contrast between icy winds outside and dry indoor heat exacerbates the problem, damaging the skin barrier and making skin look red and angry, and feel tight and itchy.

Dry skin can also lead to dead skin cell buildup, which makes skin appear dull and can trap oil and bacteria beneath the surface, leading to an increase in breakouts. 

If this sounds familiar then know that you’re not alone. Below, I’ve listed the advice I’m doling out to my exasperated clients on a daily basis. There are just a few weeks to go until spring is officially here, but these tips will help you to get your skin back on track just in time.


1. Use comforting cleansers

The first thing I hear when I ask my clients how their skin feels after cleansing? Tight and squeaky clean. Neither of these are a good thing, particularly in winter, which is why I always say that after cleansing skin should feel fresh but comfortable.

If you’re using a foaming or abrasive cleanser, switch it out for a cream or oil-based formula. Your skin will be producing less oil in the winter, so it’s important to wash your skin gently to prevent oil from being stripped. Cream, oil, and balm formulas will still do an effective job of removing makeup and deep pore cleansing without depleting moisture levels any further.


2. Invest in a richer moisturiser

Now this is something that I’d typically recommend doing from September onwards in preparation for the big freeze—make note for autumn 2024.

Light water-based moisturisers and gel-cream formulas are best suited for summer skin, since they provide light and refreshing hydration. But in the winter, most skin types need something more intense.

True cream formulas that cosset and nourish skin will provide the extra moisture your skin needs to prevent it from feeling tight and dehydrated. If you’re oily-skinned or breakout-prone, don’t worry, thicker moisturisers needn’t be rich and greasy and many are still water-based and oil-free so won’t clog pores.


3. Layer your moisture

Last week I spoke with a client who was using a particularly thick, rich moisturiser but still struggling to notice any difference in her skin. It turned out she was applying the cream to dry skin after cleansing, and with nothing in between.

Now don’t get me wrong, cleansing and moisturising are the basic steps of a skincare routine, and not everyone needs to do anything in between. But if your skin is feeling tight and dry, and even the thickest moisturiser don’t make a difference, there’s a lot more you can do.

Just as you’d layer your clothing to retain heat, hydrating skin works in the same way. My client was basically putting on a jumper, with no layers in-between. 

Start off by dampening skin with a hydrating mist or toner, then immediately apply a hydrating serum (something with hyaluronic acid or ceramides would be perfect). These steps kickstart the hydration process before you’ve even reached for your face cream, and will actually help moisturiser to work harder, since they will help to draw the moisture into the skin.

Apply your moisturiser while your skin is still damp from the serum and it will help to seal in and prevent all those hardworking hydrating ingredients from escaping.


4. Start slugging

If moisturiser is the skincare equivalent of your warmest jumper, think of a facial oil or balm as your winter coat. This extra step is something most people will only need to add to their routine in the winter, maybe only a few days a week, but if your skin is prone to dryness all year round, I’d recommend making it permanent. 

Switching temperatures constantly (OTT central heating, cold commutes, hot showers) disrupts the skin’s moisture balance, meaning skin can become a lot flakier and drier. Introducing an oil or balm as a final step in your evening skincare routine will not only nourish skin in the short-term but will also help your skin to improve moisture retention in the long haul.


5. Don’t forget SPF

There is one part of your skincare routine that should remain in place no matter what the season. It’s essential that an SPF is part of your skincare regime during the winter as the sun’s UV rays are just as harmful (remember, the radiation from the sun can penetrate through windows and cloud cover).

Proof that come rain or shine, it’s vital to apply sunscreen to your face and other exposed areas of skin like your neck, ears, and hands, daily.

Aside from providing protection, SPF also helps to prevent UV from causing inflammation. If you’re experiencing redness and sensitivity, or even a flare up of rosacea or eczema at this time of year, ensure you’re wearing a high factor sunscreen to prevent any irritation.


6. Exfoliate (gently)

If you’ve noticed your skin become more textured and bumpy over the winter, make sure that you’re still exfoliating.

You might think that exfoliation would worsen dryness, but it’s important to keep at it – just tone down the strength a little to avoid potential irritation as your skin’s sensitivity changes. Rather than a scrub or a strong glycolic acid, try one of the gentler AHAs available, like lactic or mandelic acids.

An even more low-key alternative to traditional exfoliants (so ideal for sensitive skin), enzyme-based products are my favourite way to exfoliate my own skin, and are in fact the primary exfoliants I use in my facials. Enzymes gently break down the keratin protein that holds dead skin cells to the top layers of the skin.

The result? Skin looks brighter and feels smoother—right in time for spring.


7. Soothe your skin

If you’re prone to redness then chances are you’ll notice it flare up more in the cooler months – especially around the nose and cheeks.

And if your skin really is suffering with redness and irritation, or even stinging when you apply products, then cut out actives like vitamin C and retinoids, and replace them with ingredients that will help to calm and heal skin instead. 

Look out for calming, anti-inflammatory ingredients like cica, aloe, green tea, and colloidal oatmeal which help to reduce redness and soothe irritation. 

Okay, I’m all out of tips. You don’t have to follow all of them religiously—apart from number five—but consider what’s in your routine currently and what you know works for you.

As with anything skincare related, it’s going to be a process of trial and error, and I’d recommend making changes slowly, rather than all at once—so if something doesn’t work, you know exactly what it is.

Above all, moisturise, moisturise, moisturise – then check back in a few months for my summer skincare tips. See you on the other side!


11 new skincare launches to soothe your post-winter skin


Image – Courtesy of writer


While this is technically a moisturiser, it has a very light, gel texture so I’ve actually been using it on my redness-prone clients as a serum. The hero ingredient is 10% azelaic acid, which helps to calm redness and sensitivity.

This gentle blend of mandelic and lactic acids helps to remove dead skin gently, and in actual fact is proven to improve skin barrier health in the process. I’ve been recommending this to my dry and sensitive-skinned clients as an alternative to the brand’s BHA Liquid Exfoliant. 

Powerful ingredient cica (also known as Centella asiatica) helps to soothe skin prone to redness and irritation. What’s more, this hydrating lotion provides an extra layer of moisture between cleansing and moisturising.

If you have oily or breakout-prone skin and are wary of using thicker moisturisers, try this. It’s thick, but not remotely greasy, so delivers the intense nourishment that water skin needs without any unwanted side effects.

Ignore the product name, which I think implies a different type of cleanser altogether. This creamy-gel textured face wash provide a gentle enzyme-based cleanse, leaving skin feeling smooth, soft, and not at all stripped.

Perfect for slugging, this thick balm melts into a silky but nourishing oil. I advise most clients to use it once a week during dry skin phases.

Not all face oils are created equally, and this one really is a cut above the rest. I’ve been using it in all my facial massages this month and every single client has commented both on how good it smells, and on how well it nourishes skin without leaving greasy residue.

We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to skin barrier-repairing products these days. Those who like a truly thick, mask-like texture will love this face cream—best used overnight.

Combining ceramides with cica, this moisturiser has gone down well as a recommendation to my clients who seek multitasking products that don’t cost a small fortune.

Adding an extra step into your skincare routine doesn’t have to require tonnes of effort. Just pat a splash of this milky toner over your skin after cleansing and before applying serum and moisturiser. Your dry skin will thank you for it.

Skin barrier specialists Curel’s latest launch is all about replenishing moisture, which is exactly what skin needs at the end of winter. I’ve lost count of how many clients I’ve recommended this to since it launched.


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Freelance Beauty Writer

Grace Day is the former Beauty Editor of Beauty Bay and a regular contributor to publications like Hypebae and POPSUGAR UK.  A qualified aesthetician, Grace is regularly featured in the likes of The Evening Standard, In Style and Brydie for her expert skincare consultations and facials at Dolls Part salon in Manchester.

Expertise: Skincare, makeup
Education: University of Manchester

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