Once upon a time, in the chilly depths of winter, the only cure for skin sucked of hydration by the cold was slathering on layer upon layer of moisturiser. These days, dry-skin cures are a little more sophisticated: we’re going for quality over quantity, using efficacious ingredients that deliver moisture deep down into your epidermis, combating redness and preventing inflammation. To help put together your winter skincare routine, we asked the experts what ingredients we should be using – and avoiding – and their top tips for keeping hydration levels high when the temperatures plummet.

The ingredients

Hyaluronic acid

Fun fact: your body already produces hyaluronic acid. It naturally occurs in your eyes and joints, cushioning and lubricating them. But it’s also a gun ingredient for locking moisture into your skin, supercharging other products in your routine and balancing the inner layers of the epidermis. Lauren Saul, senior therapist at Sydney spa and retailer Fenn, recommends Medik8’s Hydr8 B5 Intense serum.

Squalane

Saul also recommends using a squalane product in your winter routine. This product imitates the skin’s natural oils, which begin to decline as we get older. By applying squalane topically, you’ll be giving your skin a big old moisture boost. But it can also battle skin damage, leading to overall healthier skin, as well as boost collagen, which can improve skin elasticity and provide a better base for a moisture injection.

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Niacinamide (vitamin B3)

Niacinamide is a type of vitamin B3 widely found in foods including eggs, cereals, beans and green veggies – and it can work wonders on your skin, both when eaten and when applied topically. It builds and restores the skin barrier, dials down redness and, importantly, boosts and locks in hydration. James Vivian, founder of Melbourne skin clinic James Vivian and skincare line Viviology (developed in collaboration with Adore Beauty), suggests working his Niacinamide and HA serum into your routine in cooler months as “it plays so nicely with serums from other ranges”, he tells Broadsheet. “Simply add a pump or two in with your favourite serums and it will boost your skin’s hydration and your serums’ effectiveness.”

Ceramides

At the most basic level, ceramides can be described as the fat or lipid molecules found in your skin cells that make up around 50 per cent of your skin – in other words, they pretty much hold your skin together. And, applied topically, they’re ultra-hydrating. Saul says using a moisturiser with ceramides helps to “fortify your skin barrier”; Vivian says ceramides also help lock in the hydration from other ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, and are particularly effective if “your skin is more on the sensitive, dry and flaky side”. He suggests Vivology’s ceramide moisturiser, while Saul says Raaie’s Cocoon ceramide cream is also a good option.

Omega-3, -6 and -9

“Omega-3, -6 and -9, when consistently applied to the skin, will help reduce and soothe any redness [and] increase lipid levels in dry and compromised barriers caused by the harsh climate in winter, as well as heating and environmental factors,” Saul tells Broadsheet. “Omega-3, -6 and -9 in an oil form are also non-comedogenic, so designed for all skin types, including acne and oily skin types.” She suggests inserting Maryse’s Intensive Omega Treatment oil into your routine – get the most out of it by popping it on before you moisturise.

Supercharge your skincare

While the above ingredients play a big role in pumping moisture directly into your skin, there are products and tips the experts recommend using to ensure those ingredients have maximum impact. Vivian says continuing exfoliation treatments – either at home or in-clinic – is imperative for clearing the way for those moisture-boosting ingredients.

“It’s during these months that we want maximum penetration of our hydrating ingredients into the skin,” he says. “Drier skin can have a build up of skin cells that can impede penetration, so finding a suitable exfoliant that does the trick without irritation will ensure happier skin as the weather cools.”

Saul says switching to an oil or balm cleanser is a great way to work extra hydration into your skin while strengthening its barrier. “Barrier strength is imperative to prevent conditions like dermatitis, eczema and sensitivity from appearing in the colder months. We suggest switching out your foaming cleanser and opt for an oil, balm or cream-based cleanser.”

It’s also reccomended to apply humectant-based products, such as hyaluronic acid serums, to slightly damp skin to help draw in moisture.

The no-noes

Some products will have the opposite effect to what you’re after during winter, actively robbing the skin of hydration. Saul warns against foaming cleansers and toners with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), which “will only strip the healthy oils and create more dryness and dehydration,” she says. “Try paring back to once a week and include more oils and serums [in your routine].”

While Vivian advocates being mindful of skin sensitivities and irritation – indicated by symptoms such as burning, redness and peeling – year-round, he notes these can be signs of lack of hydration, which is more common during the colder months. He says if your skin shows any of the above, it’s a good idea to pull back on active ingredients such as vitamins A and C or exfoliation to see if there’s any change.

“Once the skin has settled in terms of sensitivity, you can slowly reintroduce your skincare one product at a time, but be prepared for a reaction to reoccur if the skin is not ready, or perhaps consider using your active ingredients in a lower dose or a reduced frequency.”

Seven products to try

Kester Black Overachiever Balm Cleanser

$60 Kester Black Overachiever balm cleanser This buttery cleansing balm emulsifies into a light, milky texture that works to remove make-up, sunscreen and daily dirt. Vitamin E and theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter are ingredients worth noting in this one. It can also be used as a hydrating mask: the brand recommends applying the cleansing balm with dry hands and massaging into clean, dry skin. Leave on for 10-15 minutes, then rinse well with warm water.

Cerave Hydrating Cleanser

$23.99 Cerave Hydrating Cleanser This cream cleanser includes ceramides, hyaluronic acid and glycerin to help boost hydration and retain moisture levels in the skin. You could also try the brand’s Foaming Oil cleanser as a first step to help remove make-up and other products like SPF.

Go-To Much Plumper Skin serum

$48 Go-To Much Plumper Skin serum Peptides, provitamin B5 and four types of hyaluronic acid work to combat dry and dehydrated skin in this serum. The jelly-like texture absorbs quickly and layers well with make-up and other daily products. Go-To’s Very Luxe face cream is another Broadsheet favourite.

O Cosmedics B3 Plus serum

$129 O Cosmedics B3 Plus serum A high dose of niacinamide floods this serum, helping to support the skin barrier and reduce water loss. The brand also offers a hyaluronic serum that can be used together or alone to further boost hydration levels.

Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Oil-Infused Serum

$96 Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Oil-Infused Serum This oil-infused serum includes squalane and rosehip oil to help nourish skin – shake the bottle to mix the water and oil ingredients and follow up with a moisturiser. You can also prep the skin with the brand’s hydrating toner to maximise the product’s efficacy. And if you’re looking for a gentle exfoliant to sub in this winter, Fresh has a new AHA serum, powered by glycolic and citric acids.

Estee Lauder Revitalizing Supreme+ Night Power Bounce Creme

$231 Estee Lauder Revitalizing Supreme+ Night Power Bounce Creme Estee Lauder has capitalised on the idea of beauty sleep for the past 40 years – there’s a reason that the Advanced Night Repair serum is a mainstay in many skincare routines. The brand’s new moisturiser doubles down on the idea, working to increase skin barrier recovery, as well as hydration levels with moringa extract and vitamin E. It has a slight floral and citrus scent.

Summer Fridays Jet Lag mask

$81 Summer Fridays Jet Lag mask Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are the key players in this mask (which can also be used as a moisturiser). The hype around this product is valid – a little goes a long way and skin is left feeling soft and plump, whether you’re at 10,000 metres or not. The brand’s Dream Oasis serum features similar ingredients, as well as squalane, and can be used daily.

Additional reporting by Alice Jeffery.

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