Why your face cleansing routine needs a winter refresh

Is your cleanser up to the task during the cooler months? Here’s how to know what your skin needs to glow through winter.

Next to moisturising, cleansing has been identified as a foundational step in any skincare routine.

Cosmetic and medical dermatologist Dr Katherine Armour from The Dermatology Institute of Victoria says cleanser is so essential because of its ability to remove surface debris, excess skin oils and other pollutants.

“Cleansing allows the skin to maintain its health and function, avoid congestion and prevent overgrowth of unwanted skin organisms,” Dr Armour says.

A 2017 US survey revealed that 80 per cent of respondents make at least one or more mistakes while cleansing, which could be anything from using an unsuited product to improper application technique.

But one commonly overlooked cleanser misstep is failing to adjust a cleansing product to suit seasonal changes.

Here, the experts explain why shifting environmental conditions in winter are cause for a cleanser reconsideration.

Why your skin changes through the seasons

You wear different clothes on a warm summer’s day compared to a brisk winter’s day for adequate protection and comfort, right? Well, it is a similar approach when adjusting your skincare in winter.

Cosmetic nurse and therapist Madeline Calfas from GMC Cosmedical says this is because winter’s specific set of external and internal environmental factors impact the condition of your skin.

“In winter we tend to be much more dehydrated, both inside and out,” Madeline says.

“In the cold weather, we’re more inclined to drink hot beverages, layer ourselves in clothing and sit in front of heaters. All of this contributes to drying out the skin.”

She explains the external conditions of cold wind and low humidity cause further dehydration by drawing moisture out of the skin.

On top of that, Dr Armour says declining vitamin D levels in winter due to reduced sun exposure can also “contribute to skin barrier dysfunction and potentially lead to skin dryness and flaking”.

The bottom line? Our skin needs all the hydration help it can get in winter — and that starts with a nourishing cleanser.

What to look for in a winter cleanser

So, are you trying to determine if your cleanser is cut out for giving your skin the hydration it craves in winter?

Skin therapist Poppy Jeffery from Wonder clinic in Sydney says the first clue can be found in the formulation.

“During summer when our skin tends to be more hydrated, foaming and lightweight cleansers are often the go-to,” Poppy says. “But in winter, consider a gentle, non-foaming, non-fragranced, hydration-focused cleanser that’s not going to strip the skin of moisture.”

A cleanser’s ingredient list is another way of examining its winter worthiness.

“Any ingredient that’s going to be hydrating is always welcome in a cleanser,” Madeline says.

“Things like camelina oil, glycerine, vitamin E, oatmeal, aloe vera and rosehip can all help cleanse the skin without taking oils away.”

What is excluded can be as important as what is included, with Poppy cautioning against any cleanser containing “alcohol and artificial fragrance” due to its potential to cause “irritation, dryness or even damage the acid mantle”.

The final step in finding your winter cleanser is to look for one targeted to your specific skin type needs.

Which cleanser should you use for your skin type?

Dehydrated skin

“Ideally, you’d want a milky, non-foaming cleanser that is fragrance-free,” Dr Armour says.

“The inclusion of nourishing, hydrating ingredients such as glycerine will also help the skin to feel more comfortable.”

Oily skin

“Oily skin types should opt for a mild gel-based cleanser as these remove excess oils and clean out the pores, without stripping the skin of its natural oils,” Poppy says.

Sensitive skin

“Try oil or cream-based cleansers free of harsh ingredients that are unlikely to cause irritation,” says Madeline.

“Also, look for the inclusion of any soothing ingredients like vitamin E, niacinamide, oatmeal and sweet almond oil.”

Acne-prone skin

A gentle non-foaming cleanser may be enough if you’re already using other acne targeted actives or treatments.

But if cleansing is your sole acne-targeted product, Dr Armour recommends choosing one that contains salicylic acid, glycolic acid or zinc.

Ageing skin

“Oils, balms, milks or cream-based cleansers are the best option for ageing skin, which tends to be thinner,” Poppy says.

“Look for ones that contain nourishing ingredients to restore the skin’s barrier.”

Written by Sharon Hunt.