Winter is prime time for red, blotchy, scaly, tight, and itchy skin. All of these unpleasant symptoms have one big thing in common—they’re signs of inflammation. According to Caren Campbell, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in California, it’s helpful to add anti-inflammatory skin-care ingredients to your routine during cooler months to keep your biggest organ happy and healthy.
“Skin is likely to be more inflamed in general during the winter months given that the skin barrier can become impaired due to less humidity in the air,” says Dr. Campbell. She points to a 2016 study on 25 female subjects that found that skin was generally more inflamed in the winter months. Additionally, they found that levels of ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol, “which make up components of the skin barrier that protect us from the environment and lock moisture into the skin” were also lower in the winter. This time of year can be especially triggering for inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea and eczema.
When your skin barrier is compromised, your skin’s ability to tolerate certain ingredients can decrease, explains Shirley Chi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in California.
“Things that irritate the skin, such as chemicals, soaps, and allergens, can penetrate the skin easier and cause inflammation,” says Dr. Chi. For this reason, you don’t want to overdo it when introducing new products during the winter. “It’s very important during dry, cold weather to not try new products with too many ingredients, especially ingredients such as fragrances, botanicals, and preservatives. Many of these ingredients are irritating or allergenic.”
While inflammation can cause signs of dryness that we usually associate with winter, it can also lead to an uptick in pimples. “Inflammation results from immune system messengers that recruit inflammatory cells,” says Dr. Campbell. “These inflammatory markers or messengers cause itching, swelling, redness, pus, and open wounds to an area.”
The fix? Use anti-inflammatory ingredients like niacinamide, green tea, and aloe vera to calm your skin while slathering on moisturizing ingredients like ceramides and dimethicone to get your skin barrier back into tip-top shape. As Dr. Campbell says, “restoring the skin’s barrier can help prevent activation of the immune system.” Below, shop face and body products to soothe inflamed skin.
10 anti-inflammatory skin-care products to use this winter
Aveeno Daily Moisturizing — $12.00
Dr. Chi loves oatmeal for soothing inflamed skin, as oats contain avenanthremides which are anti-inflammatory compounds that help calm your skin. This set includes a face cream and body lotion.
Avène Cicalfate Restorative Hand Cream — $25.00
Dr. Campbell is a huge fan of dimethicone for inflamed skin as it creates an occlusive barrier to lock moisture into the skin and help repair the skin barrier. This hand cream from Avène contains dimethicone in addition to the brand’s thermal spring water, which soothes, softens, and calms the skin.
Cortizone 10 Maximum Strength Creme With Aloe — $5.00
“Applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment twice a day can be helpful to calm inflammation, but stronger topicals can be prescribed when needed,” says Dr. Campbell. This hydrocortisone also includes aloe to be super soothing.
Oui the People Moisturizing Shave Gel-to-Milk — $64.00
If you’re experiencing inflammation on an area of skin that you really want to shave, you want to ensure you’re using a super soothing and moisturizing shaving cream. This one from Oui the People contains anti-inflammatory ingredients like aloe vera and dandelion root extract to promote calm, conditioned skin
SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Masque — $59.00
This mask has an immediate cooling effect to soothe irritated skin. Dr. Campbell explains that this is achieved by dipeptide, a calming and anti-inflammatory peptide. It also contains a blend of soothing ingredients like cucumber, thyme, and olive extracts and hyaluronic acid.
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Eczema Soothing Relief Cream — $15.00
This cream from La Roche-Posay contains two of Dr. Chi’s favorite anti-inflammatory ingredients: oatmeal and niacinamide. It also contains shea butter to hydrate and replenish essential skin lipids, and the brand’s signature thermal spring water which is rich in soothing minerals
Learn more about soothing dry skin:
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