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How to winterize your skin

Cleansing and exfoliation are just as important as moisturising - but moderation is key in cold weather.

Irritated? Sensitive? Confused? Maybe even a little scaly? Now I'm not talking about different moods linked to pandemic shutdowns but about winter-haunted faces. When it comes to tackling a winter grey and dull complexion, it can be tempting to use layers upon layers of products but one watchword we'll be seeing more of in beauty in 2021 is 'skinimalism' which essentially means reducing the number of products in both the bathroom cabinet and the make-up bag.

London-based dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting has noticed that "lockdown has led to an intense interest in skincare, but I've seen many people overusing active ingredients or simply using too many in rotation at once, leading to irritated and confused skin. I strongly believe that less is more".

Johanna Gillbro, author of the enlightening book The Skin Bible, which explains skin function and ingredients, and founder of skincare brand Skinome (delivered to the UK from April) also knows a thing or two about cold-weather skin. She says "people have to try what works best for them, but I'd like to introduce a Swedish word called lagom which means we shouldn't do too much or too little of anything"

We like to fixate on moisturiser as the holy grail of hydration, but the truth is that cleansing and exfoliation are just as important and not to disturb the skin barrier, the outermost layer of the epidermis. She urges people to cleanse gently - this is the single most important tip for taking care of winter-dry skin. Don't cleanse with hot water, use lukewarm water instead and gently pat the skin dry without rubbing it. Avoid foaming and perfumed cleansers and skip the double-cleanse. "I like Elemis's new Pro-Collagen Naked Cleansing Balm because it's fragrance-free, which is great as cleansing towels are often ruined by overly strong perfumes, and Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water, which has long been a staple in make-up artists' kits backstage during fashion weeks."

Gillbro adds that researchers are increasingly looking at the skin's microbiome, which is made up of bacteria, fungi and viruses, and warns against over-cleaning as some of these microorganisms have benefits for the skin. She also recommends that people with normal, to dry and sensitive skin skip cleansing - and even rinsing with water if they want - in the morning. Maybe this appeals to my inner slob, but I've started splashing my face with water when I wake up, then moisturising and my skin feels calmer and less like Leonardo DiCaprio's wind-chilled, bearded face in The Revenant.

If you find a product that your skin has a reaction to - or dislikes - it's worth analysing the ingredients to apply this knowledge to future purchases (for example, many sulphates often found in face washes find drying and my skin loves glycerine) rather than just absorbing soothing words about star ingredients. This can reduce the expensive trial and error that building a routine can entail.

Exfoliation should also be done with care so as not to disturb the skin barrier. Noelly Michoux, founder of skin care brand 4.5.6, which is designed for melanin-rich (darker) skin says "exfoliation is essential to avoid an ashy appearance. But over-exfoliation can create inflammation and when melanin-rich skin feels aggression, it can cause melanocytes to overproduce melanin, causing hyperpigmentation." 4.5.6 uses a combination of a low percentage chemical peel and enzymatic peel for best efficacy and tolerability."

When choosing a moisturizer, Dr. Sam Bunting suggests "A cream format that contains a blend of occlusive ingredients to trap water in the skin and barrier repair ingredients to replenish ceramides. Look for ingredients like shea butter, squalane and niacinamide. Good options include CeraVe Moisturizing Cream (£13, and Dr Sam's Flawless Moisturizer (£25,"

What about toners, serums and other products? With the bathroom selfie - a picture of a bathroom shelf groaning with coordinated packaging still popping up on instagram, it can be hard for beauty product lovers to go against the grain. Dr. Barbara Sturm, founder of the self-titled skincare and spa line favored by Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow, believes a routine can be whittled down to four or five steps. (In the beauty world, this is considered minimizing.)

Also for cleansing and moisturising, she advocates using a toner with the same pH value as the skin "to balance and strengthen the skin barrier and keep it hydrated". She explains that "[Covid-19] masks disrupt our skin barrier. We get sensitivity, redness, breaks in the skin and pimples. I started using my balanced toner religiously (£45 because it helps with the mask". She also recommends a serum with hyaluronic acid as a good moisturiser before applying a richer cream with oils in it.

I love her (admittedly quite expensive) Face Cream, (£135,, which is soothing and plumping, Aurelia Cell Revitalize Night Moisturizer (£32, and Balmonds Daily Moisturizing Cream (£14,, which is great for sensitive skin. When it comes to SPF, Dr Sam Bunting recommends using SPF whatever the weather, as "UVA levels are present throughout the year". Beauty Pie Super Healthy Skin Ultralight UVA/UVB SPF 25 (£35, leaves no white film and adds a little glow.

In addition to products, other hacks include lowering the central heating and temperature of your shower, and - if you're really serious - getting a humidifier. Sturm suggests "Skip the junk food, put milk in the bathtub, get enough sleep, try to relax from the news, meditate, read a good book. Getting your cortisol levels down really helps with your skin.

Last but not least, if you're wearing make-up, a moisturising base won't draw attention to skin dryness; I've discovered the fabulous Dior Forever Skin Glow foundation (£39, Imagine Elsa from Frost after a facial.