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When to Switch to a Heavier Moisturizer (Hint: Now!)

Young woman in sweater and gloves
October 18, 2016 Reviewed by Marta 3 Comments

I read recently that you should switch up your skin care regimen around the same time that you transition to your fall wardrobe. Such sage advice is wasted on me as I go for weeks shivering in denial, my summer wardrobe worn to the bitter end. Sound familiar? You may find it helpful to know that there are some other signs your skin is craving more moisture. Heed the call for a switch to a heavier cream or serum and your skin will thank you by looking radiant all the way through to the first signs of spring. Here’s what to look out for.

First, why does your skin require more moisture in cold weather?

Before you even go out into the frigid air, think about the effect of artificial heating. Indoor heat lowers the humidity and the dry air saps moisture from the skin. Then, there is the dramatic shift from the indoor heat to the outdoors chills in a matter of seconds. This can cause the capillaries in the face to contract and expand rapidly, resulting in broken veins and redness. Once outdoors, the cold air holds much less moisture than warm air. Actually that isn’t quite true. The physics 101 is that at higher temperatures, water molecules are more likely to go into the vapor phase, so there will be more water vapor in the air.

Signs you need to rethink your moisturizer

For me, it’s in the lips. Although we have only just entered fall, my lips are telling me that winter is on the way. The skin on the lips is much thinner — there are literally fewer layers of skin — than the rest of the face. Hence, they are the first to suffer in the drier, colder air.

Another telltale sign is itchy skin — or perhaps you’ve noticed that your skin feels tight. Also, dry skin can magnify those fine lines. So, no, you didn’t age overnight, you just need to amp up your moisturizer.

What to look for in a cold-weather cream (and what to avoid)

Both the skin oils and the dead skin cells hold a certain amount of water in the stratum corneum, and it is this stratum corneum water that helps keep the skin soft, pliable and smooth. Note that even dead cells contain some water, so be careful not to over-exfoliate, even though many of us want to start sloughing as soon as we see the first flake. Don’t get me wrong: It is important to keep up the exfoliation, just don’t overdo it.

Sodium hyaluronate is a moisturizing ingredient that many of us have come to love and rely on. However, it is not our best friend when the climate is very dry. The way that sodium hyaluronate (or hyaluronic acid) works is that it draws in moisture from the atmosphere and retains it in your skin. If there is little moisture in the air, it will draw it from the skin’s own reserves, making your skin feel tighter and drier. If your favorite serum is heavy on this ingredient, then layer a heavier moisturizer over it.

When looking for a nourishing moisturizer, keep an eye out for shea and mango butters, as well as oils that are rich in omega fatty acids like avocado, hazelnut and apricot kernel. I like Benir Beauty BV Nine Platinum Anti-Aging Bee Venom Cream ($136 in the shop), which is also packed with peptides, and the extra rich La Vie Celeste Day Night Restorative Face Cream ($65 in the shop).

It is also worth checking out night creams as they tend to be heavier – just make sure to avoid any ingredients (such as retinol) that can exacerbate dryness or sensitivities. Try Eslor Active Night Cream ($95 in the shop), which has line-erasing Matrixyl 3000, or vitamin-rich Board & Batten Restore Like a Girl Overnight Nourishing Balm ($49 in the shop).

Finally, this is the ideal time to try out facial oils. They are full of antioxidants and considered one of the best things for keeping the skin supple.  Fear not: Good oils won’t cause oiliness or clog pores. Your Best Face Private Reserve ($75 in shop) turned me on to facial oils, thanks to its antioxidant-packed formula and silky-smooth feel. Another good choice is Red Flower Kinmoxei Wild Lime Silk Oil ($42) with vitamin E, fatty acids and silk protein.


  • October 21, 2016

    by Francoise

    Thank you Marta! :-) Will try then.

  • October 18, 2016

    by Marta

    Hi Francoise, my best guess would be to apply much less than you are used to. Most people apply too much product in general. With rich creams, potent serums and oils, very little is necessary. Usually a pea size amount is enough for the whole face. And with an oil, just a tiny drop is sufficient.

  • October 18, 2016

    by Francoise

    Hi Marta,

    Thank you so much for this review.
    I just purchased the Opulence cream - does it not qualify as a winter cream as I do not see it among the offered choices?

    Also, my skin has a tendency has to break out, would you know for sure a winter cream that is both nourishing and blemish-free? (I know this is very difficult to answer as each skin reacts differently...)

    Last, my problem with rich creams (and facial oils) is that they make my face puffy and my eyes swollen. Would you have a way around that?
    (I already consider my fact to be too round!)

    Thank you so much and kind regards,

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