Winter Skin: Combatting the Effects of Dryness, Sensitivity & Trans-Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL)

You can feel it in the air, and you may even be able to feel it on your skin. Winter has arrived, which for us, means: colder air, harsher weather conditions, and an increased risk of skin sensitivity and dryness. You may be starting to reach less for your lightweight moisturizer and reach more for a thicker cream. These are the months where we head into battle to shield our skin from the elements. 

Dry, itchy, red and flaky skin can be a sign that you are experiencing the negative side effects of trans-epidermal water loss, also known as TEWL. TEWL is a term commonly used in skincare to describe the process by which water passes from the dermis to the epidermis and evaporates from the skin’s surface. This results in skin that’s drier, flakier, more sensitized and constantly irritated. While TEWL is a process that your skin naturally regulates, certain factors that damage the skin’s barrier function can also dramatically impact TEWL levels. Circumstances such as injury, low-humidity weather conditions and topically applied products that dry out the skin can impact TEWL. When you experience dry or flaky skin, you can help prevent excess water loss & protect your skin’s barrier with frequent moisturization using products that contain humectants and occlusives.

For the first time in over 10 years, I have been breaking out in eczema around my nose and the corners of my mouth. I’ve realized that this flare up began around when the weather started to get colder. So this winter, I’ve had to overhaul my entire regime to try and calm my skin down. These are my tried and true winter essentials to help combat dryness, redness and sensitivity:

Calming & Soothing Face Masks

The first thing I do when my face becomes extra sensitive is to add calming face masks into my skincare rotation. There are so many different face masks out there, many of them claiming to “soothe” your skin. I think there is a lot of trial and error involved in finding the right mask that calms your skin down best. My favorite ingredients to look out for in a calming/soothing mask are:

  • Centella Asiatica
  • Allantoin
  • Hemp Seed Extract 
  • Algae Extract
  • Arnica
  • Colloidal Oat
  • Blue Tansy
  • Calendula Extract

Eliminate Strong Actives

Another great thing you can do for your skin when it becomes extra sensitized is to eliminate the harsher products in your routine. Stop exfoliating! I know, it almost sounds sacrilegious, doesn’t it? But I promise, stripping back on the harsh exfoliants will allow your skin barrier to regenerate and become more resilient. For me, when my eczema started to flare, I stopped using my exfoliants and my retinol for around 3 weeks, until I got my flare up under control. After my skin barrier had become stronger and more resilient, I introduced my stronger actives back into my routine. Because my skin was better equipped to handle them, I was able to tolerate them way better than before! 

Skin Barrier Reinforcement

As I mentioned in the previous section, consistently reinforcing your skin’s barrier is one of the most important things you can do to improve the overall appearance of your skin, regardless of the time of year. No matter how your skin is feeling, using products that help to balance your skin’s microbiome will result in healthier, more glowing skin. When your skin’s barrier becomes compromised, this is when your skin issues will become more visible. Redness, sensitivity, dry patches, clogged pores, uneven skin tone are all the result of a compromised skin barrier. But don't worry, there are a few ingredients to look out for in your skin care products if reinforcing the skin barrier is your top priority: 

  • Omega Fatty Acids
  • Ceramides
  • Peptides
  • Hydrating Acids (Hyaluronic Acid, Polyglutamic Acid, Sodium PCA)
  • Linoleic Acid
  • Chia Seed Oil


An amazing tip I learned a few winters back, is to add an oil into your winter skincare routine. With acne-prone skin, I had always stayed far away from oils, but in the winter I find that my skin can actually tolerate them much better. Remember, only a few drops into your moisturizer will do the trick! Unless you have especially dry skin, you don’t really don’t need to go overboard on the oil. I use 2-4 drops added into my moisturizer depending on how dry my skin feels that night.

If you are particularly worried about oil clogging your pores, your best bet is to stick to “noncomedogenic” oils. Noncomedogenic is a term used to describe products that are formulated in such a way that they are not likely to cause pore blockages (comedones) and breakouts. If you have combination skin like me, here a few noncomedogenic oils you can add into your winter routine:

  • Rosehip
  • Squalane
  • Hemp Seed
  • Jojoba
  • Sea Buckthorn

Using soothing and calming face masks, eliminating stronger actives, reinforcing the skin barrier, and adding a few drops of oil into my moisturizer are all tricks I use to combat the horrible effects of TEWL. If you also suffer from dryness, redness and sensitivity during the colder months, I’d love to know what you do to help revive and reinvigorate your skin. Send me an email at and let's chat about all things SKIN!