8 Reasons Your Skin Breaks Out in Winter

Harsh winter conditions create new challenges for blemish-prone, oily or combination skin. Find out how to keep your skin feeling clean, clear and comfortable through ‘til spring

8 Reasons Your Skin Breaks Out in Winter

As temperatures drop and cold winds start to blow, many of us notice our skin reacting to the changing seasons by breaking out. This might seem strange – after all, breakouts are more associated with oily skin in summer, whereas winter often dries skin out. So why the breakouts? In this article, we’ll explain what causes winter breakouts, and what you can do to help keep them at bay.


Why does skin break out in winter?

1. Changing weather effects skin

The skin is the one part of your body that’s in direct contact with the atmosphere at all times – which means it’s vulnerable to all kinds of external factors. In winter, your skin is subjected to harsh wind, rain, low temperatures and perhaps even sleet and snow. The combined effect is that your skin becomes stressed-out and less able to maintain its balance – leading to an increase in skin concerns like blemishes.

What to do
Listen to your skin – if you’re experiencing breakouts after prolonged exposure to the elements, you may need to cut back on your time outdoors or give your skin some extra TLC to keep it calm and comfortable.

2. Central heating and dry air

To combat the cold, most of us turn up the central heating in our homes. It’s the same story in offices, restaurants and shops, too. Artificial heat means there’s less moisture in the air, and staying in this environment over time often dries your skin out. Dry skin can lead to breakouts, as there’s a layer of dead cells on the skin’s surface that can clog pores and prevent sebum flowing freely.

What to do
One solution is to invest in a humidifier for your home. It will rebalance the moisture levels in the air and give your skin a break from the effects of air-conditioned or centrally heated spaces.Carrying a small thermal water spray with you can help top up your skin’s humidity levels on the go, and keep you comfortable when you have to spend time in a heated office, classroom or other shared space.

3. Dry skin builds up

If your skin is getting dried out by external factors, and you’re compensating by treating your skin very gently and adding a rich moisturiser, you could end up with a build-up of dead skin that clogs pores.

What to do
Make sure you’re still exfoliating your skin. Don’t go too heavy – there’s no need to dry out your skin further. Just use a mild scrub or chemical exfoliant to gently wipe away any build-up of dead cells from the skin’s surface, allowing your pores to flow freely. Always moisturise well afterwards.

4. Stress and lack of sleep

The winter months can be a hectic time, with holidays and events crowding your calendar. It’s also the time of year when there’s less natural daylight around, prompting your body to be less active. Pushing yourself to maintain and even increase your activity levels means you could easily end up tired and stressed out – with your skin bearing the tell-tale signs.

What to do
Pace yourself as much as possible. Know your own limits – don’t burn the candle at both ends, and rejoice in lazy winter evenings in front of the TV as well as festive parties and bonfire-night fun.

5. Skimping on your routine

Changes in the amount of daylight, along with hectic schedules, can mean you feel exhausted a lot of the time. It’s all too easy to fall into bed without going through your evening skincare routine. This can increase the chance of blemishes, since you won’t be clearing the pores of dead cells and oils.

What to do
Always make time to cleanse and moisturise your skin every night. To speed things up, try multi-tasking products like micellar cleansers, which cleanse and take off makeup in one sweep.

6. Changing skincare products

As the seasons change, so does your skincare routine. The moisturiser that worked well for you in summer will need to be swapped for a more nourishing formula in winter. But swapping products can itself cause problems if you don’t choose the right formulas for your skin type. An overly-oily product on blemish-prone skin can block pores and lead to breakouts.

What to do
When choosing a new product, always make sure it’s formulated for your skin-type and is non-comedogenic, to reduce the risk of clogged pores. Look for a light, fluid texture that sinks into your skin easily without leaving a greasy film

7. New hairstyles and products (makeup)

Many of us update our look during the winter months – berry lipstick, smoky eyes, maybe a fringe or a new hair colour. If you’re changing or adding new haircare or makeup products to your routine, you may notice a knock-on effect on your skin in the form of blemishes.

What to do
As a rule of thumb, avoid waxy or thick products for skin and hair. Changing your products may cause your skin to react especially if it’s damaged.

8. Hats (and scarves)

Wrapping up warm for winter is one of the joys of the season. But it can mean you’re creating a closed environment between your skin and your woolly outerwear. Bobble or beanie hats that sit on the forehead, and scarves that cover the lower face, can trap oil and encourage breakouts.

What to do
Wash hats and scarfs regularly to remove oils and dirt that could transfer onto your skin. Remove them as soon as you get indoors to help skin breathe. Choose natural fabrics as much as possible, and avoid wearing the same hat and scarf day after day.