I know winter has taken its toll when I feel them—the little bumps around my nose and forehead, and blotches of sandpapery skin across the cheeks teamed with a complexion so dull that no amount of self-tanner will perk it up. Uneven skin texture is one of those bugbears most of us just put up with, but if you’re wondering why your complexion looks bleak in winter, look no further.
The key cause? Dryness. Not just the “central heating has sucked out all the moisture” dryness, but also the type of dehydration that happens when you slather on too much face cream. Celebrity skin expert Debbie Thomas explains that when our skin feels tight, we have a tendency to overdo the oil-rich moisturiser in a bid to provide comfort.
“Oils bind with [your] dead skin cells, acting like a glue, so you get a bigger build-up of dead layers,” Thomas explains. “Then your skin’s sensors will pick up on the fact you have a hydrating layer on it, so it thinks it doesn’t need to absorb water from inside the body. This water is the only way to hydrate the deeper living cells, so by overhydrating the outside layers, you can cause the deeper living layers to become dehydrated.”
Now that doesn’t mean you should be ditching the moisturiser altogether. Instead, it’s about finding the right level of hydration and improving your overall routine. “I see change in skin texture as one of the earliest signs of skin ageing,” says Justine Hextall, La Roche-Posay consultant dermatologist. “Even in our 20s, skin can start to look dull and uneven, and pores can become more visible. We see this as textural change, and a good skincare regimen can make a significant change to this.”
But how? Thomas and Hextall have broken down their top skin-smoothing tips, from the cleansing trick that gives your pores an extra polish to a hydrating hack that guarantees a plump, pillowy complexion.
Buff with a cleansing cloth
Both Hextall and Thomas offered up this cleansing trick: After removing makeup, use a face cloth to lightly buff the skin for mild exfoliation. The type of cleanser you use is important, too. “If you strip the skin barrier of oil with a soapy cleanser, that will unbalance its delicate acidic pH, and no moisturiser will be able to mitigate against that damage,” says Hextall. She adds: “If your skin feels tight after cleansing, your wash is too strong.”
Remedy roughness with retinol
If cell buildup is the issue, slough dead cells away with an exfoliant. “It’s no longer about scratchy scrubs, but rather using acids, enzymes and retinoids to chemically exfoliate the skin and improve your overall cellular renewal,” Thomas says. The former will perform well when harnessed in a facial wash used once a week, she says. “Then at night, try slowly introducing retinol. I would say 0.5% is strong enough for most people.” These are the best retinol serums out there.
Moisturise, mist and moisturise again
Swap overly thick creams for Hextall’s hack. “[After washing your face], apply a hyaluronic acid and spritz the skin with a mineral water. Hyaluronic acid can carry a thousand times its weight in water. Allow the water to be absorbed, and then add a layer of moisturiser to protect the skin barrier and reduce water loss. This leaves skin looking plumped and hydrated.”
Try a treatment
“Micro-needling is my treatment of choice for skin texture,” says Hextall. It involves using a roller or pen-like device to puncture skin with hundreds of teeny-tiny needles. You can do it yourself at home or see a professional. “[Then] combine it with topical treatments, such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and other antioxidant cocktails. Usually after two to three treatments, pore size is smaller, skin tone is more even, and skin looks fresher, firmer and has that youthful glow.”
Slather on SPF
Winter isn’t an excuse; you should be wearing SPF all year round. “The biggest enemy of skin texture is the sun,” says Hextall. “Look for broad-spectrum sun creams with at least factor 15, but in my view, preferably 50 with good UVA and UVB protection. Before I start any treatment for those looking for better skin texture, I give them a bag full of sun cream samples to find the one that will work. Once you have found a suitable high-factor sun cream that can be worn daily, you have found your most powerful anti-ageing product. ■
Follow their sage advice, and you and your skin will be smooth sailing once more.