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Winter Skincare Guide: How to tackle cold weather skin issues

By Catharina Cheung 5 December 2019

We do so love the winter season—after all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!—but with the cold weather comes a litany of annoyances. One such issue is dryness, both in the body and skin-deep. In Hong Kong, we don’t have to deal with the awful dehydration that comes with indoor heating, but that doesn’t mean that our skin won’t suffer a fair bit over these few months with the drier weather. Couple this with wool clothing—which may irritate the skin—and hotter showers, and you’ve got a recipe for tight, flaky skin, dry cuticles, and chapped lips—not exactly the best look! If you’re worried about rough and scaly patches, fine lines becoming more prominent due to dehydration, increased redness, worsening sensitivity, and foundation that just doesn’t sit right on dry skin, never fear! We have here a list of skincare products that will hydrate your skin and keep you glowing through the winter. You can thank us when you’re consistently the most dewey-looking one in all your party photos.

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First things first, you need to clear away those old skin cells in order for the fresh, baby-soft ones to shine through. Exfoliation will also help your skin better absorb the products in your skincare routine. However, do beware of over-exfoliating, because your skin will already be more prone to dryness and damage in the cold. And those drugstore apricot face scrubs that smell great? Bin them along with sugar, salt, or bamboo scrubs; these abrasive exfoliators with uneven textures lead to microscopic tears in the skin that could get inflamed, and will basically cause more harm than good.

A chemical exfoliant with alpha (AHA) or beta (BHA) hydroxy acids, such as glycolic, salicylic, and azelaic acids, will fare much better. We like Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial Mask ($625) for its exfoliating and pampering properties—two birds, one stone—and the T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Night Serum ($705) which will work extra hard for you at nighttime, so you can wake up a glowy sleeping beauty.

Don’t neglect to do the same for your body; buff away dead skin with the Cleanse Your Mind & Body Scrub, part of the Ritual of Karma Soothing Collection Gift Set ($390) from Rituals, focusing on commonly problematic areas such as elbows, knees, and feet.


Winter is a great time to swap your gel or foam cleansers for more creamy formulas in your skincare arsenal; you don’t want to strip your skin of the natural oils that it already needs more of. The CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser ($125) contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid to effectively remove oil and impurities while imparting moisture and is also great value for money.

Remove make-up with an oil-based product, such as the Eve Lom’s cult Cleanser ($528) that you massage straight onto dry, made-up skin, melting into a soothing oil with an amazing scent to be rinsed off. For those who prefer a more natural alternative, organic coconut oil is pretty much the answer to anything; we’ve used it to remove make-up to great effect. For toners, it’s a good idea to ease up on oil-controlling options as your skin needs that natural protection. We love the Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner ($98) by Thayers, as rose water soothes redness and the witch hazel can keep breakouts at bay. If you simply cannot let go of your astringent toners, at least limit usage to your T-zone, or wherever else you suffer most from oiliness and breakouts.

Moisturising the face

Needless to say, your skincare routine needs heavier doses of moisture to combat the winter dryness. Don’t be afraid to use oils on your face; even if your skin type is oily, a good facial oil will regulate sebum production and sink right in to impart a healthy glow. Try Costa Brazil’s Kaya Anti-Aging Face Oil ($1,130). We’d like to learn more about their claims of being sustainably sourced and environmentally responsible, but the entire range is also vegan, cruelty-free, and free of parabens, sulphates, mineral oils, and other iffy ingredients.

Spanish cosmeceutical skincare brand BIMAIO seeks to debunk the myth that effective ingredients in skincare are costly to formulate, developing a range of quality and affordable products with a high concentration of active ingredients. Their paraben-free EGF Active Serum ($470) provides the nutrients necessary for the skin to perform the functions which slow down over time, boosting firmness and diminishing the depth of wrinkles. The serum is scented, but with non-allergenic perfume, and its velvety finish makes it ideal for use as a make-up primer as well.

When it comes to moisture, the star atop the figurative Christmas tree is, of course, hyaluronic acid. We love Drunk Elephant’s B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum ($410), which uses a lentil, apple, and watermelon complex blend to diminish drabness. A cheap and cheerful alternative is Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 ($62) from The Ordinary. We also like sometimes adding a few drops of facial oil to our moisturiser for that extra bit of pampering so our glow lasts through the day. Try the Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil ($290) by Pai, which is especially kind to skin that’s prone to sensitivity and redness.

Protect your skin while you sleep as well with the EGF Multiactive Night Cream ($470)—your organs will be hard at work regenerating and building new tissues, so why shouldn’t your skin be helped along as well? This paraben-free moisturiser will keep dryness at bay and help maintain elasticity. First-time shoppers can even get a 15 percent discount and free shipping for orders over $200, while return buyers are entitled to a 10 percent discount off their second purchase. 

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Moisturising the body

Ain’t nobody wants to walk around resembling a scaly lizard person, so make sure you’re also slathering your body in moisturiser daily. We’ve got our eye on Costa Brazil’s products, which are made with what they call “Jungle Complex”—a mixture of vitamin E, mineral-rich Kaya, antioxidant Cacay, and Breu, a fragrant resin from the Almacega tree, prized for its healing and antioxidant properties. Oils are extra nourishing for the skin, so work in some Kaya Jungle Firming Body Oil ($425) from Costa Brazil.

Alternatively, RitualsSpread the Kindness Body Cream, part of their Ritual of Karma Soothing Collection Gift Set ($390) has been formulated with holy lotus and organic white tea for a detoxifying and soothing effect. We prefer moisturising the body right before bed, so creams and such have time to really sink in and the rub-off onto clothes and surroundings are kept to a minimum. But if you feel like you need top-ups during the day, Costa Brazil’s Body Cream ($805) that comes in a tube for ease of bringing around with you.

Protection and further tips

The first sign of dehydration usually manifests with chapped lips, and we sure hate for our pouts to be reduced to cracking, painful grimaces. There’s no real need to throw down the big bucks on a lip exfoliator; you can simply rub gentle circles over your lips using a soft towel dampened with warm water. However, a good lip balm is an absolute must. We bring Drunk Elephant’s Lippe Balm ($145) everywhere with us—it can even double up as an eye balm!—and will always have a tube of the classic Ointment ($46) by Lucas’ Papaw on standby in the office.

Also, consider investing in a humidifier to minimise dryness in the air you’re exposed to. We know it might feel counterintuitive to have both a dehumidifier and a humidifier in your home, so perhaps get one to keep on your work desk.

Photo credit: 7thstreettavern

Finally, it’s always worth sinking back into the couch with a face mask on every now and then to really make sure you’re taking care of your beauty as well as stress levels. A honey oatmeal mask is perfect for dry and irritated skin and is super easy to DIY. Simply mix one tablespoon of oat flour with two tablespoons of honey, as well as approximately a tablespoon of milk so the mixture can be spread more easily. Slather the paste on, resist the urge to lick it for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse off for soft and soothed skin. Now go forth, incite envy, and steal hearts!

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Catharina Cheung

Senior editor

Catharina has recently returned to her hometown of Hong Kong after spending her formative years in Singapore and the UK. She enjoys scouring the city for under-the-radar things to do, see, and eat, and is committed to finding the perfect foundation that will withstand Hong Kong’s heat. She is also an aspiring polyglot, a firm advocate for feminist and LGBTQIA+ issues, and a huge lover of animals. You can find her belting out show-tunes in karaoke, or in bookstores adding new tomes to her ever-growing collection.