Simone Gannon: Three simple tips to bring your skin back to life in cold weather

More ceramides, less exfoliation and a little bit of slugging will rehydrate and restore the skin barrier

While the colder months mean snuggly coats and blazing fires – and who doesn’t love those? – they can also bring dry, dull, irritated skin. Plummeting temperatures wreak havoc on our delicate skin barrier, stripping away essential moisture and leaving it looking and feeling tight, itchy, flaky, red and inflamed. The texture of our skin can change, too. Previously smooth skin can give way to bumpy, rough patches, with more exaggerated fine lines owing to a lack of hydration.

While we can’t change the weather or humidity levels, we can change our skincare routine. A few minor tweaks and product switch-ups are all you need to bring your skin back to life this winter.

Ceramides and squalane

Moisture-boosting ingredients are essential for repairing and maintaining a healthy skin barrier; two of the best to look out for are ceramides and squalane. These superstar ingredients suit every skin type, play nicely with others, and protect, repair and deeply hydrate.

Let’s talk about ceramides first. Often referred to as the building blocks of our skin, ceramides are the fatty acids that happily battle on our behalf, keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. And by the good stuff, I mean moisture. Ceramides create a barrier on the skin that prevents moisture loss, making sure the skin stays hydrated, balanced and comfortable. Ceramide-loaded products can be found in almost every skincare line these days, including Ceramidin from excellent Korean skincare brand Dr Jart.

With a product to suit every preference, including mists, sheet masks, toners and moisturisers, you can expect to revive your skin in record time, no matter what you choose to use. Although the entire line is impressive (and reasonably priced), I am particularly fond of the miracle-working Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Skin Moisturising Sheet Mask (€9 from Boots). They rescue and repair in just one use.

Next up, squalane. A powerful moisturising agent, we naturally produce squalene (with an e) in our sebaceous glands to keep our skin barrier healthy. From our mid-20s onwards, however, our natural production of squalene slows down, which is where squalane (with an a) comes in – a hydrogenated, more stable and widely available version that can be applied topically with excellent results. It prevents water loss, keeps the skin barrier happy and healthy and delivers plump, dewy skin.

While there is an abundance of squalane-infused products to choose from, my winter weapon of choice is a thicker, barrier repairing moisturiser – an essential product switch-up to make in the colder months. Out with lighter water creams and gel moisturisers and in with richer, creamier, more emollient options.

Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream (€52 from Space NK) is a standout in this category. Sufficiently rich without feeling heavy or greasy, this decadent moisturiser feels like a soothing hug for dull, dry, irritated skin. Use any time but especially at night, as this is when our skin really goes into repair mode.


It’s not the cutest name in the world for an excellent skin-repairing method, but hear me out. Slugging involves applying an occlusive balm, like Vaseline, over your regular moisturiser at night. It creates a seal, allowing for maximum repair and hydration while you sleep. You can also spot “slug” – dry patches on the side of your nose, dry eyelids, cuticles, etc.

Slugging isn’t for everyone (proceed with caution if you’re oily or acne-prone) and can make a mess of your pillowcase, but it is really effective and an excellent technique for when your skin needs it.


Lastly, with all this talk of slugging and winter coat-type moisturisers, you might think exfoliation is off the cards. Not so. It’s as essential as ever, albeit at a reduced frequency. Gentle exfoliation once or twice a week is more than enough to remove dead skin cells (and allow your serums and moisturisers to penetrate better), while ensuring your skin retains as much moisture as possible. One of the gentlest exfoliating acids to look out for is Polyhydroxy Acid or PHA. It works at a slower pace than Glycolic or Lactic Acid but still delivers glowing results – a great option for when your skin is more sensitive than usual. There are several PHA exfoliants I rate; Neostrata PHA Renewal Pads (€45 from Space NK), The Inkey List PHA Toner (€13.99 from Boots), and Medik8 Press and Glow PHA Tonic (€35 from Space NK).

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