12 Reasons You Age Faster in Winter

We often associate winter with dry, flaky and pale skin, but neglect to realize just how the cold weather may enhance signs of aging

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Winter means sub-zero temperatures, fewer daylight hours, and more time spent indoors. Cold weather can leave your skin feeling dry and chapped, meanwhile, indoor heating can zap your skin’s moisture. These conditions, both outdoor and indoor, can promote and contribute to aging in the winter.

Read on as dermatologists explain the reasons why your skin ages in the winter and what you can do to prevent these unpleasant skin conditions. (Here’s how to make your skin naturally glow.)

pores on the skin of the face. Cleansing the face skin
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There’s significantly less moisture in the air

Perhaps the most obvious aspect of wintertime is the fact that it’s cold and dry—two characteristics that don’t bode well for youthful-looking skin. “The dry, harsh environmental conditions in wintertime often disrupts the skin’s equilibrium, causing redness and sensitivity,” says Ted Lain, MD, an Austin-based dermatologist. “This sensitivity can make us susceptible to skin conditions like rosacea, which tend to worsen in the winter and, over time, can lead to premature aging.” Here are 10 ways to fight dry skin this winter.

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You’re more stressed out

“Unfortunately the holidays and all the expectations surrounding them increase our stress level,” says Dr. Lain. “An increase in the stress hormone, cortisol, can have deleterious effects on the skin, again causing premature aging and poor tone and texture.” He recommends incorporating some rest and relaxation time now and then, whether it’s watching a movie at home or having a spa day; that will give you (and your skin) a chance to recoup.

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You don’t regularly apply sunscreen

Sunscreen is important year-round, even in the wintertime on the cloudiest or snowiest of days. “While [short wave ultraviolet B] UVB B rays decline in intensity during the winter months, [long wave ultraviolet A ] UVA A rays do not, and these are the ones responsible for most of the DNA damage that leads to skin cancer and premature aging,” warns Dr. Lain. For this reason, he recommends that all his patients wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 year-round. Here are more habits that are aging you faster.

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You’re using the same skin care products as you did in the summer

The wintertime, with its dry, harsh environmental conditions, calls for its own set of skin care products that contain different ingredients than the ones you rely on to combat summer’s heat and humidity. It’s best to incorporate ultra-hydrating ingredients such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid, which holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water. In addition to looking for specific ingredients, also opt for heavier or richer products to lock in hydration. (As opposed to lighter lotions and gels used in the summer.) Consider trying one of the best healing face oils for winter.

a white shower curtain in an empty shower with water ON medium shot
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Your showers are way too hot

In the wintertime, when the weather outside is freezing cold, for many, it feels comfortable to warm up in a really hot shower. However, doing so can dry out your skin more. “Hot water strips the natural oils from your skin, leaving it dry and vulnerable to cracking, especially in the winter,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York City. “I believe that it’s important to ‘soak and grease,’ which means spend at least 20 minutes in a lukewarm shower or bath and then immediately apply moisturizer to the skin after bathing.” Don’t miss the 15 signs your body is aging faster than you are.

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You’re using cleansers that are too harsh

“Dry skin can no longer protect nerve endings, leaving the skin more vulnerable and susceptible to irritants, such as cleansers with chemicals that can burn the overexposed, cracked skin,” explains Dr. Engelman. For this reason, she recommends using oil-based cleansers during winter, which eliminate impurities without drying out the skin. “Essentially the oil binds to the oils on your face and the cleanser rinses them away, without stripping your skin of its good natural oils,” she adds. You can also try hydrating nonsoap cleansers, but stay away from traditional soaps which have an alkaline pH and disrupt the outer skin layer.

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You rely more on comfort foods

The saying “you are what you eat” can also apply to your skin, too. Although it can be tempting to reach for more hearty and caloric foods when the temperatures are so low, healthy skin requires a blend of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables. Karin L. Hermoni, PhD, head of science and nutrition at Lycored recommends eating a combination of different natural phytonutrients from fruits, vegetables, and spices, which can work synergistically to provide better benefits for your body and its largest organ: Your skin. Be sure you’re not eating these foods that can make you age faster, too.

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You’re exposed to less sunlight

“Vitamin D and vitamin K levels drop in the winter, and are associated with darker circles under the eyes, giving the appearance of significant aging due to paler, more transparent skin,” explains Patricia Wexler, MD, New York City dermatologist and founder of Wexler Dermatology. Instead of sneaking into a tanning booth, try applying a tan bronzer to help add youthfulness and color back into pale, tired-looking skin. Make sure to also add vitamin D-rich foods to your diet and discuss possible supplementation with your doctor, too.

12 Reasons You Age Faster in Winter

You’re more sedentary

It’s only natural that you’re less active in the wintertime when the freezing-cold weather has you bundled up indoors. However, it’s still important to incorporate physical activity at least a few times a week. Neglecting your fitness will ruin your mood, raise your weight, and it could increase inflammation in your body—which is the source of heart troubles and numerous other age-related illnesses, warns Dr. Wexler. Put your best foot forward with these podiatrist-recommended winter boots.

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You’re cranking up the heat indoors

Indoor heat is a godsend in the wintertime, but couple it with the low-humidity of most modern heating systems and you’re left with dry skin and frizzy hair. A simple fix is to use a humidifier, which will allow your skin to retain its moisture. Check out the signs your face is aging faster than you are.

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You’re still exfoliating several times a week

Even if you enjoy a nice skin exfoliant during the rest of the year, Jerome Garden, MD, dermatologist and director of the Physicians Laser and Dermatology Institute in Chicago, recommends skipping it during the winter and prioritizing hydration. “Our skin is usually drier due to the weather and dry air, so further drying it out with washes or scrubs will cause more damage,” he says. “Wash your face in the winter only once a day (unless very sweaty or dirty) and use a gentle cleanser, such as Cerave, Cetaphil or Vanicream.”

Woman in a bathrobe is washing hands.
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You’re over-washing your hands

It may seem like a better idea to over-wash your hands than under-wash them in the winter when the cold and flu is spreading—but the combination of water and soap can dry out your skin even more. For this reason, Dr. Garden recommends limiting hand washing to only when it’s needed, using lukewarm water, wearing gloves while washing the dishes, and, most importantly, using a thick cream or ointment (such as petroleum jelly) after every hand washing. Next, find out 50 more things that are making you look older.

Medically reviewed by Joshua Zeichner, MD, on February 12, 2020

Jenn Sinrich
Jenn Sinrich is an experienced digital and social editor in New York City. She's written for several publications including SELF, Women's Health, Fitness, Parents, American Baby, Ladies' Home Journal and more.She covers various topics from health, fitness and food to pregnancy and parenting. In addition to writing, Jenn also volunteers with Ed2010, serving as the deputy director to Ed's Buddy System, a program that pairs recent graduates with young editors to give them a guide to the publishing industry and to navigating New York.When she's not busy writing, editing or reading, she's enjoying and discovering the city she's always dreamed of living in with her loving fiancé, Dan, and two feline friends, Janis and Jimi. Visit her website: Jenn Sinrich.