How to Protect your Skin from the Cold

Posted by Céline Founder & Chief Alchemist at Anato ⚘ on

Does your skin look like this in winter?

Get our founder Céline's best advice to wave goodbye to parched winter skin.

Cold temperatures, wind, freezing rain, snow …  can take toll on your skin in the winter. Dry, flaky skin and chapped lips sound familiar? Here are a few simple things you can do to to nurture your largest organ, protect it from frigid conditions and help it regain its health. 

1. So what exactly happens to your skin in the winter? 

Why does it seem miserable and well, grey? 

When it is cold, your blood vessels constrict and blood migrates primarily to your vital organs to heat up your body. Therefore, there is less water and sebum delivered to the skin and it can start to dry out, to ‘pull’ or even to itch (1). 

To avoid such phenomenons, it is important to hydrate deeply and regularly. 

2. Inside-out approaches to hydrating your skin

From the inside-out, it's important to consume hydrating foods (think cucumbers) and drink water in small quantities and regularly as opposed to chugging 16 oz at once. According to one of my French mentors Dr. Yann Rougier, outside of performing high intensity sports, you want to be drinking frequently — every hour or so —  half a cup of water.

In winter we consume fewer hydrating foods that are more often consumed in the summer (watermelon, stone fruit, tomatoes...). So keep that in mind when tabulating your water consumption, because internal hydration does not just come from drinking water. 

(Please note that both intrinsic and exogenous factors determine how much water per day you should drink — check with your healthcare provider.) 

3. Outside-in hydration

Now, for outside-in hydration, it’s less about ‘hydrating’ and more about avoiding cutaneous dehydration (Trans Epidermal Water Loss). In winter, if your skin is subject to getting very dry you’ll want to apply a balm over an oil on your face and the rest of your body. In addition to containing plant-based oils, our balms contain waxes that lock-in your skin’s innate moisture. 

During the winter months in fact, I often apply a thick layer of Baume réparateur at night, much like a masque. It delivers much comfort and nourishes the skin deeply thanks to the ingredient shea butter.  

4. To support your skin barrier further... 

You can apply a balm or a thicker oil to your skin right after your bath or shower when you skin is still humid. This will help compensate for your skin’s lack of water. Just remember that the amount of water that passes through your skin barrier when you bathe is extremely limited, since your skin barrier is meant to be waterproof and serve as a ‘barrier’! (Read more about this here)

5. Special emphasis on your lips

Everyone experiences dry lips in the cold. Mine have the appearance of giant sequoia bark when I’m out skiing (aka they are very unsightly and are not the kind of lips you’d expect a skincare brand founder to have!).

Why do lips get so chapped ? Because your lips are more fragile as they lack a hydrolipidic film (that oil-based film that you have on the rest of your skin). The oils you consume with meals rub off your lips when they’re exposed to the elements and as a result, they loose in elasticity and they chap

In addition to all this, unlike the rest of your body that is clothed, your lips are exposed to the environment without any external protection. That lipid film gets removed easily as you inadvertently wet your lips with your tongue, which results in your poor lips to getting drier as the surrounding air literally robs that water from your lips ! 

This phenomenon is precisely why I strongly discourage against applying a mist or hydrosol without dabbing your skin dry. If the conditions are dry, the atmosphere will literally rob that water from your skin and by osmosis, rob water from your dermis at the same time. Learn more about how this works here

Here’s a great moment to vouch for our Tree Balm® for smooth lips as the shea butter nourishes and promotes elasticity, wile the candelilla wax seals in the moisture allowing for the product to remain on your lips longer.  

Tree Balm6. Protect your inherent cutaneous defense mechanisms. 

Cold weather alters your skin’s hydrolipidic later which usually plays the ‘barrier role’ against external aggressors (stress, sun, pollution). Your skin barrier is thus comprised and your skin becomes dehydrated. As such, in addition to hydrating internally and avoiding water-loss externally, you really must help your skin defend itself. 

A key aspect of protecting your skin is cleaning it gently. Your cleaning and make-up removal practices must be done in a way that respects your epidermis’ innate balance and sensitiveness. If you’re the kind of person that really feels the need to soap your face clean (I personally don't), then please at least use a soap that is cold-processed and ‘super-fatted’ (has extra oil) like our Black Cedar Soap. These types of soaps are far less aggressive and less drying (2). 

As I hinted to above, at Anato, we are fans of the ancient practice of oil cleansing (the Romans are famous for oil cleansing with olive oil) which can be done with the Arborescent serum or another plant-based oil (olive oil or coconut oil) which allows you to cleanse your face — removing dirt, impurities and pollution — without destabilizing your skin’s (bacterial) flora all the while hydrating your skin. 

In fact, more and more dermatologists like Dr. Doris Dray recommend oil cleansing because it’s proven that oil does a really good job at dissolving and removing makeup pigments. Since oil cleansing is a skincare routine step that contributes to protecting your skin, it is definitely a step that is relevant even for women that don’t wear make-up. Our Arborescent serum is formulated with jojoba-oil, a light, non-comedogenic oil that is truly suitable for all skin types. It absorbs quickly but isn’t so quick to absorb that it will disappear just as fast as you apply it, which is what you’ll find with an oil like camelina oil from the ANNUAL plant Camelina sativa. At Anato we prefer to help you nourish your skin with renewable ingredients like jojoba from the TREE Simmondsia chinensis

7. Don't forget your extremities in winter! 

Along with your face, your hands are constantly exposed to the elements. If you take a look at an elderly person’s hands you’ll quickly see that. 

Lathering your hands in a balm during the day can be annoying as you’ll end up getting oily matter on your clothes, on surfaces etc. So instead, focus on lathering your hands with an occlusive balm at bedtime. This will also allow you to nourish your nails and cuticles. (Read about occlusive ingredients here). 

Since clothes protect the skin from the harsh outdoors, go ahead and wear your gloves in the winter — your hands will thank me when you're 80 ;) 

8. In the dead of winter, the sun is still out. 

Don’t be duped by a gray curtain, because behind that gray sky is the sun. It is especially important to point this out to my fellow snow-sport enthusiasts out there.  

Snow reflects 85 % of UV Rays, and the more you go up in altitude, the more the UV rays are strong.

Snow reflects 85 % of UV Rays, and the more you go up in altitude, the more the UV rays are strong. That’s why in our household our mountaineering Vuarnet sunglasses have extra 'blinders' to keep sun reflections out and protect the eyes. The point is, continue wearing high SPF sunblock on an overcast day

In fact, when I’m ski touring I find a thick layer of sunblock further protects my skin from getting dehydrated. You’ll be sure to find me re-applying sunblock while I’m sitting on a rock at lunch having a sandwich and a hot ‘cuppa from my thermos. 

9. Avoid Long, scalding hot showers. 

I reside in a tiny house on wheels, and even in Northern California, we can really feel the temperature fluctuations inside. I'm often tempted by a hot shower when it's frigid out. 

If your skin is in contact with hot water for an extended amount of time, that hot water removes your skin’s natural protecting oils (sebum), which further subjects your skin to dehydration. Think about doing dishes — ever gone camping and tried to do dishes with just soap? It doesn’t really work, right ? The hot water helps emulsify with the soap to strip the oils from your dish-ware. So keep the temperature reasonable and don’t forget to lather an oil or a balm on your skin afterwards. 

10. Cold weather dietary considerations. 

Buckthorn Omega 3s

You’ll hear me repeat this: topical skincare recommendations can only go so far, and your largest organ is most definitely a reflection of what you eat. During the colder months, I privilege omega 3-rich foods, essential fatty acids which ensure cell cohesion and the lipid 'waterproofing' of my skin barrier. You’ll find these Omega 3s in foods like nuts, small oily fish (or evening primrose and sea buckthorn oils if you are vegan), chia seeds and borage seed oil. I stock up on vitamin C rich foods: sauerkraut and kimchi are excellent sources for this ! If you DIY your kimchi the spices are also warming.

*Always check in with your health care provider prior to implementing any dietary changes

Kimchi & Vitamin C for your skin


⚘ Do not take hot showers. Find the right self-care techniques for your skin.

⚘ Use products that promote 'moisture sealing'. Read more about this in my article 'hydrating creams don't exist'.

⚘ Eat foods that will make your skin more resilient to the elements. Check out our sun-protective smoothie for how to help protect your skin from sun damage. Find unique, yet climate friendly recipes, in our perennial plant cookbook.


Perennial Plant Cookbook - Anato Life Forest to Face® Skincare

Get your FREE seasonal cookbook featuring climate-reversing perennial plants ↓



(1) Qiu, H., et al. "Influence of season on some skin properties: winter vs. summer, as experienced by 354 Shanghaiese women of various ages." International journal of cosmetic science 33.4 (2011): 377
(2) KILE, ROY L. "Clinical evaluation of a superfatted soap." Archives of Dermatology and Syphilology 45.2 (1942): 377-381.



 *This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


10 Tips for winter skin protection - Anato Life Forest to Face® Skincare



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