Skin Solutions

By Amanda N. Wegner

While it certainly has a lot of great things to offer, we all know that Wisconsin winters can be tough on our minds, our bodies … and our skin.

“Living in the Midwest, we have such extremes of weather from season to season,” says Sarah Stephan, an esthetician with Avani Spa at the Abbey Resort. “Because of that, most people need to treat their skin differently in the winter months.”

The lighter moisturizers that were adequate for the humid summer months are no longer hydrating enough in winter. As the air becomes dryer and cooler, any moisture on the skin evaporates and the cold winds can make the skin chapped. And once we put the heat on in our homes, the indoor air becomes extremely dry.

In short, our skin is getting attacked on all fronts. Here’s how you can give your skin its best defense against Wisconsin’s winter.


While it might feel good on the skin on a cold day, “Do not take long, hot showers as these can actually be dehydrating,” says Stephan. Instead, keep showers to 10 minutes and use warm water.

In addition, apply moisturizer onto damp skin within three minutes of getting out of the shower, says Dr. Tri Nguyen, a dermatologist at Aurora Burlington Clinic. “When you do this, you’re capturing and locking in moisture, which is the best thing you can do for the skin.”

When choosing a moisturizer, opt for a cream over a lotion. Because “lotions are water-based,” says Dr. Marguerite Compton, a dermatologist with Mercy Walworth Clinic, “a jar of cream is the better way to go.”

If showering more than once a day, be sure to moisturize after each shower (but also limit showering to twice a day at most). While on the topic of showering and bathing, Nguyen and Compton both recommend limiting your use of soap, as many soaps can be drying; “I usually tell people to limit soap to private areas and the feet,” says Nguyen.

“A gentle cleanser is a must in the winter … definitely don’t use bar soap,” says Carol Myers, a licensed aesthetician with Clear Waters Salon & Day Spa, which has locations in Williams Bay and Lake Geneva. Compton also recommends to stay away from fragrant soaps like Dial and Zest.


“People think they don’t need sunscreen in winter, but whether it’s January or July, UVA rays are out in force,” says Myers. “Daily sunscreen is a must 365 days a year.”

A broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen that offers UVA and UVB protection, says Nguyen, is adequate. Be sure to apply a generous amount, and reapply every two to three hours, particularly when working and playing outdoors.

Myers adds that many skin care products are dual purpose, meaning they have a sunscreen and a moisturizer. “If you want a dual purpose product for protection, it should be a sunscreen with a moisturizer, rather than a moisturizer with a sunscreen. Its first job should be protection,” she says.


For moisturizers to work best, it’s critical to exfoliate the skin. “Exfoliating is important to remove dead skin cells that act as a barrier and prevent product from being absorbed into the skin,” says Stephan. For individuals who have cold-sensitive skin, a slightly milder exfoliant, like an enzyme peel, may be needed during the winter, she says.

Myers adds that in the winter you may need to exfoliate two to three times per week. “There are several ways to exfoliate, including chemical peels, enzymes, and one of my favorites, which is retinol. A retinol, however, should be used at least three times per week.” She also recommends physician-grade products which can be obtained from a medical spa or physician’s office. The over-the-counter products with retinol, she adds, are a waste of money and will have little or no impact on the skin.


Regardless of the season, a skin care routine is important. A great but simple nighttime routine, says Myers, is to cleanse, apply a serum and moisturize. There are a variety of serums available. Some products include Vitamin C, an antioxidant, which if included in a physician-grade product, will penetrate the epidermis and pair up with free radicals and neutralize their damage. Other products may include hyaluronic acid known to attract water molecules and help the skin to retain moisture, serving as “a drink of water” for the skin.


No matter what the season, it’s important to use mild, fragrance-free lotions, laundry detergents and fabric softeners, says Compton. “Products with fragrance can be irritating and drying,” she says.

Also irritating to the skin are pure wool garments. If you wear wool in the winter, it’s a good idea to layer a cotton shirt underneath to serve as a barrier, notes Stephan.


If it fits your budget, consider a professional skin care service. “While monthly professional services are ideal, if they don’t fit in your schedule or budget, quarterly professional services are a good idea,” says Meyer. “Never hesitate to schedule a complimentary skin care consult with a professional for tips on how to take care of your skin in the current season.”

Between services, there are many ways to care for your skin at home with ingredients found in your own kitchen. While nothing beats professional skincare service, a quick Internet search will identify a number of ways to care for your skin and keep it from being dull or dehydrated. If you’re unable have a facial on a regular basis, there are great blogs and information is available from professional skin care experts on what to use at home. Honey and yogurt, for instance, are just some of the ingredients you can use at home.

Aside from facials, winter is also a great time to do chemical peels and professional laser treatments to help remove skin damage, says Myers.

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