Dr. Dennis Gross Tells Us How To Treat The Top 3 Skin Woes In The Winter

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As much as we're sad to say goodbye to summer, we definitely don't miss the extreme heat and humidity that makes our makeup run down our faces. And that's not the end of it; we're also more likely to get sunburns, sun allergies, and heat rashes, among a plethora of other skin issues caused by the summer heat (via WebMD). We can briefly enjoy a break in the fall before all the winter skin problems come up. 

Thankfully, we can follow some dermatologist-recommended tips to keep our skin healthy in the winter. "In the cooler winter months, the outdoor air typically holds onto less water and is drier and colder," Beverly Hills-based board-certified dermatologist Naissan O. Wesley, MD, explained to Everyday Health. Therefore, investing in a humidifier helps retain moisture in the air to keep your skin hydrated, per Cleveland Clinic.

While the dry, frigid air makes most people's skin drier in the cooler months, more skin issues can also arise. To learn more about the most common winter skin problems, we spoke with the one and only Dr. Dennis Gross, who is considered one of New York City's best dermatologists. He told The List: "The three most common skin concerns I see with my patients in the winter are dry and flaky skin, acne, and dullness." Thankfully, Dr. Gross advised us on how to address all three properly.

Dry, flaky skin

Dry skin is annoying and just doesn't feel good. In an exclusive interview with The List, Dr. Dennis Gross told us all about what causes dry skin and, more importantly, how to treat it. As Dr. Gross noted, "During colder months, humidity levels drop, causing the water in your skin to evaporate more quickly. The result is dry, flaky skin, which is exacerbated if your moisture barrier is damaged." 

He added that moisture escapes through these cracks, making it hard for your skin to lock it in. Dr. Gross told us, to fight dry skin in the winter, "I recommend taking a two-part approach. First, you'll want to exfoliate regularly with gentle chemical exfoliation — preferably a peel with two steps: an acid step and then a neutralizer to shut off the acids." That's because "exfoliating acids help remove dry, dead skin cells, which can block hydrating products and ingredients from penetrating the skin."

Likewise, "If your skin is very flaky and has a layer of dead skin sitting on top, the products you apply will sit on top, and you won't see benefits." Following exfoliation, choose a moisturizer with emollients or humectants as active ingredients "to help replenish the skin, seal in moisture, and prevent water loss." Utilizing humectants in winter is a great idea as they can hold up to 1,000 times their weight to actively help prevent dry, flaky skin, per Real Simple.


You might think acne only has to do with skin type and hotter weather when you're sweating more, but according to Dr. Dennis Gross, it's among the top three winter woes. He confirmed to The List: "I believe the two biggest causes for breakouts during the winter are people using the wrong moisturizer for their skin type and avoiding exfoliation. You always need to moisturize, especially in the winter!" 

If you have oily skin, stick to oil-free moisturizers, even in the colder months. But even oily skin needs hydration, so Dr. Gross recommends adding a hyaluronic acid booster serum like the Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster for an extra boost. "Heavy creams with oils can clog your pores and lead to acne," he added. However, dry, flaky skin can also cause breakouts because pores are blocked by dead skin cells. 

Dr. Gross suggested using "a daily chemical peel like the Alpha Beta Daily Peels to prevent dead skin build-up and acne." Irrespective of your skin type, exfoliation can help to combat acne. You've heard it before, but it's not smart to touch your face because your hands touch everything and can get dirty. Moreover, aesthetician Renée Rouleau noted to Allure, "If you touch your face frequently throughout the day, layering on a greasy hand lotion in the winter could exacerbate acne breakouts."


Next up, we have dullness, which is obviously the complete opposite of a natural, summer glow in winter. As Dr. Dennis Gross explained to The List, "The solution for reviving dull, tired-looking skin is exfoliating and boosting moisture levels. Using a combination of alpha and beta hydroxy acids with retinol can give your complexion a boost." He recommends "using the acids in the morning and retinol at night to avoid irritation."

Likewise, Dr. Gross emphasized the importance of wearing sunscreen daily — even when it's cold. Uneven skin can also look dull. "Pigment cells rise to the surface as we age, appearing as brown spots and sunspots that make skin look patchy and dull," aesthetician Renée Rouleau told Shape. She recommended using a Vitamin C serum in the morning because it's a powerful antioxidant that can help brighten your skin while fading the sunspots. 

Her personal recommendation is BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner. As one satisfied customer on Amazon wrote: "My skin can look dull, but it already looks brighter after using this serum 2x a day [for] a couple [of] weeks." You can also treat yourself to a facial every few weeks, as dermatologist Justine Hextall suggested to Harper's Bazaar. She recommended "a superficial peel or exfoliating treatment" to get rid of dead skin cells, which will free your skin to better absorb skincare ingredients and look brighter overall.