Winter acne breakouts: Causes and 11 tips to deal with it


Some women complain about experiencing acne in winter. If you have been affected with a dreaded problem, here’s what causes winter acne and how to get rid of it

Battling with acne breakouts in the winter can be frustrating. While acne typically arises from clogged pores due to increased oil, sweat, and dead skin cells in response to higher temperature, cold weather can also contribute to acne. In winter, harsh, cold winds and low humidity can dry out your skin, hindering natural exfoliation and leading to the buildup of dead skin cells. This can result in whiteheads, blackheads, and acne. That’s not it, there are other causes as well that can cause acne in winter.

Health Shots got in touch with Dr Rinky Kapoor, a consultant dermatologist, cosmetic dermatologist, and dermato-surgeon, to find out what the causes of acne are in winter and how to avoid them.

Causes of winter acne breakouts

1. Dry skin

Cold air outside and indoor heating can strip your skin of its moisture, leading to dryness. Dr Kapoor explains, “In response, your skin may produce more oil to compensate, potentially clogging pores and triggering acne.”

2. Dehydration

Low humidity levels during the winter months can lead to dehydration. Insufficient water intake can reduce moisture in your skin, making it more susceptible to acne. Hence, it is crucial to keep a check on your daily water intake.

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Dehydrated skin can cause several skin issues. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Unhealthy diet

Winter comfort foods are often high in dairy, sugar, and refined carbs, which may contribute to acne. High glycemic index foods also stimulate hormone production, increasing oil production. Additionally, dairy products have been linked to acne due to potential hormonal imbalances.

Also read: Is whey protein bad for acne?

4. Heavy skincare products

“Winter often prompts the use of richer, heavier moisturisers to combat dryness. However, these can sometimes be too occlusive, trapping oil and dead skin cells and contributing to acne,” says Dr Kapoor. So, avoid using such products and also avoid applying makeup if you are struggling with acne. Otherwise, it may even worsen the existing condition.

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Not all skincare products are good for your skin. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

5. Stress

Stress is not a direct contributor to acne. But if you already have acne, stress can make it worse. Dr Kapoor says, “Elevated stress levels trigger the release of hormones like cortisol, which can stimulate oil production and lead to acne.”

6. Over-cleansing

Over-cleansing your face to get rid of oily skin is not a solution. It can strip the skin of its natural oils, triggering an overproduction of sebum and resulting in acne breakouts.

7. Hormonal changes

Fluctuations in hormones, common during the winter, can stimulate excess oil production and contribute to acne flare-ups.

8. Reduced exposure to sunlight

Limited sunlight in winter may lead to a deficiency in vitamin D which is associated with a lower risk of acne. To manage your vitamin D intake, you can consider incorporating supplements into your diet.

How to deal with winter acne breakouts?

1. Hydrate your skin: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated. Additionally, use a non-comedogenic, hydrating moisturiser or gel to maintain skin moisture.
2. Gentle cleansing: Dr Kapoor recommends using a mild, hydrating cleanser and avoiding over-cleansing, as this can strip your skin of essential oils and exacerbate acne.
3. Moisturise: Choose oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturisers to combat dryness without clogging pores. Use products with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin for effective hydration.

Hyaluronic acid moisturisers
Use hyaluronic acid moisturisers. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

4. Humidify your space: Use a humidifier indoors to combat the drying effects of heating systems. This helps maintain optimal skin hydration.
5. Avoid heavy makeup: If possible, minimise the use of heavy, full-coverage makeup. If you need to wear makeup, choose non-comedogenic, water-based products.
6. Exfoliate regularly: Gently exfoliate your skin to remove dead skin cells that can contribute to acne. Choose a mild exfoliator with ingredients like salicylic acid.
7. Choose the right skincare products: “Look for products containing acne-fighting ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid,” advises Dr Kapoor. Always patch-test new products to avoid adverse reactions.
8. Protect your skin: Despite the cold, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to shield your skin from harmful UV rays.
9. Limit hot showers: Hot water can strip your skin of natural oils, leading to dryness and worsening acne. So, use lukewarm water to wash your face, especially.

Also read: My mom swears by neem ice cubes for acne

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Avoid long, hot showers to avoid acne. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

10. Protect from harsh weather: You can also cover your face with a scarf or face mask to protect it from cold winds and low temperatures. This helps prevent moisture loss and protects your skin from environmental factors.
11. Healthy diet: Maintain a balanced diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids, like fish and nuts, can help support healthy skin.

Dr Kapoor suggests that if acne persists or worsens, you should consult a dermatologist for a better treatment.

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