How to Protect Your Skin When Running in Cold, Dry Air

The air in the winter is dry and can dehydrate your skin. You can protect your skin running in the cold, dry air with a good skin care regimen that locks in moisture and offers a barrier to the harsh winter weather. Pamper your skin with a gentle cleanser and a moisturizer containing key ingredients like hyaluronic acid or ceramides to lock in moisture. Get 10 pro tips and the best skin care products for winter running below.

Whitney Heins with her mom
With my mom before running a half marathon in 2022. We don’t look anything alike do we;)

I owe thanks to my mom who suggested I write about this topic: how to protect skin when running in cold, dry air. She suggested it as we were walking our dogs in cold, windy weather. It was a great idea, because it really irks me that when I go running in the winter months, I come back looking like I am ten years older sometimes.

Worse than that, my skin can hurt! The cold wind can make it chapped, itchy, and give me the gift of flaky skin. All the fine lines and wrinkles are accentuated. My skin looks dull. My lips are peeling. And I only live in Tennessee! Runners in colder climates are affronted with this dilemma day in and day out for months on end.  

I’ve gotten better about my routine after chatting with my board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Carley Fowler, and coming up with my own winter skincare routine before running in the frigid cold temperatures and dry air. (As I write this, the low tomorrow is 3 degrees Fahrenheit!). I also reached out to board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Dan Yamini for his insights.

Related: How to Avoid Runner’s Face

two women running in the snow
You can keep a fresh face in the winter despite the cold dry air with these smart skin care tips.
winter running skin care pin 2
Pin these winter running skin care tips for later!

Why does my skin get dry running in the winter?

Cold winter air has less moisture. When you are running outside, especially if it is windy, that dry air is not only sucking out the moisture in your skin—the wind is evaporating it, explains Dr. Fowler.

“Low temperatures and low humidity lead to a decrease in skin barrier function. Think of your skin as a brick wall. The brick wall breaks down because it cannot retain its mortar in colder dryer weather, which are the natural moisturizers that your body makes. When the brick wall is broken down, irritants and mechanical stress can wreak havoc on your skin and cause rashes.”

Dr. Fowler warns that it is very important to replace your mortar with moisturizers (thicker moisturizers like creams or ointments) which are better at repairing the skin barrier than lotions.

This is not unlike when you blow dry your hair. The air from the dryer helps evaporate the water in your hair. The same is true of wind blowing on your face as you run through it.

Related: How to Breathe When Running in Cold Air

Okay, so how do I protect my skin from drying out in the cold?

Dr. Yamini has a step-by-step guide.

running in cold dry air tips post
These tips will help you protect your skin in the cold dry air.

How to Protect Your Skin Running in Cold, Dry Air

  1. Moisturize: Apply a good quality moisturizer to your skin before heading out. Look for a product that contains ingredients like shea butter or glycerin to provide hydration and create a protective barrier.
  2. Lip Balm: Cold air can be harsh on your lips, leading to dryness and chapping. Use a moisturizing lip balm to protect your lips from windburn and sun damage.
  3. Protect Sensitive areas: You can also use petroleum jelly on sensitive areas such as under your nose. Vaseline can also be a good lip balm and anti-chafing ointment in a pinch.
  4. Layer Clothing: Wear breathable, moisture-wicking layers to keep sweat from your skin. Wet clothing can exacerbate skin dryness and irritation.
  5. Protective Clothing: Cover exposed skin with appropriate clothing, such as gloves, hats, running buff, and scarves. These accessories keep you warm and protect your skin from the cold, dry air.
  6. Avoid Hot Showers: After your run, resist the temptation to take a hot shower. Hot water can strip your skin of natural oils, leading to further dryness. I know this can be tough, so if you do take a hot shower avoid letting the hot water hit your face. Consider taking a hot bath with Epsom salt instead!
  7. Stay Hydrated: Cold air can dehydrate. Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your run to help combat dryness from the inside out.
  8. Use a Humidifier: Cold air tends to be dry, and dry indoor heat can exacerbate this dryness. Consider using a humidifier at home, especially in your bedroom, to add moisture to the air and prevent your skin from drying out.
  9. Run with the Wind: If you can, try to run with the harsh winter winds so you aren’t being pelted in the face with the dry air.
  10. Post-Run Skincare: Pamper your skin with a soothing and hydrating skincare routine after your run. Use a gentle cleanser and a moisturizer containing key ingredients like hyaluronic acid or ceramides to lock in moisture. Also, consider using an exfoliant to exfoliate the top layer of your skin.

Related: Do You Need Electrolytes in the Winter?

winter running skin care pin
Pin these winter running skin care tips for later!

What are the best skincare products to help protect my skin running in cold, dry air?

The Best Skin Care Products for Cold Weather Running

CeraVe Moisturizer — $16

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is well-regarded for its hydrating properties. It contains essential ceramides that help restore and maintain the skin’s natural barrier, preventing moisture loss. This moisturizer is non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores. This makes it suitable for a variety of skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin.

When to use: Slather on this moisturizer before you head out for your run in winter weather, and after cleansing your face.

SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser — $39

SkinCeuticals cleansers remove impurities, excess oil, and makeup without stripping the skin of its natural moisture. They are formulated to cater to different skin types, including sensitive skin. This versatility makes them a reliable choice for individuals with varying skincare needs.

SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser
SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser is gentle and protective of your skin.

When to use: Use this cleanser in the morning, evening before bed, and after running.

Related: My Top Ten Winter Running Gear of 2024

Kiehl’s Lip Balm – $12

 Kiehls is known for its commitment to using high-quality, carefully selected ingredients in its products. The lip balm typically contains nourishing components that work synergistically to provide effective hydration and protection for the lips. It includes emollients and hydrating agents that help prevent dryness and chapping in drier air on cold days, leaving the lips feeling soft and smooth. Kiehls lip balm has been our favorite lip balm in our household for years. It is the only one that protects our lips from getting chapped. I fell in love with it when I was running in Chicago air as a teenager.

Kiehls lip balm
Kiehl’s lip balm is the best lip balm for protecting your lip in the winter.

When to use: Use Kiehl’s lip balm before you head out for a run, when you return from a run, and throughout the day to keep lips moisturized.

Related: How to Stay Motivated Running in the Winter

Blissoma Omega Miracle Oil — $75

I started using this oil as a recommendation from the owner of a facial studio to help balance out my skin’s texture and battle hormonal acne. I found that it has an added benefit of protecting my skin’s moisture barrier when running in cold dry air. This oil helps my skin stay soft and glowing no matter the weather. Blissoma is rooted in plant science, utilizing plant extracts and phytobotanicals to help change the health of the skin.

Blissoma Miracle Oil
Blissoma Miracle Oil is great for hydration and hormonal breakouts.

When to use: This oil should be the last thing you put on your face. I like to put it on before bed and before going for a run as the oil can act as a barrier to the dry air. Put it on after your favorite moisturizer.

Neocutis Bio Cream — $109

The Neocutis Bio Cream Overnight Smoothing Cream face treatment aim to improves skin’s tone and texture—and it does this in part by adding extreme moisture. It is geared to be a nighttime anti-aging treatment that nourishes and restores your skin’s glow. But because it is a rich cream, it is ultra-hydrating, further protecting your skin from winter’s harsh winds and air.

Neocutis Bio Cream
Neocutis Bio Cream is anti-aging and hydrating.

When you use this bio cream on a regular basis, you’ll notice less fine lines and a more even skin tone. It is a gentle anti-wrinkle cream that smoothes and firms skin.

When to use: Put this cream on after washing your face and before applying any oil. You can use it in the morning, night, and before a run for added moisture plus anti-aging benefits.

Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate & Glow Dream Mask — $52

I am obsessed with this dream mask. It smells and feels oh so good. This dream mask is a rich hybrid night cream and mask formulated with vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants to lock in vital hydration, soften, and visibly brighten. And boy does it! It is the most hydrating mask I have ever but on my face. It battles dryness, dullness,

Youth to the People dream mask
Youth to the People dream mask is like a mini spa day each time you use it.

and uneven texture. I look forward to using it every night and apply ahead of cold runs.

When to use: Slather this dream mask on before you sleep (before the oil). You can also put it on before headed out for your winter run for added hydration.

Suggested skin care regimen

Morning & night:

  • Use a gentle cleanser with lukewarm water and pat skin dry
  • Exfoliate to remove dead skin cells
  • Apply moisturizer
  • Apply sunscreen (if during the day to protect against winter sun and UV exposure)
  • Appy night cream (if at night)
  • Apply oil

Before a run:

  • Apply sunscreen
  • Rub in moisturizer or cream
  • Add oil
  • Slather on lip balm and Vaseline on lips and under nose

After a run:

  • Use a gentle cleanser
  • Apply moisturizer or one of the above thick creams
  • Apply sunscreen (if during the day)
  • Apply oil

These skincare tips should improve your overall skin health during this time of year so you can avoid dry winter skin, red patches, itchy skin, dry lips, and just an overall dried out appearance!

If you want a custom plan to fit your running goals this year, including running a marathon on your period!, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:

 

Leave a Comment

WANT TO BE A BETTER RUNNER?

Download my FREE FULL MONTH of strength workouts for runners!

Looking for a free running plan? Email me at [email protected].

* indicates required

You have Successfully Subscribed!