Hi, my name is Dr. Liv Kraemer, and I am a dermatologist in Zurich, Switzerland. It is getting cold and your skin condition is getting worse? You wear big scarves and beanies and you are getting flaky and itchy skin? On the one hand, you want to simply moisturize your skin, but then you think you really need to use a fat cream… but is that really such a wise decision? I will give you a few skincare tips and tell you what to avoid to beat winter acne! Watch my Youtube video which I did just briefly in my hotel room during my conference stay in London. But also read my post below for some more information about acne in winter.

Dry skin and acne in winter – skin barrier problems

It is getting cold and so you never leave the house without a big scarf and a beanie. And suddenly you are surprised that you get more pimples around your chin area? But it’s not just your garments, it’s also the changes in humidity and heat that let your skin suffer. Plus you are starting to use too heavy creams because your skin gets drier. All these things are causing different problems on your skin. Let me explain what is happening.

What are the causes of dry skin in the winter time?

What is dry skin? You can compare the surface of your skin to a cobblestone wall. This wall is normally well-sealed on top. Also, the mortar between the bricks is well-sealed. No water or bugs can enter the brick wall. That’s exactly how it works with your skin.

Your skin is normally well-sealed. But during the winter time the sealed wall can be destroyed particular if humidity weakens the skin barrier system even more. Therefore the “mortar” between your skin cells gets cracky. Water can disappear. Your skin is starting to become itchy and dry.

The frequent changes between the cold outside and heaters inside, too, make your skin barrier more fragile. Your skin is irritated: On the one hand, the cold outside tell it to produce more sebum. On the other hand, if you then go into a heated room, the order for the sebaceous glands is: “Reduce production immediately!” The skin gets, quite literally, “irritated” – it doesn’t quite know which surroundings to adjust to.

What causes winter acne?

Because of the just described barrier problems, bacteria, too, can now enter the skin barrier much easier. So if you are wearing scarfs, this is the perfect bacteria “party spot”. All bacteria will stay on the fabric and grow. Hand on your heart! How often does your scarf or hat fall down? Are you sure that you are touching your scarf or bobble cap with clean hands only? And how often do you really wash your scarf or cap? Uh-huh. Exactly.

So what happens is this: First of all, the fabric is irritating your weak skin barrier system even more.

Secondly, all the bacteria cultivated on it can now enter the skin much easier. Suddenly you will get red and itchy skin around your neck, decollete or forehead. Exactly the spots where your scarf and your hat are touching your skin non-stop. You are even rubbing the bacteria inside when you cuddle up with your scarf.

Sometimes my patients are even suffering from more pimples on their decollete or back. Of course, there are different reasons for acne, and what is helpful for one patient might not be for the other. But try these things first if you observe you’re getting more pimples in winter – they are the most essential acne remedies everyone should try before going into the more fancy acne treatments.

During winter time, try to wear cotton shirts only. Under synthetic fabric your skin tends to sweat a lot more. With your dead skin cells and the heat creating a nice environment for your bacteria to grow, the possibility of getting pimples increases even further in synthetic garments. But there are more things you can do to prevent that from happening!


What can you do to avoid acne in the winter time?

So: How to treat winter acne? And most importantly: How to prevent winter acne altogether? To avoid further problems with your skin during the winter you should pay particular attention to… you guessed it: your garments. With acne, clothing is crucial, especially in winter. This scarf and this hat just need that extra treatment to protect your skin.

I know the latest trends are big scarfs…big, bigger, huge …as New York fashion week just showed us.

Vogue Magazine and  friday magazine are just featuring these new fashion statements. But be careful with scarfs around your neck and face while suffering from acne.

First of all: Wear a scarf made of 100% natural cotton. It will irritate your sensitive skin less and you can wash it at 60° Celsius. (You cannot wash cashmere scarves – dry cleaning only.) If you also suffer from pimples and irritation on you back or decollete, try to wear cotton shirts only, too. Then you need to make sure your scarf doesn’t touch your skin. Sounds difficult, I know. But just try to give it some air and wrap it around your neck loosely. Then wash or dry-clean your scarf frequently to eliminate bacteria.

Also try not to touch your face with your dirty hands. That can be hard, since we do it unconsciously most of the time. Just try to create awareness for what you do with your hands as much as possible and avoid too much touching. And certainly, you should wash your hands frequently.

Keep your skin moisturized, but do not use creams that are too fatty when you suffer from pimples. That only does more harm than good. Which brings us to the next question…

Winter acne skin care: What kind of creams to use?

If you are suffering from acne prone skin, your “basic” cream has to be a very light one anyway, as too fatty creams are just covering your skin from the top. Suddenly, then, your bacteria can grow under this nice “cream tent”.

Always use a suncream. Because the sun is always shining. You don’t want to damage your skin more than necessary. If you need Vitamin D, put your arm wrist into the sun for five minutes. Why would you want to expose your face to the sun – risking to cause wrinkles, pigmentation or redness?

So take care of your skin with the right behavior.


Dry skin and acne: great skin food

Great, healthy food is always an asset. And yes, it also can work wonders for your skin! Is your daily diet already supporting skin health? Here’s what you should try eat on a regular basis to make your skin look great again.

Dry skin – which skin food can help?

Fish! The omega-3 fatty acids help you with dry skin and protection of your skin barrier function – and they are also otherwise great for your health. For the vegan people among you: Microalgae also work as an omega 3 supplier and they are great to help your skin barrier system.

Nuts are high in Q10, which also helps improve the condition of your skin. Other great food ingredients to improve your skin and make it less dry and prone to damage are flaxseed oil and gamma linolen acid. Flaxseed oil is rich in unsaturated good fat; gamma linolen acid can be found in the oils from currents.

You also can have a look what else to avoid while having dry skin. Click here to read my other blog post about dry skin.

Acne skin – which food can help?

The consumption of the right food can work wonders against winter acne. For example, try to eat food that is high in zinc. Meat, spinach, even porridge are tasty and give you skin what it needs.

Vitamin C, too, is important. Why vitamin C? Because Vitamin C is not just working as a great antioxidant but also helps with the collagen production.

Food high in selenium can help to protect your skin against oxidative stress. Nuts and fish contain lots of selenium and are tasty elements of a healthy diet – just try it!

You also can watch my Youtube video on which food to avoid when having acne…click here to watch! 

Reduce your stress level!

For most people winter season is a hard time. They feel tired, the darkness of the season tends to wear them out and the cold makes them enjoy a walk in fresh air much less. But it is so important to go outside. Enjoy a walk in the park or a short trip to the mountain. A healthy circulation keeps your body young and vibrant.

Maybe you are wondering: Wait, didn’t she just say the changes in temperature are bad for my skin? So shouldn’t I just stay inside the whole time? No, it is not that simple, and your skin is no excuse to be lazy!

The blood flow carries away waste products and free radicals from working cells. So: You will see an improvement in your skin condition, if you take a breath of fresh air in winter! But of course you shound follow my advice above to protect your skin. And do not forget to use sunscreen! Use it every day! Remember: Never without sun cream if you want to avoid wrinkles, redness and pigmentations!

Watch my tutorial video how to apply sun cream the right way. Click here to see it.


Key advice to share with your friends

Just to wrap it up quickly, here’s my advice against winter acne in a nutshell – share it with your friends!

  1. Cotton is best to prevent winter acne – wear a scarf and other garments made of 100% natural cotton.
  2. Try not to touch your skin with your scarf and with your dirty hands.
  3. Wash your scarf and hat frequently.
  4. Do not use too fatty creams while suffering from pimples and winter acne.
  5. Choose food wisely to help beat pimples and dry skin – try fish, meat, nuts, spinach…
  6. Don’t stress yourself out!


If you would like to learn more about healthy food, skin and beauty treatments, follow me on my social media or give me some feedback on what you want to hear more about.

Click here for a personal consultation with Dr.Liv

In case you are not in Switzerland…

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Dr Liv