5 Ways to Calm Skin Irritation Right Now

Days like today remind me why I live for summer. My home in Seattle is currently experiencing two regional rarities: snow and below-freezing temps. What I wouldn’t give for some warmth and sunlight right about now! While most of my arguments for summer’s seasonal superiority are unrelated to skincare, I’d be lying if I said that winter skin woes didn’t play at least some role in my rankings.  Winter skin tends to be dry, itchy, reddened, and above all easily irritated. The tiniest thing can set off an irritable reaction in fragile winter skin. Read on for my top 5 tips to stop winter skin irritation in its tracks, as well as a video of my anti-inflammatory tea recipe to help beat the chill if you’re snowed in like me. Stay warm out there!



  • Take a deep breath. I’ve previously discussed how the stress hormone cortisol has a physiological effect on the way your skin produces oil. The thick, gluey sebum your skin makes while stressed out is more likely to cause pore congestion and breakouts. The resulting pimples are a hotbed of inflammation. A deep, calming breath and some relaxing self-care can help manage your stress and level out your cortisol production. You can even pop a few drops of stress-busting fragrant oils in a diffuser or humidifier to amp up your deep breathing!
  • Turn down the temp. It seems counter-intuitive to beat cold-weather blues by avoiding heat, but scalding hot showers aren’t doing your skin any favors. Extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) put stress on your skin, so try seeking out a happy medium when taking your next shower or bath.
  • Get some sleep. Those cortisol levels I mentioned earlier don’t just spike when you’re stressed. Insufficient sleep has a similar effect. No one functions optimally when they’re running on empty, and that includes the functionality of your skin and its many vital processes. Make sure you’re getting enough rest!
  • Repair the barrier. Your skin’s acid mantle forms a defensive lipid barrier and acts as your first line of defense against many irritants. It keeps the good stuff (like moisture) in and the bad stuff (like topical irritants and harmful bacteria or other microbes) out. Harsh cleansers and overuse of exfoliating acids can strip away this protective barrier, so take a gentle approach. You can also help bolster your barrier with products containing restorative peptides or oils rich in omega fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids found in many oils (including olive and marula oils) do double duty in replenishing skin’s barrier and fending off irritation, thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Slather on SPF. It’s hard to heal when you’re concurrently dealing with continued damage. That’s why skin bombarded by UV is at a disadvantage when it comes to overcoming irritation. Even in the winter, you still need to use daily sun protection!