Ursa Major’s Vermont-Proven Tips for Healthy Winter Skin

Last Update: September 27, 2022

Nature has a way of inspiring a change of pace. Think about late summer’s juicy stone fruits and heirloom tomatoes giving way to hearty, jewel-toned root vegetables come fall and winter. You switch up what’s on your plate when the seasons shift—and you’d be wise to give your skincare regimen the same treatment.

Meet Ursa Major

Winter skin wisdom is something Emily Doyle and Oliver Sweatman, co-founders of clean, gender-neutral skincare brand Ursa Major, have in spades. Like this gem: “There is no such thing as bad weather,” Doyle quips. “Just unsuitable clothing and skincare!” Based in the Green Mountains of Vermont, where low winter temperatures routinely dip into the single digits, the brand makes natural, plant-powered products that are ideal for nurturing and protecting skin amid harsh conditions.

Doyle and Sweatman have a deep personal appreciation for the great outdoors, having relocated to Vermont from New York City in 2008 to pursue a healthier lifestyle closer to nature. Doyle describes spending time outside as “one of the best therapies for the body, mind, and soul,” provided you have the right gear, of course. The couple’s reverence for nature is reflected in Ursa Major’s formulas—which eschew “suspect” chemicals and nod to the Green Mountain State with natural ingredients like fragrant cedar and birch—and in their commitment to the health of the planet. A certified B Corporation, Ursa Major is also plastic negative, meaning that for every bottle they sell, they remove twice as much plastic from the environment.

How to Tailor Your Winter Skincare Routine

Whether or not you find yourself in a frigid mountain region, dry skin in winter is common; your largest organ requires a little extra TLC this time of year. “The skin holds more water in the spring and summer, but it does not retain hydration the same way in the winter,” explains Cara Bondi, VP of Product Development & Regulatory Ursa Major and—with degrees in Cell & Molecular Biology and Epidemiology—an expert in skin science. If you’re experiencing dryness, scaly or rough texture, irritation, redness, or uneven skin tone, these may be signs that winter is taking a toll on your moisture barrier, a fundamental component of healthy skin. Composed of a thin layer of natural oils and amino acids called the acid mantle, its role is to prevent moisture loss, block environmental aggressors like pollutants and UV rays, lock in nutrients, regulate inflammation, and help support the immune system.

To counteract the effects of icy air, snow, and central heating on full blast, Bondi unsurprisingly recommends paying extra attention to your moisturizing step. While a light, water-based lotion might be enough to keep you hydrated and glowy in the summer, once winter rolls around, look to heavy-hitter natural humectants like birch sap, hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, and tremella mushroom, as well as nutrient-rich plant oils like carrot seed, rose hip, and sea buckthorn. Ursa Major’s Golden Hour Recovery Cream, a buttery yet quick-absorbing treat for the complexion, is packed with essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from black currant and sunflower seed oils to replenish lipids in the moisture barrier, as well as calming phytosterols sourced from balloon vine heart seeds. Synthetic fragrances aren’t welcome in any of Ursa Major’s formulations (nor are parabens, sulfates, or petrochemicals), but natural botanicals like neroli, rose, and calendula offer a pleasant herbal aroma.

While doubling down on moisture during the chilly months may seem obvious enough, Bondi is quick to dispel common misconceptions about winter skincare. “The biggest winter skin myth is that long, hot showers impart moisture and help the skin stay hydrated,” she says. In fact, exposure to hot water causes water loss—on both your face and body. Fair enough, but does that really mean giving up a steamy shower on a cold morning? Thankfully, no—as long as you keep it under 5 minutes, use a mild body wash, pat skin dry, and apply your moisturizer while your skin is still damp. If your shower routine includes a shave, Ursa Major’s Stellar Shave Cream can help combat razor-related irritation worsened by winter weather. Shea and oat protein are deeply moisturizing, while blue tansy calms and soothes.

Another winter skin mistake? Skipping your exfoliation step, especially if you’re prone to breakouts. An added benefit of consistent exfoliation is that it helps ensure your other skincare products—like Ursa Major’s antioxidant-rich Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum, for instance—can be most effectively absorbed. That said, Bondi recommends shelving your more aggressive physical exfoliants (like scrubs) for the winter and taking a gentler approach with natural sources of beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) like willow bark and fruit enzymes, and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) from plants like sugar maple, bilberry, hibiscus, sugar cane, orange, and lemon. Ursa Major’s 4-in-1 Essential Tonic, a refreshing cocktail of AHAs, BHAs, redness-reducing birch sap, and hydrating hyaluronic acid, is a wise choice for gentle sloughing. (It’s also available in the form of Essential Face Wipes for on-the-go convenience.)

For light exfoliation in your face washing step, the brand’s Fantastic Face Wash delivers a dose of AHAs and can also be used on breakout-prone areas like the chest and back. Note that over-washing can contribute to feelings of dryness and tightness, especially in winter, so try swapping your AM cleanse for a simple splash of water. Given how cold those pipes can get in winter—even if you’re not in the mountains of Vermont—it’s sure to provide the wake-up call you need.

This article is related to:

Beauty Secrets, Healthy Skin, Skin Care

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Kirby Stirland

Kirby Stirland is a writer, editor, and New York transplant living in Los Angeles.

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