A-Z Skin Care Continued: Changing Skin Care as the Seasons Change
Welcome back winters, springs, summers, and falls (I’m a winter myself- extra skin care issues and all)! Today, we’re going to take a look at how our budding skin care routines should be altered to take into account weather-related hassles.
To put it simply, skin craves consistency, so when our environment changes, it has a tendency to freak out on us, but it’s not just the weather around us shifting that factors in. We have to consider the changes that we make as a result. For example, we alter our wardrobe and therefore materials coming into regular contact with our skin, and seasons like summer offer more variety in terms of fresh fruits and vegetables, so even our diet changes. One of the most important things you should keep in mind though is to alter your routine based on where you live- not some random date on a calendar (like here in Arkansas where we now regularly have snows as late as April, long after the “official” spring start date has passed).
So since we’re still technically and physically in the thick of winter here (if we ignore the odd sixty degree day here and there), especially since the groundhog neither saw nor didn’t see his shadow (as he tragically passed away right before Groundhog’s Day, so who knows when winter will end without a random rodent to give us some special guidance), we’ll start there-
J is for Fall and Winter Skin Care
(courtesy of Bella Vista Property Owners Association)
Winter especially can leave skin red and raw as a result of extreme lows, high wind chill factors, and chapping as a result of physical winds. To combat the below zero temps, we crank up the indoor heating, but that sucks moisture from the air and therefore our skin. Even a gorgeous roaring fire in the fireplace can dry out skin, no matter how romantic it might be. The cold, the dry, and the stale air can make skin dry, itchy, flaky, cracking, and peeling or even give you a good shove over into the land of eczema. The colder months also serve us up contradictions. For instance, showers, no matter the water temp, should rehydrate skin, right? Wrong! Hot water as a motivation to get out of bed on chilly mornings or as a reward after a long day of shoveling snow strips skin of its natural oils, exacerbating your skin woes.
So what do we do?
For healthy fall and winter skin-
- K is for staying hydrated- though we typically associate drinking plenty of water with the soaring temperatures of late July (although if you’re in Arkansas, you might be drinking the humid air on a daily basis), due to the total lack of moisture that winter winds and indoor heating can cause, it’s vital to keep this in mind in the midst of January as well. Healthy skin is created from the inside out. Most sources suggest about 12 cups per day for women and 16 for men, so you might even consider going over that to balance out the lack of skin hydration through other means (I promise it will only make you feel sloshy for the first few weeks after you start this daily routine).
- L is for keeping temps cool and comfy- while we obviously can’t do anything about Mother Nature’s thermostat, we can balance that by keeping our indoor temps between 68 and 75 for optimum skin health, as we spend far more time indoors than out.
(courtesy of Superior Sauna & Steam)
- M is for using humidifiers- throughout the day, or at the very least while you peacefully slumber the night away (or not so peacefully if your partner snores), use a humidifier to give the air in your home maximum moisture. As cooler months mean less moisture in the air naturally, one of these neat devices can help restore balance. Most dermatologists suggest adding one to the rooms you spend the most time in at home, and setting the humidity level between 30 and 50% (if your humidifier doesn’t come with a meter, you can buy one online to check the levels). Allure magazine recommends the Dyson brand model or Hey Dewy’s Portable Humidifier, but I personally love the ones that add a little something to the decor too, like the adorable ones below from Etsy.
- N is for lowering showering water temp- perhaps the weirdest suggestion on our list of “do’s” is for how you bathe (hot steamy rooms=moisturized skin, right?). Experts recommend skipping baths and sticking with showers in addition to lowering the water temp to warm, NOT hot, and limiting your time soaking to 5-10 minutes (besides, your water bill will thank you). If it makes your skin turn red, it’s too hot. And don’t forget to pamper your hands with regards to this as well- cooler water kills germs just as effectively as long as you’re using a good soap and scrubbing thoroughly enough and long enough.
(courtesy of Etsy)
- O is for patting dry- once you step out of that shower, don’t rub your skin dry- pat gently instead (so no scrubbing like you did in kindergarten when a boy or girl gave you cooties). Patting helps your skin retain moisture (and as we’ll discuss below, you need to moisturize within minutes of exiting said shower).
- P is for watching what you wear- when you’re ready to scour your closet and pile up discarded outfits on the bed, trying to decide what to wear (and hopefully not deciding that you have nothing to wear), be careful what you choose. Materials like wool irritate skin, and rough spun fabrics can make you dry, itchy, and flaky. Instead, go for soft, breathable fabrics such as cotton or silk as your bottom layer, and reserve the rougher, more irritating fabrics for outwear as layering is a better option anyway to retain heat in the cold temps. Plus, don’t forget your hands which bear the brunt of the chill winds and subzero temps. Leather as opposed to wool is always a better choice for your mittens and gloves (and actually wear your gloves, unlike my daughter who doesn’t and then complains all day that her hands are cold as though it’s a mystery why).
- Q is for going heavier- so what should we be using directly on skin? The quick answer is heavy, heavier, and heaviest.
You can start out by using a moisturizing creamy cleanser as opposed to the thinner products of the warmer months, and no cleansers containing exfoliants allowed.
Plus, make sure you never skip the moisturizing step we discussed back in skin care basics during winter; use an even richer moisturizer at night.
Because they’re heavier, occlusives are good (like petroleum) and so are squalene and shea butter because they seal in moisture, creating a manufactured seal; humectants are good too, including hyaluronic acid and glycerin, especially for your face because they allow skin to breathe, thus avoiding problematic acne; and a heavy cream will work well too, something with ceramides which are essential and healthy fatty acids naturally produced by your skin. All of these give us more moisture in the winter and enforce our skin’s natural barrier, healing or preventing damage up front because believe it or not, a really good moisturizer can actually pull moisture from the air into skin.
We can even layer the moisturizer- using something heavy and basic under a hyaluronic acid serum or sheet mask, and it seems like lately, most dermatologists (not to mention everyone on Tik Tok) are touting the virtues of the CeraVe (enough that I have to order mine online as opposed to in-store because those shelves are always bare). Other top picks include “best in beauties” like First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, H2O+ Beauty Milk Body Butter, and La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+ Body Cream.
On your body, go for a thicker cream from a jar or tube as opposed to a pump which typically contains something thinner and waterier, something that might just evaporate too quickly to actually protect your skin. And choose body washes as opposed to soaps, like Dove’s Deep Moisture Body Wash.
You can also add in a hydrating serum if you already know you tend towards dry, such as Clarins Double Serum with turmeric, squalene, and avocado oil (see- avocados are not just for toast). An antioxidant-rich vitamin C serum and/or vitamin A serum or cream isn’t a bad idea either. Using C some mornings can brighten pigmentation from the summer, whereas A works better some nights on your face, neck, and chest. Both are anti-aging agents that can help reverse sun damage, even out tone, and promote brighter skin overall, just remember not to overdo it with those.
If you’re really struggling, add a basic ointment directly to your eyes and lips before bed, perhaps mixing a dollop of that in with your face moisturizer too for all over.
A point of contention, however, is the use of heavier concealers and foundations during the colder weather. Play it safe- if you’re blessed enough to avoid the acne that many of us have to suffer through, knock yourself out, but if like me, you still need at least some acne protection, stick to your spring/summer base (although I would complain that it’s decidedly unfair of Mother Nature to make some of us deal with acne and burgeoning wrinkles at the same time).
- R is for going gentler- with all that in mind, we also need to go gentler in the winter months to preserve the skin’s natural barrier. That means “fragrance free,” “dye free,” and “sensitive skin” cleansers and other products, all of which typically contain fewer drying ingredients and more moisturizing ones. On the other hand, if it says “unscented,” avoid those products as well because it might contain an ingredient to neutralize scent, something that’s too rough.
In the cooler months, we need to avoid alcohol as an ingredient which dries out already dry skin, in addition to dialing back on the alpha-hydroxy acids and retinols (you’re safe using those on a limited basis as long as your skin isn’t actively healing from winter damage).
Winter also means less exfoliating as that’s one of the toughest-on-skin practices we engage in, and that means no glycolic acid or retinoids. Too much of this can create cracks in the skin barrier which equals more hydration loss and inflammation. Instead, try glycolic treatment pads such as Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel or a mask like Biossance’s Squalane and Glycolic Renewal but only once per week on either, primarily to help with leftover discoloration from the summer sun. In fact, it’s best to exfoliate gently and moisturize immediately and well in fall as opposed to winter to help heal summer damage before you get to the harsher weather.
Bar soap is another big no-no as it tends to strip skin’s natural oils, throwing your microbiome off balance, so stick to the more moisturizing body washes.
But hyaluronic acids, ceramides, oils, shea butter, and oats are all gentle enough to use all over, year-round.
- S is for remembering the sunscreen- I don’t know about you guys, but my mom had tons of little pearls of wisdom growing up (like waiting 30 minutes after you eat to swim or hair growing back darker, thicker, and coarser when you shave it) things medical science has completely disproven now, and one of those was not needing sunscreen in fall and winter or on overcast days. Mom, I love you, but you were way wrong about that one as well. Use sunscreen ALL year long, no matter what the weather outside is doing. In fact, snow reflects sunlight, multiplying your UV exposure which is even worse, leading to premature wrinkles, leathery skin, and liver spots, and 80% of UV rays can still get through a totally cloudy day, so 30 SPF or higher, preferably one labeled “water resistant” (and if it also contains a moisturizer, all the better, something like lanolin or glycerin).
(courtesy of Ethical Elephant)
- T is for remembering your lips- we use our mouths for some of the most important things in life (eating, talking, kissing), so don’t forget to show your lips a little love too. To combat the harsh weather, use balms that contain petroleum jelly which can heal dry, cracked lips or prevent them from ever being damaged in the first place if you get a jump on that in autumn as opposed to waiting for the winter winds.
(courtesy of Times of India)
- U is for pampering hands too- and our opposable thumbs make us the top of the food chain on this planet, so show your hands some tender loving care as well. Always always always moisturize after washing your hands, no matter how many times you have to do that on a daily basis, use a hand cream instead of just any old lotion, waterproof gloves are a must when outside to prevent damage, and it’s not a bad idea to have a pair of cotton gloves at home, a pair you can wear between one commercial break in your favorite episode of Only Murders in the Building and the next, after you moisturize for the last time at night to help the skin absorb even more efficiently. Steps like these can also help again nails becoming brittle and cuticles cracking and splitting. Plus, dermatologists suggest starting this regular practice during the fall months to get ahead of damage.
(courtesy of Allure)
And that’s it. Just follow these basic rules that are honestly not that time consuming or that expensive, especially when you factor in that you can stay looking as young, beautiful, and healthy as Lucy Liu (the one-time Watson is in her 50’s now) or Jamie Lee Curtis (the former Laurie Strode is now in her 60’s if you can believe it)- both of whom are winters like me. Next up- spring and summer care!
American Society of Dermatologic Surgery
American Academy of Dermatology
University of Tennessee Medical Center
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
National Eczema Association
Skin Care Foundation
American Cancer Society
Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology