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Beauty

Do you really need to swap your skincare seasonally?

Short answer: If the weather affects your complexion, you probably do.

A woman standing in the sun with her hand placed under her chin Credit: Getty Images / NicolasMcComber

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As seasons change, so do many aspects of your daily routine. Take the summer-to-fall transition, for instance. Flip flops get swapped for booties, iced coffees get traded for pumpkin spice lattes, and beach days are replaced by cozy nights in. As for your skincare routine, cooler temperatures can signal significant changes in your complexion, which may require us to reevaluate the tried-and-true products of summer and see if they're appropriate for bringing into fall. The same goes for the winter-to-spring seasonal shift: What worked for your skin during the cold weather season may not necessarily be what your skin requires during the summer.

To learn about the changes your skin goes through seasonally, as well as whether it's necessary to swap products accordingly, we spoke to board-certified dermatologist and AmberNoon founder Dr. Erum Ilyas based in Philadelphia as well as board-certified dermatologist Dr. Suzanne Friedler of Advanced Dermatology PC in New York.

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What skin changes occur during fall and winter?

A woman scratching her skin as her eczema appears red and scaly on her arm
Credit: Getty Images / Albina Gavrilovic

Dry winter air can sap moisture from your skin, making it red and irritated.

Skin faces different challenges throughout the year depending on the climate, and the cooler-weather seasons offer their own dermal challenges. "Wintertime leaves the air dry, cold, and missing the added UV of the summer, [all of] which can strip away the skin's natural oils," says Ilyas. "This makes the skin more susceptible to irritation and sensitivities from the environment." Additionally, the skin’s reduction of oil production during these months can increase itchiness, says Friedler.

Cooler temperatures can slow down cell turnover, or the rate at which dead skin cells shed to reveal newer, healthier cells. This can make the complexion appear dull and flaky. Finally, fall and winter also marks a time where people crank up the heat in their homes as well as showers and baths, which can cause the skin to dry out even further.

How might your skincare change for colder weather?

Dry, cool air saps moisture from the skin, which loses some of its natural oils. To make up for this, it's important to use products that are hydrating. During the fall and winter, it's best to apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer twice a day to maintain skin hydration, says Ilyas. "It also helps to switch from lotions to creams in the fall, as creams are a bit thicker and can moisturize more effectively," she says.

As far as skincare ingredients to use in the fall and winter, a pure hyaluronic acid serum, like the one from Cerave, tops the list because it's effective at drawing moisture into the skin. If you're dry year-round, also consider using a cream-based moisturizer, such as the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, to seal the serum in. This is because, if the skin is excessively dry, the hyaluronic acid will seek moisture to pull into it, and if it doesn't find it in the air, it may paradoxically dry your skin further, says Ilyas.

Glycerin is another heavy-hitter when it comes to fall and winter skincare regimens. Like hyaluronic acid, glycerin is a humectant that absorbs moisture like a sponge and is touted for being lightweight, mild, and effective at keeping the skin hydrated. La Roche-Posay's Cicaplast Baume B5 Soothing Therapeutic Multi Purpose Cream fuses glycerin with shea butter to provide much-needed moisture to parched complexions.

Finally, niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, is another ingredient to incorporate into your cold weather skincare routine. Though it has hydrating properties like the others, much of its reputation is built on its anti-inflammatory effects, says Ilyas, which can be helpful for parched skin that's become inflamed and overly-sensitive when temperatures dip. Try the Algenist Algae Niacinamide Moisture Veil, a liquid moisturizer made with niacinamide.

If you have oily skin year-round and worry about your face looking or feeling greasy with the addition of these hydrating products, opt for water-based lotions as well as products that contain salicylic acid, which is a beta hydroxy acid that can help control excessive oil in addition to fight breakouts, says Friedler. A great moisturizer for oily skin with these ingredients is the Peter Thomas Roth ​​Acne-Clear Oil-Free Matte Moisturizer, which combats extra grease and soothes irritated skin.

Even though you’re outside less during the winter, you still need an SPF to protect the exposed skin on your face. Try the Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day Mineral Sunscreen, a mineral sunscreen that reviewers love because it's lightweight, sheer, and offers SPF 50+ protection.

What skin changes occur during spring and summer?

A woman standing in the sun with her hand over her eyes blocking the sun
Credit: Getty Images / LeoPatrizi

Summer skincare concerns may not only be sun-related.

In the summer months and in warm climates, there's typically more humidity in the air, which means the skin may produce more sweat and natural oils. There's also more UV exposure because people are outdoors more, making the skin more prone to sun damage. In addition, blooming plants in the spring can add allergens to the air that can irritate skin just as much as airways (think: inflamed, sensitive skin). Lastly, skin cells turn over more rapidly during the summer months, and exposure to sun and salt water can camouflage and calm acne, says Ilyas.

How might your skincare change for warmer weather?

The spring and summer with their heat and humidity may mean that you find your cold weather products make your skin feel greasy. If you have oily skin, or you find that the thicker, heavier products of fall and winter cause your skin to grease up in the changing weather, opt for water-based gels and lotions rather than heavy creams, says Friedler. To remove excess oil buildup without irritating the skin, try a water-based micellar cleanser, like Bioderma's Sensibio H2O Micellar Water.

No matter your skin type, wearing SPF in the warmer weather months is crucial in preventing UV-related damage and premature aging. "I recommend SPF 50 or higher year-round, however, the frequency of application should increase during the summer months," notes Friedler. This means reapplying every two hours, especially if you will be swimming, sweating, or spending time outdoors. A lightweight mineral-containing sunscreen that’s water-resistant and people swear by is the Supergoop ​​100% Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50. The formula makes it easy to apply and reapply without a mirror.

What skincare products should stay the same year-round?

Person sitting in front of cosmetic mirror applying cream to face.
Credit: Getty Images / RealPeopleGroup

You can keep the base of your skincare routine the same while adding or subtracting products for the season.

Alongside SPF, basic product types such as cleansers can stay the same. If your skin skews “normal” and you don't notice excessive dryness in the winter or overproduction of oil in the summer, you may not need to swap out anything from your normal routine. Instead, just add in a water-resistant sunscreen come summer and a thicker moisturizer, if needed, come winter.

For anti-aging concerns, ingredients such as retinoids and retinol, antioxidants, and peptides can (and should) be used all year long to keep the skin smooth, even, and youthful, says Friedler.

So, do you really need to swap your skincare seasonally?

Simply put: Your skin might have different needs based on the season, and swapping skincare products, ingredients, and formulas according to the weather can make for healthier skin year-round. In general, most people benefit from adding in richer, creamier, or oil-containing products in the cold and using lighter, water-based, oil-controlling products during the warm seasons. Of course, this depends on where your skin lies on the spectrum from dry to oily and the extremes of the climate you live in.

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