Summer is when we allow ourselves to have more fun, spend more time in the great outdoors under the big ol’ sun, and indulge in more adventuring and relaxation. However, once fall rolls around, we have explored beaches and lakes, trails and city streets, and our skin — sadly — has taken a beating. Your skin has to go through a lot: sun’s rays, heat, and humidity, coupled with indoor air-conditioning, sand, and saltwater at the beach, plus chlorinated pool water. In other words, summer takes its toll on our skin, says Vanessa Coppola, FNP-BC.
What can help? Exfoliation. And while you should be exfoliating regularly, Coppola says our skin’s needs change slightly as we head into fall with cooler temperatures and less humidity. “During the summer, primary skin concerns are usually centered around preventing breakouts from the increased heat and humidity, plus preventing photoaging from the sun’s rays,” she continues. “We want to help our skin rid itself of any summertime damage and begin to rejuvenate and renew for fall by exfoliating.”
Meet the Experts
Vanessa Coppola, FNP-BC, is a board-certified nurse practitioner and owner of Bare Aesthetic Medical Spa.
Shawnda Dorantes, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, is a beauty nurse practitioner and owner of Beauty Lounge Medical Spa.
Natalie Aguilar is a dermatological nurse, celebrity esthetician, and owner of N4 Skincare.
Claudine S. Riemer is the wellness director at Rancho Pescadero.
Melanie Palm, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at the Art of Skin MD.
Vivian Chin, MD, MPH, is a cosmetic physician and the founder of Koru Wellness Aesthetics.
Know Your Options
Like most skincare practices, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to deep cleaning pores. Generally speaking, Coppola explains there are two exfoliation methodologies: chemical or mechanical/physical, or a combination of both. Mechanical/physical exfoliation is typically done at home via a gentle scrub or a paste that’s not overly abrasive. The goal is to keep it light when you apply pressure since deeper exfoliation requires an in-office procedure with a professional.
The other option is chemical exfoliants, which Coppola explains can come in the form of lotions, creams, pre-medicated pads, often known as ‘peel pads,’ or an actual at-home chemical peel. “The options range from alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which are water-soluble, and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), which are lipid soluble, to fruit enzyme preparations such as papaya or pineapple,” she continues. “AHAs are great for texture, tone, dryness, and giving an allover glow, while BHAs are perfect for acne and sun damage.” Talk with your dermatologist or esthetician about in-house experiences for a more intense, deeper chemical exfoliation.
Rev Up Hydration
Many people experience dryness from the summer months, making their pores thirsty for hydration. That’s why it’s essential to quench your skin, says Shawnda Dorantes, MSN, APRN, FNP-C. “Not only does the summer heat and sun’s UV rays dry out the skin, but colder winds and the dry heat from heaters also dry out the skin,” she adds. “Protect your skin’s barrier and prepare for this seasonal change by increasing your moisturizing routine.”
Heal From Any Suburn
While you should always maintain a consistent skincare routine, it’s important to allow your skin to heal before you begin exfoliation practices for fall. Coppola explains that summertime skin is often more sensitive and possibly inflamed from sunburn and damage. “A lipid-rich layer protects our skin, called the stratum corneum, which forms a protective barrier on the external surface of our skin, helping to lock moisture in and protect our skin from the harsh environment,” she explains. So, sunburn and sun damage can alter the integrity of this layer of skin, resulting in a loss of water and increased dryness and irritation.
When the cooler weather does roll around, don’t be afraid to exfoliate your ‘summer glow’ off. Some believe that exfoliating will remove the sparkle that the summer sun traces can leave on the skin. However, exfoliation is necessary for creating any glow on the skin as it helps to remove dry, dead, dull skin cells, explains Natalie Aguilar. “Exfoliation also helps create healthier skin cells and even skin tone — but won’t get rid of your glow.”
Keep Your Skin Type in Mind
When you pick your at-home exfoliating product, keep your skin type and goals in mind. Choosing the right product for your skin is vital because if you don’t, built-up residue can increase, and oil production will worsen, Dorantes says. “This happens because when we expose the skin to a product that is too harsh or dehydrating, the amount of dead skin cells increases and reduces the ability of any moisturizer to be properly absorbed, which can lead to an underperforming lipid barrier,” she adds.
Try a few different products, giving them at least a week to show results or reactions, and then decide what’s best for you. You can also ask your facialist or dermatologist for their recommendations since they know your skin up-close-and-personal.
Don’t Wait For Flakes
How do you know an exfoliator is working? By seeing flakes of dead skin, right? Not so much! You do not need any visible skincare issues like dryness or flakiness to get the benefits of an exfoliator, explains Claudine S. Riemer. Instead, she explains that exfoliates can also be used as a preventative measure to protect your skin against acne by dissolving dead, pore-clogging skin from the surface and revealing your glowiest skin. If your exfoliator does its magic, you’ll see fewer breakouts, a smoother surface, and a brighter complexion.
Keep Wearing Your SPF
Even though we are rehabbing our summer skin, the sunshine is still out in the fall (and winter and spring), so applying your SPF daily is vital. It’s likely just as important now as it was during the hottest days of the year since exfoliating can leave your skin at a higher risk of sun damage, explains Melanie Palm, MD. She recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.
Don’t Overdo It
Before scrubbing away in the morning and evening, take a breather and devise a plan. Though exfoliation may make your skin feel smoother, too much or too harsh of treatments can cause more damage overall, says Vivian Chin, MD, MPH.
“Like over-washing your face or hands, each time you exfoliate, you are removing some layers of skin, which is made up of a delicate balance between water and oil,” she continues. “If you wash away too much of the oil or deplete the physical barrier, the natural barriers in your skin can erode and cause more water loss, resulting in injury and paradoxically drier skin.”
To prevent yourself from going too hard or too fast, Aguilar suggests focusing on different areas of the body or face on different days of the week. “I alternate days of the week in which I exfoliate my face, neck and decollete one day, arms and back the next day, and legs and stomach on yet another day,” she says.
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