Along with a change in seasons from summer to fall comes sweater weather, vibrant foliage, pumpkin spice everything, and a drop in humidity — which unfortunately can wreak havoc on all skin types. Add brisk winds and high central heating into the equation, and you can quickly zap skin of essentially all moisture, leading to issues like itchiness and discomfort, says Dr. Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
It’s time to look at your skincare routine and swap those lightweight summer go-to’s for more hydrating options. Here, we asked several experts for their top tips when transitioning your routine from summer to fall.
Slough off those dead skin cells.
As the temp begins to dip, exfoliating is a great way to buff away dry skin and refine its texture, explains Dr. Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in New York City, who adds that exfoliants are key to not only removing dead skin cells but also for increasing collagen production. While exfoliating year-round is critical for rejuvenating and brightening the skin, you may want to cut back on exfoliation in cooler months vs. the summer when increased heat and humidity can result in the heavier build-up. “Long story short, we lose more moisture from our skin into the air in low humidity environments (like the fall and winter), and over-exfoliation of dry skin may lead to irritation,” says Dr. King. But it also depends on the product formulation and if you have a balanced one that supports the moisture barrier like Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment.
When it comes to your face, Dr. Engelman suggests looking for a chemical exfoliant with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acid acids to effectively — yet gently — exfoliate the skin. Dr. King adds that if you have very sensitive skin, enzyme exfoliants are a good option (these products use enzymes derived from foods, such as pineapple or papaya to get rid of dull skin cells). For your body, an easy exfoliating tip is to dry brush before hopping in the shower. “It helps to boost circulation, slough off dead skin, and even helps smooth out cellulite,” notes NYC-based facialist Taylor Worden.
Switch to gentler, more hydrating products…
Once those long summer nights come to a close — and the air is noticeably drier and cooler — your skin will need more hydration. Trade those light-weight summer staples for products like creamy cleansers or oils and thicker moisturizers, says Nichelle Temple, esthetician and founder of Inderma Studio in NYC, who suggests finding hydrating products that layer nicely together. “I love hyaluronic acid, which works well for many — also lookout for ingredients like vitamin C, mandelic acid and kojic acid to help brighten and smooth uneven skin tone,” she highlights. When treating the eye area, Dr. Michele Farber, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist practicing at Schweiger Dermatology Group, points out that eye creams should have anti-aging ingredients that nourish this delicate skin. “Choose peptides as well as antioxidant ingredients to repair this skin,” she advises.
In terms of what else to potentially steer clear of, Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD, board-certified dermatologist and the Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, recommends putting a pause on alcohol-based toners and harsher ingredients throughout the fall and winter which can be too drying. You also may want to ditch harsh soaps and instead add a nourishing body wash to your routine. Dr. Jaliman shares that sheet masks are a great option to brighten winter skin and boost hydration. “I recommend seeking facemasks with ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid to retain moisture and oatmeal to soothe,” adds Dr. Farber.
…and don’t forget the rest of your body.
The rest of your body will need some TLC, too, so be sure also to add a moisturizing body lotion to the mix. A good time to apply is once you’ve finished showering to lock in maximum hydration — oh, and make sure the water temp isn’t too hot. As Dr. Jaliman warns, this can also contribute to dry skin. Be on the hunt for occlusive ingredients in your lotion like shea butter, cocoa butter and jojoba oil which help prevent moisture loss when it’s chillier out there, suggests Worden. If you find that certain areas of your body are feeling extra dry courtesy of the cold environment (we’re looking at your cracked heels and hands), Worden says you can slather on a body oil followed by a rich moisturizer or balm and layer on plastic wrap. Relax for 10-20 minutes to allow the products to penetrate deeper.
Always slather on your SPF.
Yes, the sun may feel weaker as we head into the cooler months, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to ditch your SPF. “Regardless of the season or temperature, the sun’s UV rays are still strong and can cause skin damage,” cautions Dr. Engelman, adding that she always recommends using SPF 30 or higher to ensure that you are fully protected. You’ll also want to be sure to check your sunscreen label for “broad spectrum,” which means the product protects against UVA and UVB rays — may we suggest Sunday Riley Light Hearted Sunscreen safeguard your skin sans that oily feeling.
Invest in a humidifier.
Another tip from most of our experts was to consider purchasing a humidifier that is handy for protecting against low humidity levels, cold weather and transdermal water loss, explains Dr. Engelman. “I recommend the Canopy Humidifier because its no-mist, anti-mold technology and easy-to-wash parts make it cleaner and more convenient than other units.”
Consider professional treatments.
While there are plenty of effective products out there to add to your skincare arsenal as we transition seasons, you may also want to consider a visit to your derm or licensed esthetician after a few months in the sun. Temple recommends the HydraFacial, a unique and comprehensive facial to cleanse, peel, extract and hydrate the skin. She notes that you can also “add on a brightening booster to treat any stubborn sunspots.” Dr. Jaliman tells us that laser treatments — like the Revlite laser — can help stimulate collagen in the upper layers of the skin. “This procedure offers patients a safe and effective way to treat the appearance of dark spots, melasma, sun damage, wrinkles and scarring,” she says. Lastly, Worden adds that fractional lasers are another worthwhile option to ask your derm about — these lasers target a portion or fraction of the skin at a time — and that you can consult your esthetician about trying a stronger peel.
We only recommend products we have independently researched, tested, and loved. If you purchase a product found through our links, Sunday Edit may earn an affiliate commission.