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Do you need to change your skincare routine during the fall?

4 minute read
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The change in seasons can be hard on your skin. But making a few simple tweaks to your daily habits will fight dryness.

Rosemary Black

By Rosemary Black

There’s a lot to look forward to when fall arrives: colorful leaves, pumpkin spice lattes, football. But cooler weather also brings some not-so-fun changes to your skin. You might notice that your body and face are drier and flakier.

You can’t control the weather, of course. But you can keep your skin looking its best and brightest by making some tweaks to your skincare routine. Here’s why the change in seasons can dry you out, plus dermatologist-approved tips to try.

Why the change in seasons is hard on your skin

Cooler temperatures bring lower humidity. This means there is less moisture in the air. And that leads to dry skin, says the American Academy of Dermatology. Have you cranked up the heat in your home? Dry indoor air also pulls moisture from your skin.

“As we move into fall and winter, we start to see more patients coming in with dry skin and eczema,” says Heather Summe, MD. She’s a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

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Fall skincare changes to make now

Try these small updates to your daily skincare regime. You’ll get through the season with smoother, healthier skin.

Say no to soap. Soap can dry out your skin. Instead, try a non-soap body wash or bar for the shower. You can find lots of inexpensive options at your local drugstore.

“Avoid anything with a fragrance because these can be irritating,” says Dr. Summe. Look for products with the word “fragrance-free” on the label. If you have eczema, choose a product that contains ingredients such as petrolatum or shea butter.

Don’t over-cleanse. Washing your skin too much can lead to dryness, especially during the colder months. And there are only certain parts of your body you need to wash every day. These include your:

  • Face
  • Armpits
  • Groin
  • Feet

After washing, gently pat yourself dry. Leave a little water on your skin before applying moisturizer.

Do you use astringents? You may want to put them away until spring rolls around again. This popular skin care product is often made with strong alcohols and acids. And those can pull natural oils out of your skin.

Pick the right facial cleanser. Switch to a face wash that uses words such as “gentle” and “moisturizing” on the label. Don’t use cleansers that contain alcohol. They can dry out your skin.

Take shorter showers. Limit your showers to 10 minutes. And avoid hot water. Longer showers strip the skin of hydrating, natural oils.

Moisturize. Moisturizer is effective because it traps water in the skin. Aim to slather on this lotion at least twice a day: after you shower and before you go to bed. You’ll need different products for your face and body:

  • Face. Facial skin is thinner and more sensitive than other areas of the body. Lighter lotions may not be enough to protect your skin from cold, dry weather. For the fall, consider switching to a heavier cream. Ingredients to look for include ceramides, cocoa butter and hyaluronic acid.

    Vitamin C is another good skincare ingredient to look for. “It’s an antioxidant and protects your skin from damage from the environment,” says Dr. Summe.

  • Body. Body moisturizer is usually thicker, so it can pack in more moisture. “Ointments are best,” Dr. Summe says. If they are too sticky for your liking, then choose a cream in a tub. “I want to see you scooping, not pumping it out,” she adds.

    Many dermatologists recommend brands such as Eucerin and Cetaphil. Petroleum-based products such as Vaseline and Aquaphor are also great options, per the Mayo Clinic. You might want to stash a small tube of hand lotion in your desk or backpack, too.

Check for skin changes. Dark, raised and irregular spots are worth bringing to your doctor’s attention. So are:

  • New dry areas of skin that don’t go away
  • Any spot that isn’t healing
  • Moles that don’t look like the others

Anything that stands out should be checked, says Dr. Summe. And don’t forget to book an appointment with a dermatologist for a skin check. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends doing it at least once a year. A dermatologist can also help personalize your winter skincare routine.

Care for your eczema. Eczema is a common skin condition that can lead to dryness year-round. It may get worse as the air gets cooler. Follow the steps above for a head start. You might try an anti-itch cream such as hydrocortisone. If the symptoms are not letting up, try placing a humidifier in your room. This will help bring moisture into the indoor air.

Remember sunscreen. The sun’s rays can harm your skin, even on snowy or cloudy days. Wear sunscreen year-round on areas of the body that are not covered by clothing. This includes your:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Ears
  • Hands

Aim to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen and an SPF of at least 30. SPF creams are a great option. You can also try a moisturizing sunscreen. You’ll get extra hydration and protect your skin from harmful rays. Make sure your sunscreen is the last product you put on your skin—and don’t forget to protect your lips.

For extra defense from the sun, pick up some smart accessories such as gloves and sunglasses with UV protection.

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Additional sources
Change in seasons: American Academy of Dermatology (n.d). “Dry skin: Overview”
Body moisturizers: Mayo Clinic (2022). “Dry skin”
Annual dermatologist visit: Skin Cancer Foundation. (n.d.) “Annual exams”