That breakout might not be a case of late-onset acne (whew!) -- it could be that your skin care routine isn't right for the weather. Many dermatologists agree that it is essential to switch up your skin care routine with the changing season. "I tend to adjust my own skin care regimen twice a year: As we head into the summer and again as we head into the winter," says Lisa Ginn, M.D., a Chevy Chase, Maryland dermatologist. "By switching things up, you can avoid getting that dull look that can happen between seasons."
During winter you should still exfoliate your skin, but you don't have to do it with the same gusto as you did in warmer, sweatier months. Look for fruit acid-based scrubs like Origins Never A Dull Moment Skin-Brightening Face Polisher ($27, origins.com), which contains papaya extract. "The enzymes from these scrubs remove that top layer of skin while sealing in moisture," Ginn says. Specific ingredients to look for depending on your skin type include lactic acid for dryer and more sensitive skin, and glycolic acid for oilier or more resistant skin. Beware of aggressive chemical peels or procedures that put you at risk of excessive peeling and sensitivity.
Dry, sensitive winter skin will benefit from serums that are rich in hyaluronic acid and moisturizers that are soothing and rich. Look for creams packed with shea butter or olive oil. "They layer nicely over the hyaluronic acid serums, giving skin a nice glow," Ginn says.
SPF should be used year-round, especially if you're an outdoorsy type or engage in winter snow sports. Remember: The glare from snow is just as harmful to skin as sun exposure.
Since you'll be exfoliating skin more frequently, use gentle scrubs. "I like to combine my scrub with my cleanser and use it at the end of the shower, once my skin has had a chance to absorb the steam," Ginn says. "The top layer of dead skin will come off easily and prepare your skin to absorb moisturizers more effectively." For deeper exfoliation, schedule an in-office microdermabrasion session. The treatment opens up clogged pores to remove dead skin beneath the surface.
Lotioning up is a year-round requirement. But oily, normal, and combo skin types in particular need to attract and seal water into their skin without adding additional oil. While this can be a challenge during the dog days of summer, serums and moisturizing creams that contain hyaluronic acid act as humectants, attracting water from the environment and coating skin with a blanket of soothing moisture.
A shot glass full of broad-spectrum sunscreen (with at least a SPF 30) should suffice for head to toe. The key to staying protected is to reapply every two hours or so -- when you're swimming or sweating, the SPF wipes away, leaving your skin an unprotected canvas for harmful UV rays.