We dress for the weather (moisture-wicking cotton tees in summer, cozy cashmere sweaters in winter), but did you know that your complexion needs a similar “wardrobe” of products? Here’s a quick cheat-sheet of climate-related skincare challenges and the ingredients that will help fix them year-round.
The Climate: Humid
Residents in moisture-rich areas like New Hampshire, Washington, Texas and Louisiana (not to mention many places in between) experience swamp-like conditions up to 83.5 percent of the year. What happens to skin in hot spots like these? “Humidity can cause an increase in sweat and sebum production,” says New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D. “That leads to clogged pores and an oil-slicked complexion.” There is one plus side to sticky air, however. “Skin isn’t like to become dry, so it always appears plump and youthful,” Fusco says.
Skin Rx: Look for products labeled for normal to oily skin, since they contain pore-shrinking astringents. “Cleansers formulated with salicylic acid, lipohydroxy acid, benzoyl peroxide 2% and AHAs are ideal for these climates,” Fusco says. (We like Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Cream Cleanser, $5). After rinsing, use a cotton pad to apply a witch hazel-laced toner (such as Thayers Rose Witch Hazel, $9, at drugstores) over the oil-prone T-zone, then follow with a lightweight, mattifying moisturizer all over face and neck. “This will help absorb excess moisture and sebum while helping to keep makeup in place,” Fusco says. (Try Vichy NormaDerm Pro Mat Ultra Mattifying Sunscreen Lotion SPF 15, $22). In your purse, carry blotting tissues or a sheer mineral powder (Colorescience Pro Sunforgettable Mineral Powder SPF 30 Orb Shimmer) and reapply as needed throughout the day. At night, after cleansing, smooth on a retinol-laced moisturizer over skin to help slough away dead cells and shrink pores.
The Climate: Cold and Dry
Winter in most parts of the country can bring on freezing, dry air, exacerbated by whipping winds and indoor heating. “In temps like this, moisture gets evaporated from the topmost layer of the dermis, leaving it parched,” Fusco says. The effect? Chapped, rough, scaly, flaky, or itchy skin—and even redness (particularly for those with eczema).
Skin Rx: “Using a humidifier or vaporizer inside will help, as will shorter showers in warm water,” says Amy Wechsler, M.D., New York City dermatologist and YouBeauty.com Skin Advisor. Choose a creamy, liquid body cleanser designed for dry skin for the shower, and work a gentle exfoliator into skin two to three times a week, paying close attention to flake-prone areas such as knees and elbows. After bathing, apply a super-hydrating lotion all over damp skin to lock in moisture. “Glycerin, shea butter, and hyaluronic acid are excellent ingredients to look for,” Wechsler says. “Pick the one you most prefer, since you’ll be more inclined to use it daily if you actually like the texture and scent.” A pharmaceutical-strength lotion with ammonium lactate works wonders sloughing dead skin buildup on the bottoms of feet (try AmLactin Moisturizing Lotion, $18). For your complexion, switch to a richer night cream that nourishes while fighting wrinkles, which can seem more pronounced when skin is dry. (Try Clarins Multi-Active Night Youth Recovery Cream, $57). Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, Renova, ceramides, petrolatum, and allantoin give your complexion a youthful boost without robbing it of moisture. If you tend to develop colds or redness around your cheeks and nose, slather on an anti-inflammatory moisturizer during the day to neutralize flare-ups (La Roche-Posay Rosaliac Anti-Redness Moisturizer, $26). And don’t forget delicate lips! Avoid balms that contain phenol, an antibacterial agent. “It can strip the top layer of skin right off your lips,” Wechsler says. Instead, look for ones formulated with shea butter, beeswax or jojoba oil (Try Chapstick), and apply frequently throughout the day.
The Climate: Sun Drenched Southern states stretching from SoCal to Florida are famous for warm, golden rays year-round, but “Although sunlight is essential for human life, ongoing cumulative exposure to can lead to hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and possibly skin cancer,” says Monica Bonakdar, M.D., a dermatologist in Corona Del Mar, CA.
Skin Rx: Hyperpigmentation, which occurs when skin cells increase their production of melanin pigment, “is really our body’s way of warning that it’s accumulating too much sun exposure,” Bonakdar says. Women who are pregnant or taking birth control pills are even more susceptible to skin discoloration (this type of hormone-induced hyperpigmentation is known as melasma). To prevent spots from forming, always apply a broad spectrum sunscreen to exposed skin, including your face, chest, arms and hands, which often receive unintentional UV exposure when you’re driving (try Olay Complete Defense UV Moisturizer SPF 30, $24, and Neutrogena Age Shield Hand Cream, $7). To treat existing areas, apply prescription-strength skin brighteners such as hydroquinone or Elure (a naturally-derived lotion that has been shown to lighten brown spots in as little as 28 days) twice daily. To combat wrinkles, incorporate an antioxidant-rich serum into your nighttime routine to absorb free radicals (Skinceuticals C E Ferulic, $92), and follow with a retinol-laced night cream (Philosophy Help Me Retinol Night Treatment, $41).