Smart Seasonal Skin Care
Benita Winters, Medical Aesthetician; Cincinnati Dermatology Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate year-round, you most likely experience four distinct seasons—along with equally distinct seasonal responses in the skin.
The skin follows its own cyclical process of renewal. The epidermis is comprised of layers of cells known as keratinocytes. Beginning at the basal layer, these keratinocytes work their way up the epidermis, changing at every layer until they reach the uppermost layer called the stratum corneum. This outermost layer is shed daily, while new cells are formed at the basal layer, a process that is completed every 28 days.
Natural cell turnover slows with age, leading to dullness and a sallow appearance. Each year, our skin also loses collagen, elastin and the many cells that help to support structure and firmness—much like the filling in a mattress. Topical retinoids help stimulate cellular turnover and speed up your skin’s renewal process, while antioxidants and growth factors protect skin health by preventing further UV damage and stimulating collagen deposition.
I recommend following a routine that incorporates these products year-round, accompanied by a broad-spectrum SPF. As your skin reacts to seasonal changes, observe it closely and adjust your skin care routine accordingly.
In the spring and summer, your skin care priority should be vigilant sun protection (and for many patients, controlling worsening acne or problematic skin). With warmer weather comes increased perspiration, which often leads to oiliness, clogged pores and breakouts when bacteria breeds on the skin’s surface.
As the temperature rises, I suggest switching to a more aggressive cleanser that contains ingredients like salicylic or glycolic acids to exfoliate dead skin cells and control sebum. Benzoyl peroxide is also effective at spot-treating blemishes and targeting bacteria on the skin.
Summer is the time to switch to light, sheer products and a higher SPF. Daily sunscreen use is critical, especially in the summer months when sun exposure is stronger and more frequent. When my patients tell me that they don’t want to wear sunscreen because it feels heavy or greasy, I remind them of the abundance of options on the market—there’s something for every skin type!
Today’s sunscreens are cosmetically elegant, benefit-driven and much more pleasant to wear than their predecessors; many also offer aesthetic benefits like mattifying or anti-inflammatory properties in addition to the key component of broad-spectrum UV protection. In fact, I describe the ideal formula as a “daily moisturizer with sun protection,” as opposed to sunscreen alone.
I encourage patients to use a sunscreen formulated specifically for the face, as these formulas tend to be lighter and non-comedogenic. Brush-on mineral sunscreen powders like the ones from Colorescience are perfect for reapplying sunscreen throughout the day without disturbing makeup.
The summer months are also an ideal time to introduce a product containing hydroquinone, such as Epiquin® Micro. Used to treat hyperpigmentation, hydroquinone helps to fade existing sunspots and prevent new ones from forming.
I recommend that my patients alternate eight weeks on and eight weeks off when using hydroquinone, and then supplement their prescription with daily use of SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum®. TNS® is formulated with a plant extract called alpha arbutin known to brighten the skin. This age defense powerhouse also contains peptides, growth factors and antioxidants to help prevent and repair UV damage and provides a long-term, first line of defense against aging.
At your doctor’s office, superficial chemical peels and Thermage skin tightening are ideal procedures to undergo during the summer months, since they typically do not cause extreme sun sensitivity.
At our office, we are fond of telling patients that we “undo their naughtiness” and rescue their skin from the sun damage that has incurred during the summer. This is the season to focus on skin repair.
With patients spending more time out of the sun during the colder months, it’s a great time to begin more aggressive in-office peels and laser treatments. For skin care professionals, it’s our chance to make real progress with stronger peels without the concerns of sun sensitivity.
Additionally, many of our most effective procedures—including Fraxel for skin resurfacing; the V-beam laser for rosacea and broken capillaries—are best performed on non-tan skin to prevent pigmentation. Patients should avoid the sun 30 days post-treatment so that they reap the best reward for their money.
Dehydrated skin is a common complaint during the winter months, when low humidity and indoor heaters create a dry environment that strips moisture from the skin. Maintaining hydration is key: Use a gentle cleanser, drink lots of water and consider investing in a humidifier, which creates a healthy environment for the skin.
Look for a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid, which helps bind moisture to the skin and keeps it soft and supple. SkinMedica Hydrating Complex is a jewel in our skin care closet—I just add a drop to any moisturizer to boost moisture without clogging pores.
During any time of seasonal transition, certain skin conditions may be exacerbated. For example, acne breakouts may increase, and rosacea patients often experience flare-ups with any extreme temperature changes, especially as they go in and out of heat and cold. Visit your dermatologist or skin care specialist for guidance: He or she can analyze your skin care routine, tell you what’s working and determine what you can do to further enhance the health—and beauty—of your skin.