How to Build the Best Fall Skincare Routine

November 3, 2020

woman with glowing skin from autumn skin care regimen

As the temperature drops and the humidity decreases, fall weather can dry your skin. So, as you transition from summertime to winter weather, your skincare care regimen should transition with you. According to Dr. Kathleen Ellison of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Fairfax, Virginia, “It’s important to understand that even the best genes will only take you so far when it comes to healthy skin. The rest is up to you. That means establishing an effective skincare regimen that will keep your skin looking great year-round. In the fall, that means compensating for the ways that weather changes will impact your skin’s health.” In this blog, Dr. Ellison walks through how to build the best fall skincare routine.

Related: 5 Best Ways to Take Care of Your Skin

Tackling Fall Skin Health Challenges

Dr. Ellison says, “Whether you dream of sweater weather all summer long or you dread the fall temperature drop, when the seasons change, your skincare routine needs to change with it. The cooler, less humid weather is drying to the skin. Then the temperature continues to drop, and we add the stripping effects of heaters into the mix. It can leave people feeling dry and itchy.” To keep your skin healthy and itch-free this fall and winter, consider making the following changes in your daily skincare regimen:

  • Moisturizer – Summertime means a lightweight moisturizer, but in the fall and winter, you should use a thicker, cream-based moisturizer with skin-protecting active ingredients like ceramides. You should also use a good eye cream to prevent shadows, bags, and dryness around the eyes.
  • Sun protection – Even though it’s not as warm and sunny outside, the sun’s UV rays can still damage the skin. Everyone should apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Promote cellular turnover – Apply products with ingredients that promote the production of collagen and elastin to encourage healthy skin cell turnover without using stripping products like acids.
  • Hydrate – Good skin moisture actually starts from the inside out, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated.
  • Invest in a humidifier – When the heater is running, the air in our homes can be extremely dry, pulling all the moisture out of our skin. Using a humidifier can help prevent the stripping of moisture from the skin.
  • Minimize spot treatments – Acidic spot treatments like retinoids and acids are great for keeping skin smooth and promoting cell turn over, but when the skin is already dry, these added treatments can be irritating. Instead of several times a week, these treatments can typically be applied just once a week. Rather than acidic treatments or retinoids, look for antioxidant products with vitamin C. These products can repair skin after summer sun damage, and they provide anti-aging benefits and protection from any UVA/B rays that get through the sunblock.
  • Exfoliate – You shouldn’t exfoliate as frequently in the fall as this can strip your already dry skin. But, you do need to remove the dry skin to ensure good cellular turnover at least once a week.
  • Don’t forget your lips – Lips can become very chapped during the fall and winter months, so don’t forget to apply a good lip moisturizer several times a day. Look for protectant lip balms that have ingredients like petrolatum and aloe. If the first ingredient in a lip balm is alcohol, it’s going to strip the moisture from your skin. For a one-two punch of moisture and protection, look for lip balms that also have sun protectant.

The Basics of Skincare

When it comes to great skincare at any time of the year, Dr. Ellison says, “Keep it simple. One of the biggest mistakes patients make with skincare is overdoing it. For a simple and effective daily skincare regimen, you really only need three things – a clean face, hydrated skin, and sun protection. Other treatments and products may be beneficial to individuals based on unique skin types or specific conditions, but as long as your skin is clean, hydrated, and protected from sun damage, you’ve got a good start to achieving great skin.” When it comes to building an effective skincare routine, keep the following basic tips in mind:

  • Don’t get frustrated – Many people give up on a new skincare routine when they don’t see immediate improvement. There’s no magic wand to fix skin health concerns, so be patient and stick with your new routine. Most results take several weeks of consistent use.
  • Application order matters – You should apply products in order of their thickness, applying the thinnest/lightest products first and the thickest/heaviest products last. In most cases that means cleanser, toner (if applicable – not everyone needs a toner), serums, moisturizers, and sunscreen. This ensures you’ll achieve the maximum benefit of every product.
  • Time of application matters – A lot of products have instructions detailing long wait times between applications, but this is often unnecessary and overly complicated. In most cases, your morning skincare products can be applied as soon as the previous product is absorbed by the skin. In the evening, you may want to rest your skin after applying treatments like serums and antioxidants to allow these items to be fully absorbed into the skin before applying your evening moisturizer. Consider keeping your moisturizer and eye cream on your bedside table. That way, you can wash your face and apply serums. Then, go about your nighttime routine before applying moisturizer and eye cream right before you go to sleep.
  • Read the back of the bottle – In most cases, the fewer active ingredients in a skincare product, the better. Products with lots of chemicals, fragrances, and other ingredients can irritate the skin, especially during the already dry fall months when the skin is likely to be a little more sensitive.

Your Fall Morning Skincare Routine

According to Dr. Ellison, “Your skin needs different things in the morning and evening. When you’re getting ready in the morning, your skincare regimen should be all about protecting your skin from the sun, wind, heaters, pollution, and other natural and man-made elements that attack the skin. You want to be gentle with your skin in the morning, so you don’t add to the irritation that is likely in store for you throughout your day.” Each person should work with their dermatologist to develop a skincare routine that benefits their skin, but a good general fall morning routine should include the following:

  • Clean – Wash your face with lukewarm water and gentle facial cleanser. Hot water can strip moisture from your skin, so avoid using overly warm water.
  • Toner – This one isn’t for everyone. In the past, toners used harsh active ingredients that could irritate the skin, but today, there are more options available that can help the skin in a variety of ways, depending on their active ingredients. Talk to your dermatologist about recommendations for whether or not you need to use toner and which type would work for you.
  • Serum – This is another optional step for the daytime, and it’s another product that is very specific. Serums can help with skin tone and inflammation, provide neutralizing anti-oxidant effects, protect from UV rays, and more.
  • Eye cream – In the fall, the more moisture you’re giving your skin, the better. If you have very dry skin or you’re sensitive to cool, dry weather, you may want to apply an eye cream twice a day rather than just at night, which is usually recommended for the summer. The skin around the eyelids is very thin and prone to sagging and looseness. Eye cream keeps this skin smooth and supple.
  • Treatments – This is another step that will differ from person to person. If you have acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, or other chronic skin conditions, you should apply your treatments to the affected area and allow them to be absorbed before applying your protective moisturizer and sunblock.
  • Moisturize – It may seem counter-intuitive if you have oily or acne-prone skin, but everyone needs to apply a good, thick moisturizer in the fall and winter. Without a good moisturizer, oily and acne-prone skin may actually produce more sebum (oil), causing the skin to become oilier and potentially triggering breakouts. When the air is cool and people are running their heaters, all skin types need a little extra hydration, so pick a good, thick, cream-based moisturizer for the fall.
  • Sun protection – Finally, you need to apply sunscreen. Because it can be tricky to apply sunscreens effectively after moisturizer, many facial moisturizers now have sunscreen built-in, which will further simplify your routine. If you decide to add a sunscreen, you may want to use a physical sunblock with active ingredients like zinc. These products sit on top of the skin and physically block out UV rays, so you don’t need to worry about how long it will take for your skin to absorb these products after you’ve applied a moisturizer.

Your Fall Evening Skincare Routine

Dr. Ellison says, “Your evening skincare routine will look an awful lot like your morning routine, but you’ll make a few simple changes to the routine. Your morning skincare regimen is about protection. Your evening routine is all about repair and hydration. Pay attention to your skin’s needs. If it looks dry, hydrate it. If you notice flakiness or dead skin cells, exfoliate. Try to be consistent, but you should also respond to your skin’s specific needs.” Again, your dermatologist is the best resource to develop a routine and find skincare products that will work for your skin, but the following is a good basic routine that will work for anyone:

  • Cleaning – If you wear makeup, you should use a makeup remover first. Then, use a gentle cleanser to clean the day off your skin.
  • Exfoliate – Once a week is usually plenty for fall weather exfoliation. You don’t want to unnecessarily irritate the skin, but you still want to encourage healthy cell turnover. A good, gentle option may be to use a chemical or physical exfoliant face wash in place of your regular cleanser once a week.
  • The extras – Again, if you’re using toners, serums, skin condition treatments, or other specialty products, apply them next. This is where you want to apply your anti-aging treatments, moisturizing hyaluronic acid treatments, benzoyl peroxide spot treatments for acne, and other products to heal and repair your skin.
  • Eye cream and moisturizer – Once your treatments have had a chance to be absorbed into your skin, apply an eye cream and moisturizer. You can use the same eye cream and moisturizer that you apply in the morning, or you can use thicker night creams to further boost your skin’s hydration.

Special Treatments

In addition to these basics, you may want to consider scheduling visits with your dermatologist for some special treatments in the fall, including:

  • Get a facial – The skin’s natural cellular turnover can be disrupted by fall weather. A facial can help to reset your skin and promote healing and vitality.
  • Consider a peel – If you’re experiencing significant irritation or inflammation during the fall months, a chemical peel can help to improve skin tone and texture and relieve irritation.
  • Visit your dermatologist – Everyone should visit their dermatologist at least once each year for a skin exam. This allows your dermatologist to examine your skin to check for areas of concern, discuss your skincare routine, and give you product or treatment recommendations.

Visit U.S. Dermatology Partners for Personalized Fall Skincare Tips

Whether you want to boost your fall skincare regimen or you need help managing a chronic skin condition flareup during the fall months, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team is here for you. Get started scheduling your visit today by completing our quick, online appointment request form.

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