A few weeks ago, I suddenly woke up to the biggest surprise of my life: Every ounce of moisture had been plucked from my face, and I was, once again, a dry skin sufferer. It seemed like out of nowhere, my skincare routine was entirely wrong for my skin type, as my once oily face now needed as much hyaluronic acid, thick creams, and moisturizing oils as it could get.
We all know by now that the seasons changing can affect our skin big time, but until this year, I never quite experienced it as quickly as overnight. Are you suddenly dealing with drier-than-normal skin this fall and looking for a quick fix (and maybe an explanation) too? We turned to the experts.
Why is my skin changing already? It was like 80 degrees last week!
Ashley Powers, education director and medical aesthetician at SpaDerma in Chicago, explained that your skin can change as soon as the weather starts changing. For summer, that usually comes with the first days of high humidity. But for fall and winter, “that first crisp in the air when we start to see around 50-degree temperatures” might do the trick.
I normally have oily skin, but now I feel dry. Why?
I couldn’t get enough powder this summer, so I didn’t expect my skin to really change with the weather this year. However, Dr. Purvisha Patel, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare, said that while the change in the weather makes a difference, so do our habits. “Skin in summer is ‘oily,’ not just due to sebum, but also stays moist from sweat and humidity,” Dr. Patel said. “When the weather gets cooler, we tend to take longer and hotter showers. The hot water evaporates easier from the skin, and there is no sweat or humidity in the air to help trap the moisture in. When the water evaporates faster, then the skin appears dry and tight.”
We start changing our habits and daily routines for the fall and winter, and those add up to affecting our skin as well. Dr. Patel suggested using a moisturizer like Visha Skincare RejuVenating Moisturizer or Face 2 Feet Body Balm after taking a shower or bath when the skin is still damp because it’ll help prevent all of that water loss and keep the skin supple and moist. She also recommended upping your water intake.
How does the skin usually change?
Dryness might be about more than patches of dry skin or itchiness; there’s a lot that can happen when your skin lacks moisture. “With any change in [the] weather, you may notice more dryness or tightness, a bit of redness or flaking, or an increase in oil production,” Powers said. So if you’re noticing your skin feels dry after you get out of the shower or you’re randomly feeling a little more oily than normal, you might be dealing with a bout of dry skin after all.
If I have dry skin, how am I supposed to deal with extra dryness?
Going from dry to extra or even ultra-dry is no fun. When you already feel like you can’t get enough moisture in your skin and it somehow comes back at you with flakes, redness, and irritation, throwing in the towel, saying “peace” to your skincare routine, and slathering your face with straight Vaseline is tempting.
Those with dry skin might have actually experienced a little relief over the summer with the humidity levels, but their skin is lacking that now and responding accordingly. Dr. Patel recommended increasing the thickness of your moisturizer—such as opting for a cream instead of a lotion—and reducing how often and how much you’re using exfoliating and dry ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinol. You can also add in an oil cleanser, which will moisturize your skin while it cleanses and removes makeup as well as an extra moisturizing step, like a facial oil or hydrating toner or essence.
Should I change my skincare routine?
“With the change in season, it’s important to change your products to what is best suited for your skin type at the moment,” Powers said. “A common phrase I say in the treatment room is to listen to your skin. If it is breaking out, then you may need to spot treat those breakouts; if it’s dry, add more moisture, etc.” If you’re noticing that your skin is changing, then the routine you were previously using might need some tweaks. You don’t need to overhaul every step, but it might be a good idea to change up the ingredients.
Powers is a dry-skin sufferer as well, and she explained that she changes up her routine quite a bit when the seasons change. She switches from a gentle cleanser to something more hydrating, like PCA Skin Creamy Cleanser, and adds a hyaluronic acid serum both morning and night. Powers also swears by PCA Skin’s Hydrate Mask—she said when applied 2-3 times a week, it’s a “lifesaver” during the harsh Chicago winters.
How to Use Acids and Retinol On Dry Skin
If you love exfoliating acids like glycolic, lactic, and even retinol, don’t worry—you don’t have to forgo those ingredients entirely just because your skin is dry. In fact, Powers even recommends it. “When you have dry skin, you have dead skin cells building on top of one another (sorry for that visual), which causes dullness, flaking, and potentially congestion,” Powers said. “By gently exfoliating that dead, dry skin off, your skin will now be able to fully accept all the serums and moisturizers you are about to put on.” She suggested exfoliating with an acid like glycolic acid two to three times a week, depending on how sensitive your skin is. Dr. Patel loves ascorbic acid (AKA vitamin C), azelaic acid, and lactic acid for those with dry, sensitive skin looking to get a little bit of exfoliation.
Powers also recommended adding hyaluronic acid to your routine, saying that everyone can benefit from a little bit of it regularly. “Hyaluronic acid is naturally found in our body, so once you apply, your skin knows exactly what to do with it,” Powers said. However, our body stops naturally producing it once we turn 25, and half of what we already have breaks down in our body by 50. “This is why as we age, we get a little drier and we lose that plump and smoothness to our skin,” Powers said.
If you love your retinoid, the key to making it work with your dry skin is taking it slow, not applying it every day, and always finishing it with a really occlusive, hydrating moisturizer that will lock in the moisture. Peeling and dryness are often synonymous with retinol, but taking a few extra steps to hydrate (like using hyaluronic acid) can make all the difference. You can even apply moisturizer before and after retinol to dilute the product and keep your skin as moisturized as possible.
Is there anything else I can do? I’m dyin’ here.
You probably know by now that the health of your skin is largely based on the health of your body. Both Dr. Patel and Powers recommended keeping hydrated from the inside out by drinking enough water every day (start with at least six glasses a day and go from there) and not skimping on your sunscreen (imagine sun damage on top of all that dryness—yikes). Dr. Patel also recommended getting enough sleep and taking a multivitamin and probiotic daily.
If you’re able to get skin treatments, Powers said starting a chemical peel regimen is a good idea regardless of skin type. “I love peels so much because they are one of the only things we do that can correct multiple concerns in one treatment,” Powers said. “Whether you’re dry, acne-prone, or concerned with premature aging, there is a peel out there for you. Personally, I feel everyone should be on a chemical peel regimen, as they are the best way to keep your skin healthy and strong.” If your skin is too sensitive or you’re not ready for the downtime, she recommended opting for a hydrafacial. On the flip side, if you want something a little more intense, microneedling can rehydrate, smooth, and brighten skin.
Powers highlighted the power of talking to a professional too. “There is so much misinformation out there about what people should use on their skin and what they shouldn’t, and there is no way to know what your skin needs until it has been properly assessed by a licensed aesthetician,” Powers said. “When someone comes in to see me for the first time, I always say, ‘Talk to me. What brings you in today?’ I find the best results happen when the client and I work together toward their goal.” Skincare isn’t about what you see influencers and celebrities using most of the time; it’s really about figuring out what is right for your specific skin, and that can often take time. If you’re struggling with dryness or any change in skin type this year, seeking the advice of an aesthetician or dermatologist is a good way to get your concerns voiced and tailor a routine for you.