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Seasonal skin care: A guide to summer and winter skin care

Published: September 8, 2023

Written by: Amber Katz

Illustration of a moisturizer tub with a woman laying in the sun on top and a man playing with snow in the shade of the bottom.

Cold and heat can stress your skin in different ways. Here's why adopting a year-round strategy for skin is a smart move.

Feeling the warm July sand on your toes is paradise. So is that first, crunchy step into January snow. But for all the joys the seasons bring, they can also vex your poor skin.

Seasonal variation — heat, dryness, outdoor activities — stresses skin in different ways. One year-round moisturizing routine might not be able to handle both scorching summer days and frosty winter nights.

Learn what the seasons mean for the skin, which types of products to use and how to keep your skin radiant and well protected all year long.

En este artículo:

Winter skin dryness

The winter can be a rough time for your largest organ (your skin.) One major concern: cold air just doesn't hold as much moisture as warm air does. Spending time outdoors in the colder months is likely to dry out skin, bringing itchiness, chapping and redness.

"Low humidity and wind strip the skin of essential oils needed for proper barrier function," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "This leads to microscopic cracks in the outer skin layer with loss of hydration and inflammation. This translates to the dry, itchy skin that we call eczema."

But indoor heat can present challenges, too. "Increased dryness in the air and heat in the showers or your house also strip the skin barrier of natural lipids and proteins. That makes it easier for water to evaporate out, leaving the skin dry and itchy," says Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist and professor at Yale School of Medicine.

Best moisturizers for winter

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends moisturizing skin, applying products right after getting out of the shower for best results. Thicker creams can help in winter, and they absorb more easily when the skin is damp.

Dr. Zeichner explains that a well-formulated moisturizer combines three types of ingredients: occlusives, humectants and emollients.

“Occlusives (like petrolatum or dimethicone) form a protective seal over the skin, preventing loss of hydration and creating a barrier to the environment,” he says.

Humectant ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin, act like sponges, pulling in hydration to the outer skin layer, he explains.

And emollients, like natural oils, “offer direct moisturizing benefits and soften rough cells on the surface of the skin.”

For Dr. Gohara, moisturizers with ceramides, glycerin, mineral oil and shea butter are the ones to look for.

Here are some of Dr. Zeichner and Dr. Gohara’s picks for rich, winter-ready moisturizers.

Best moisturizers for dry skin

Vichy LiftActiv Supreme, recommended by Dr. Zeichner, moisturizes while helping address the visible signs of aging. It’s formulated with 5 percent rhamnose, a naturally occurring sugar derived from plants.

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Face Cream is another recommendation from Dr. Zeichner. This cream boasts prebiotic oat and is created to moisturize to help achieve smooth, soft, healthy-looking skin.

Vaseline Original Healing Jelly is a classic for a reason, and Dr. Gohara likes this occlusive. It can keep skin moisturized even on the coldest of days. Made with 100 percent petrolatum, this balm has been used to protect and help heal dry skin for more than 150 years.

La Roche-Posay Lipikar Moisturizing Body Cream is a shea butter-infused formula, which Dr. Gohara recommends for keeping the body moisturized.

Best moisturizers for combination skin

Eucerin Skin Balance Night Cream is one of Dr. Zeichner's recommendations that offers a lighter consistency. "If you have combination skin, stick to a lighter cream or lotion, or consider using a different product for the T-zone versus the cheeks," he notes.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermallegro Ultra is another one Dr. Zeichner likes for combination skin. It contains neurosensine, a soothing agent that targets irritation due to dryness.

Best moisturizers for oily skin

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Water Gel is recommended by both Dr. Gohara and Dr. Zeichner. "Look for lighter lotion or gel formulations," Dr. Zeichner says, "and consider an oil-free product that does not contain vegetable or mineral oils that can lead to breakouts."

Cetaphil DermaControl SPF30 is a good option with SPF, Dr. Zeichner explains. It's formulated with antioxidants and ProVitamin B5 to soothe sensitive skin.

Other tips for winter skin care

When the air becomes dry and harsh during winter months, consider incorporating a humidificador into a living space or workspace. A humidifier adds moisture to the air, combating indoor heating's drying effects.

Colds also happen more frequently in winter, and opting for pañuelos desechables specifically designed to be gentle on the skin can make a difference. Look for tissues that are softer and less abrasive, which can help minimize the chances of irritation redness, especially when a runny nose means wiping the face frequently.

Complete a winter skin care routine with lip care. Cold weather dries out the delicate skin on the lips, leading to chapping. Applying a moisturizing lip balm with SPF protection can help retain moisture, prevent cracking and shield lips from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Reapply regularly and consider using a lip scrub to gently exfoliate and remove any dry, flaky skin - leaving lips soft and hydrated throughout the winter.

Take care of summer skin

Even when the air is hot and humid, skin can still end up irritated and dry. One of the reasons for summer dry skin carries over from the winter - extreme temperatures drive people inside. And exposure to air conditioning can dry out skin.

Outside, under the rays of the sun, people still need to moisturize. The good news is that some moisturizers contain additional SPF protection, which is one way to help prevent the skin damage that comes with exposure to the sun. (Other options include clothing and hats that cover the skin as well as staying in the shade when possible.)

Another summertime problem: people tend to sweat more. They also produce more sebum, the skin's natural oil, according to Dr. Zeichner. Sebum trapped within the pores can lead to acne breakouts. "As sweat, oil and dirt build up on the skin in warmer months, it leads to summer breakouts," he explains. "As sweaty clothing sits on the skin, it can make matters worse."

Best skin products for summer

moisturizer with SPF is one way to help keep skin protected in summer months. By shielding skin from UVA and UVB rays, these products can help reduce the risk of sunburn-related skin damage, including redness, peeling and long-term complications, such as skin cancer. Using a moisturizer with SPF also helps protect against premature aging caused by the sun, such as wrinkles, fine lines and age spots. These moisturizers can also help maintain an even skin tone, because they help prevent the development of hyperpigmentation and dark spots caused by sun exposure.

For sweat and sebum, regular, gentle cleansing is the rule. Dr. Gohara notes that humidity can add to the problem of oils and bacteria and that "the three together increase the risk of breakouts, particularly on the back, chest and forehead." A go-to face wash is one product to have on hand.

Here are a few recommended products:

Best moisturizers with SPF for summer

Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 + Peptide SPF 30 Moisturizer contains retinol, which is a form of vitamin A that enhances cell turnover and stimulates collagen.

"While we think about it most commonly to fight the signs of aging skin, it is a great ingredient to use if you are acne-prone," Dr. Zeichner says. It can even skin tone and lighten dark spots that pimples leave behind, he adds.

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Moisturizer SPF 30 is Dr. Gohara’s retinol recommendation, because it helps build collagen and decrease collagen breakdown, evens out the skin tone and helps minimize signs of sun damage.

Best face washes for summer

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash contains salicylic acid, which Dr. Zeichner explains is a go-to ingredient to prevent breakouts. "While washes will cleanse your skin, think of them more like short contact therapies," he says. "It's important to apply them and let them sit and lather before rinsing off. That gives the active ingredient enough contact time to penetrate into the skin."

PanOxyl Foaming Wash contains benzoyl peroxide, which is a cleanser ingredient to look for to help manage red, angry pimples, Dr. Zeichner explains. It's "perhaps the most effective ingredient we have to clear pimples. It lowers levels of acne-causing bacteria and helps reduce inflammation in the skin," he says.

La Roche-Posay Purifying Toleriane Foaming Face Wash is a recommendation from Dr. Gohara, who notes that foams help absorb oils and grime from the skin.

Other tips for summer skin care

The need for sunscreen-infused lip balm becomes even more important during the summer. More exposure to the sun comes with a higher risk of sunburn and damage to the delicate skin on the lips, which is susceptible to sunburn, dryness and even long-term effects, such as premature aging and an increased risk of skin cancer.

Applying a lip balm with SPF protection acts as a barrier against harmful UV radiation, helping to shield lips from the sun's harmful effects. Protecting lips with skin products and keeping out of the sun's direct rays will help prevent sunburn, and some products can moisturize as well, reducing the chances of dryness and chapping.

By incorporating these seasonal tips into a skin routine, it's easier to maintain healthy skin, during the winter or summer. Whether it's on water skis or downhill skis, remember to tailor skin care to the season.

Este contenido es solo para fines informativos y no constituye un asesoramiento médico. Consult with your health care provider before taking any vitamins or supplements and prior to beginning or changing any health care practices.