It'll be a few more weeks before the cold weather actually hits, which means NOW is the perfect time to 1) get back into a skincare routine and 2) undo any summer damage.
Here are some suggested changes to consider making right now:
1. Step up your exfoliation game
There are a few reasons why you want to get going on your exfoliation right away:
To prevent acne: Ever broken out at the start of fall and wondered, what's up with that? Well, one reason it might've happened is because your skin's oil production didn't slow down—it just got trapped under a layer of dead skin cells caused by less moisture in the air. Remove the dead skin, and you have less chance of getting clogs.
To brighten: As summer ends, skin can look a bit rough and blotchy, with more noticeable pigmentation. Gently sloughing away the upper layer of dead cells can make your skin feel softer and look brighter and more even-toned. (More on pigmentation below!)
To help other products work harder: Exfoliation will increase the effectiveness of any serums, creams and masks that you use afterwards. It may sound a bit counterintuitive to use an acid or a peel when your skin is asking for hydration, for example, but moisturizing agents won't be able to penetrate as well if they are blocked by a barrier of dead skin. The same goes for anti-aging ingredients, antioxidants and so on.
No matter which exfoliator you choose, the important thing is stay within the limits of what your skin can handle. In general, most dermatologists don't recommend exfoliating more often than once or twice a week, although I know some people do it daily without a problem. Let your skin be your guide. If you get red, irritated or raw, that's a sure sign that you are overdoing it and need to back off.
2. Handle your pigmentation
Sun spots, brown spots, age spots, liver spots, etc. - pigmentation caused by sun damage is difficult to rid!
Pigment inhibitors: There are many over-the-counter topical ingredients that help to decrease the amount of pigment produced by your melanocyte skin cells. Vitamin C, azelaic acid, kojic acid and arbutin are a few of the most common ingredients you might see on labels. Unfortunately, their impact on stubborn spots is usually modest at best.
Hydroquinone: This is a skin-lightening cream available over-the-counter in 2 percent concentrations. Higher concentrations may be available from your physician by prescription. It is known to work better than the pigment inhibitors, but be aware that there are some concerns about toxicity. It has been banned in France and is under review by the FDA. You should never use hydroquinone for more than six months at a time.
Peels and microdermabrasion: This should be a key part of any pigment-reducing home care routine. Alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic and lactic are your best choices; go with lactic if your skin is more dry or sensitive, as it will more gentle. You can also get professional chemical peels and/or microdermabrasion treatments for a deeper exfoliation at any SkinSpaMED location.
Retinoids: These are vitamin A derivatives that work by speeding up skin cell turnover and stimulating collagen production. Over-the-counter RAGS II Riches Retinol is available online, or at both SkinSpaMED locations. By prescription, you can get retinoic acid; Retin-A or Stieva-A are brand names usually available. Differin and Tazorac are synthetic retinoids, but work the same way.
Photo Facial, IPL and lasers: IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light, and honestly, it works! You are zapped with light energy that breaks down the brown pigment in your skin. Fraxel (fractional laser) is a more intensive option for more serious sun damage.
If you are going to start any of these treatments, you need to be diligent about the sunscreen.
3. Start cleansing gently
If your skin produces a lot of oil year-round, then gel, foaming and scrubbing cleansers are great. Some normal-to-oily types can get away with them in the summertime as well.
As the colder weather arrives, combo and normal-skinned people can switch to something more gentle - ideally low-lather and non-abrasive.
Dry and sensitive skin types should always avoid harsh cleansers, no matter what the season.
The reason you don't want to use a cleanser that is too aggressive for your skin type is because it can strip away the oils your skin needs to keep its barrier intact. Some gritty exfoliating cleansers can even create microscopic tears in the top layer of the skin. A compromised skin barrier means more potential for dehydration, irritation, sensitivity and breakouts.
4. You need more moisture
This is an obvious one, but it cannot ever be said enough. In the weeks ahead, you'll probably need to make some changes to keep tight, flaky skin at bay.
Besides regular moisturizing creams, here are some other things to consider, either in addition, or instead:
Hydrating serums: Are you using a serum yet? They are topical treatment products that you put on clean, bare skin, underneath your regular moisturizer. They have a higher concentration of active ingredients that can penetrate faster and deeper.
Gel-cream moisturizers: If you don't actually like creams, and have oily or combo normal-to-oily skin, then gel-creams are a great way to get moisture without greasiness.
Oils: Another option is to simply spike your lotion or cream with a few drops of oil, which will make it richer. Or, you can layer on a few drops of oil as a last step in your regimen, so it acts like a barrier to the elements.
Sleeping masks: For more intensive nourishment, go to bed once or twice a week wearing a sleeping mask. Also known as sleep packs or overnight masks, these Korean imports have a gel texture and seal moisture into the skin.
It is always sad when summer is ending, but fall is the best time of year to tackle your skincare concerns, whether they include hyper-pigmentation, acne, fine lines or overall dullness.