Here’s Why Your Skin Is So Dry This Time of Year—and What to Do About It
Before you call the dermatologist, here's how to manage your seasonal skincare issues, including the best products for dry skin and more.
Does Labor Day come around and it suddenly feels as if your face is having an identity crisis? Dry skin becomes oily; oily skin suddenly dries out. Or perhaps the skin on your body is itchy and irritated. Maybe you even have a rash that seemingly came out of nowhere.
According to Vicki Rapaport, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills, Calif., seasonal skin problems only occur if you have sensitive skin, but having sensitive skin is extremely common. “There are levels of sensitive skin,” she says. Your skin can also be normal, dry, oily, or combination and sensitive at the same time.
So, if you’re struggling with seasonal skin issues, rest assured you aren’t alone. While potentially tricky to deal with, this problem is manageable.
What causes seasonal dry skin?
According to Dr. Rapaport, the temperature outside isn’t the cause of your seasonal dry skin issues, it’s the change in humidity. Indoor air is another factor because colder days often mean turning the heat up, which makes your home or office very dry. Then add in the extremes your skin endures between the hot air inside and the cold air outside, and you’ve got a recipe for confusion.
“Problems such as eczema, rosacea, and breakouts may only occur when the humidity drops and rises. Even if the temperature doesn’t feel that different to you, the level of moisture in the air makes a huge difference in how the skin responds to a normal day,” Dr. Rapaport says.
For those with combination skin, seasonal skin issues can manifest in different parts of the face, being both dry and oily at the same time. “Every different change can happen,” Dr. Rapaport says.
But the changing humidity isn’t bad for everyone. It may even be beneficial for some people, causing them to stop breaking out.
The seasonal change can also be a positive thing if you suffer from melasma, which is a type of hyperpigmentation. Dr. Rapaport says melasma can temporarily go away in the fall and winter, fading on its own. That’s because most people get less sun exposure, and spend more time indoors, so there are fewer opportunities to trigger the issue.
Dry skin remedies
If you finally have your skincare routine down to a science but your face isn’t reacting to your products the way it used to, it’s an indication that it’s time to switch things up. One popular ingredient that can cause dry skin to become problematic during the cooler months is retinol. However, you don’t need to stop applying it completely. Try cutting back on the number of days a week you use retinol.
Dr. Rapaport says the key to better fall and winter skin is finding products that aren’t stripping and infuse moisture into the skin. Start by swapping out your current cleanser for a more hydrating formula. Her two favorite cleansers are SKN Beverly Hills Pure Oxygen Crystal Cleanser ($26; sknbeverlyhills.com) and Epionce Lytic Gel Cleanser ($36; dermstore.com).
She's also a proponent of face oils for all skin types (yes, even oily skin). They’re great for cleansing and removing makeup without reducing moisture. We like Kopari Coconut Cleansing Oil ($32; sephora.com). You can also swap out your night cream for face oil. Try Go-To Face Hero ($34; sephora.com), which is a clean oil blend.
If you can’t quite jump on the facial oil train just yet, Dr. Rapaport says to make sure you use plenty of regular moisturizer. One of her favorites is Epionce Renewal Cream ($94; dermstore.com).
Another ticket to good skin is exfoliation, which removes dead cells and sloughs off the flakes, revealing a new layer of cells. This makes all of your products penetrate deeper and work better. But it’s still important to proceed with caution. If you exfoliated daily during the warmer months, Dr. Rapaport suggests taking it down a notch to a maximum of twice a week. She recommends SKN Beverly Hills Beach House ($32; sknbeverlyhills.com).
And while you might not be planning a trip to the beach anytime soon, you still can’t skip out on sunscreen. Make sure you’re using one that won’t dry out your skin. Dr. Rapaport says to look at the current one you’re using—if the consistency is clear, thin, or gel-like, it might be too drying. Choose a thicker, more moisturizing product instead. She likes EltaMD UV Facial Broad-Spectrum SPF 30+ ($26.50; dermstore.com).
Don’t forget your body
While a rash or dry skin on your body won’t quite show the way it does on your face, it can cause great discomfort. If you’re currently using bar soap and struggling with dry skin, swap it for a body wash such as Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Body Wash ($9.98 for 2 pack; amazon.com).
Don’t forget to moisturize your body every single day. Dr. Rapaport says if you aren’t going through at least one bottle of body lotion every month, “you’re doing it wrong.” She likes Aveeno Eczema Itch Relief Balm ($15.58; amazon.com) for irritated skin. For dryer skin types, she recommends Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Whipped Body Balm ($5.93; amazon.com).
If you’re dealing with the nuisance of an itchy back and aren’t quite sure what to do about it, the doctor is a big proponent of Aquaphor Ointment Body Spray ($12.24; amazon.com).
Dr. Rapaport also calls olive oil “the perfect body moisturizer for this time of year.” However, if you don’t want to walk around smelling like your lunch all day, using it before bedtime can be very effective.
No matter which product you choose, consistency is key, Dr. Rapaport says. You need to apply a generous amount every day.
Sometimes topical solutions won’t cut it
If you’ve changed up your skincare routine and you’re still experiencing dryness, Dr. Rapaport recommends leveling it up and taking oral lubricants, such as vitamin E and omega-3. These supplements can “take the edge off dryness,” she says.
What skincare treatments can help?
Self-care is always important, especially for your skin. Regular facials can be a game changer. Dr. Rapaport recommends getting four to six facials a year, but for people on a budget, she says that two or three will do. It’s a matter of doing what you can and something is always better than nothing.
When should you see a doctor about your dry skin?
A trip to the dermatologist can be expensive and unnecessary. Dr. Rapaport says that changing up your routine is a great first step. Then wait it out and let your skin adjust. If the situation doesn’t improve in four to six weeks, it’s probably time to schedule an appointment.