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Spring (skincare) has sprung!

By Hana Hong
February 26, 2021
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Remember when we asked you to change your skincare routine to adjust to colder weather? Well, it's that time of year again. After months of snow and freezing temperatures, winter has (almost) left us, leaving an aftermath of dry, itchy skin in its wake. The point is, while we may be more than ready to run right into sunny spring, our skin needs a little more time to adapt. "Changes in humidity, sun exposure, and outdoor activity usually drive the need to change your skincare routine," says Ted Lain, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and chief medical officer at Sanova Dermatology. "Springtime brings more humidity and higher temperatures, which requires a tweak to your sun protection, as well as your anti-aging regimen."

So how should we prep our faces for the warmer days ahead? We spoke to three dermatologists for their tips on awakening dull winter complexions and achieving a healthy spring glow. 

Start exfoliating (if you weren’t already)

Despite the flaking that results from cold weather, those with dry skin are usually on the fence about using an exfoliator in the dead of winter. “Many people avoid exfoliation during the winter months because it can dry out the skin, but as the weather warms up and the humidity increases, we are better able to tolerate acids and stronger formulations of active ingredients,” says Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “Spring is the prime time to return to exfoliating and brighten the dull skin that has accumulated during winter.” You don’t have to limit yourself to physical exfoliation (abrasive particles that scrub away dead skin), either. According to Dr. Lain, both chemical and physical exfoliation can be incorporated into your spring skincare routine. “I highly recommend chemical peels to kickstart a springtime regimen. These quickly exfoliate, trigger collagen production, and are a great first step in achieving a youthful complexion.”

But be careful not to overdo it—crossing over from a bright complexion to an irritated one can happen quickly with overzealous exfoliation. Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, recommends sticking to exfoliating on a weekly basis, two times a week max.

Switch to a lighter moisturizer

While heavy creams feel like a godsend on dry winter skin, applying them on a sticky, sweaty face is a different story. “When the weather is cold and dry, we need to use good emollients and occlusives to reduce transepidermal water loss,” explains Dr. King. “As the temperatures and humidity increase, we may not need such heavy occlusives to keep our skin moisturized, and heavy products can feel sticky and greasy. Lighter moisturizers with humectants and emollients will feel better.” Both Dr. King and Dr. Zeichner recommend switching to a gel-based formula, which absorbs quickly while protecting the skin barrier.

Upgrade your SPF

We’d never advocate skipping sunscreen, but we know not everyone wears sunscreen during the winter. Now that it’s getting warmer, you’ll really want to start doing that. If you have been a good sunscreen-abiding citizen (extra skincare brownie points for you!), you’ll want to hike up your dosage. “The earth is physically closer to the sun during warmer months, so UV rays are stronger,” says Dr. Lain. “Increasing the SPF to at least 50+, while assuring the products offer broad-spectrum protection, are key to ensuring adequate sun protection in the spring and summer.”

Incorporate antioxidants

Nobody likes pigmentation, especially when it’s sun-induced (sunspots are notoriously difficult to erase). According to Dr. King, antioxidants can—and should—be used year-round, but they are particularly helpful during the spring and summer months to avoid sun damage. Think of it like an insurance policy on your sunscreen: “When the skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun, free radicals are generated that can damage DNA and accelerate the breakdown of collagen and elastin. Topical antioxidants like vitamin C can donate electrons to stabilize the free radicals and decrease sun damage.”

Spring clean your beauty arsenal

If you haven’t done a skincare cleanout in the last few months, consider springtime your cue to Marie Kondo your beauty products. Cleanse and/or swap out washcloths, sponges, makeup brushes, and applicators accordingly. “These are great breeding grounds for bacteria, yeast, and mold, irritating our skin and contributing to breakouts and infections,” says Dr. King. And scrap anything that is past its expiration date, which can usually be seen on the bottom of the packaging. You can look for a symbol with an open jar and letter m to indicate how long your product will last after opening (for example, 12m means your product is good for 12 months after you first open it). Keep in mind that even if a product hasn’t been opened, active ingredients will become less potent and less effective over time.

Can’t find any markings? Use the smell test, says Dr. Zeichner. “If something doesn’t look, smell, or feel the way it did when you purchased it, that means you should toss it," he says.

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