Skin + Hair Basics

Transitional Skincare: How Skin Changes with the Seasons

Just as the weather changes each season, so does your skin in response. Here is how to build a transitional skincare regimen to prepare and adjust for the seasonal flux.
Transitional Skincare: How Skin Changes with the Seasons

A simple seasonal shift can take a toll on your skin, regardless of its nourishment level—that is, whether your dermis is naturally oily, or dry, or somewhere in between. However, there are many ways to adjust to these transitional changes, so that you can adjust your regimen (including certain habits and behaviors) to get ahead of the forecast.

Read on to learn how skin changes with the weather, and how you can proactively course correct.

Pay Attention to Temperature and Moisture

Here’s the easiest way to predict what will happen to your skin each season: Pay attention to the heat and humidity (or lack of either). These two things are often discussed interchangeably, too. For example, the colder the weather, the drier the air becomes. And since the air wants to pull moisture from somewhere, from anywhere, it extracts moisture from your skin (including your scalp—but also your hairs, too!). Thus, you become a product of the environment: As dry as the air around you. 

However, when the weather is warm, you might experience dry heat or humid heat. If it’s dry, then your skin will likely find a way to match it, unless you get ahead of the problem. On the other hand, humidity is more or less great for your skin, even if it feels like a swelter. The more moisture in the air, the more buoyant and supple your skin becomes; this is also why many of us claim to have our “best complexion” in the summer. (Call it a summertime glow.) Regardless, the increase in heat can lead to more sweating, which in turn dehydrates the body. 

Secondly, our propensity to jump in a pool or the seawater in summer can also dehydrate the skin, so there are all kinds of summertime factors to consider. Then again, on the other end of the spectrum, cold winter weather might encourage us to take long, hot showers or baths, and it’s that hot water that dehydrates skin far worse than cool or lukewarm water.

The more you discuss these things, the more you feel like you’re talking in circles. But at the same time, a bigger picture takes shape: Temperature and moisture levels play a very big role on our skin. (And on our hair, for that matter!)

How to Adjust Your Regimen for the Seasons

Here are the primary rules of transitional skincare (and hair care, too, since your scalp and strands are equally impacted). These tips will keep things soft and supple year round.

1. For Humidity: Keep your skincare regimen lightweight (likely relying on an SPF moisturizer during the day, and a gel moisturizer by night), and use a gentle cleanser in the event that you wash your mug multiple times a day. Your skin should have few to no problems staying hydrated on its own, but be mindful of any efforts to counter the dense air (like air conditioners or dehumidifiers). These create a dry environment inside the house, which can in turn cause winter-like drying effects on your skin. Wash your hair more frequently, but even more importantly, condition hair daily to help shield it from frizz-causing humidity.

2. For Sun: SPF 30+, no ifs, ands, or buts. You need to shield your skin from the sun every day, at every daytime hour. Chances are, if it’s hot or you’ll be outside for a long period, then you’ll want to keep the SPF lightweight. Better yet, use a dedicated facial SPF moisturizer, to “kill two birds with one stone” without having to add a sunscreen overtop your everyday moisturizer. Help skin recover after a long day in the sun with a soothing, hydrating face mask. You can also blend a little SPF moisturizer into your lip balm in summer, to ensure you don’t sunburn your lips.

3. For Dry Air: Moisturizer is most essential, to help trap the moisture inside of your skin and prevent dehydration from the surrounding air. Use an SPF moisturizer year round, but layer it with a gel moisturizer in the winter daytime for a double dose of moisture preservation and UV defense. Your nighttime regimen needs to have a reliable moisturizer, too, so that you can seal off skin as you sleep. This is one of the most common times when skin is compromised—and perhaps most noticeably, the thin, delicate skin of the lips. So, layer on lip balm all season (especially at night!) and consider sleeping with a humidifier in your bedroom to further ensure moisture retention in the skin.

And, while it’s important to at least rinse your hair and scalp before bed, we recommend doing your shampoo-conditioner regimen in the morning, to help reset the scalp and strands each day—and to help give you cooperative, style-ready hair each day of the dry season. (Not to mention, prevent itching and flaking on the scalp.)

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4. For Summer Swimming: If you’re going for a dip in the pool or ocean, then follow with a hydrating body wash and cleanser, to flush away any chemicals or residue—followed, of course, by a soothing face mask or cushioning gel moisturizer. That’s because both situations can dry out the skin after increased submersion. Oh, and we know you’re staying on top of your SPF game between dips, and your haircare regimen post-swim, too. Salt water and chemicals can really take their toll on strands and skin alike.

5. For Heat: See above for tips on dry air versus humidity, depending on which type of heat you’re experiencing. Either way, make sure to keep things lightweight, to avoid added and unnecessary sweating. A fast-absorbing SPF moisturizer by day and a gentle clay cleanser will be your best friends every day (and probably multiple times a day, seeing as dermatologists recommend reapplying SPF every two hours). Another great habit to get into: Cool, short showers. They’ll refresh you but won’t compromise your skin’s moisture levels. Lastly, you may want to shampoo more than usual, to keep your scalp fresh despite all the sweating. (Always follow with a conditioner, too, to calm and tame the hairs.)

6. For Cold Weather: Remember, cold days tend to be drier than warm ones, so be sure to keep skin moisturized (be it an SPF daytime and/or evening gel option). If you’re heating the apartment, this can also dry out skin, so it’s worth cranking the humidifier if you’re enduring cold weather for the foreseeable future. Resist the urge to take long, hot showers, since these can also dry out the skin severely. Make sure to keep the temperature mild and to keep the shower short, while using a hydrating body wash and cleanser to stay fresh and preserve skin’s nourishment. Use conditioner daily (and shampoo every second day, at least), in order to keep the hairs and scalp nourished despite the cool temps. This will prevent itching and flaking, as well as dry, poofy hair.

7. For Cloudy or Gray Days: The main variable here, independent of temperature and moisture levels, is to lather on the SPF by day, especially on your face. That’s because UV rays can permeate the clouds and still cause their “photo-aging” damage to skin throughout the winter. Think of all the winter days you have spent near a window, on the slopes, or commuting, where you should have had UV coverage but didn’t. Now’s the time to course correct.