As the days get shorter and the temperatures creep lower, your skin needs warm and cozy layers, too. Come fall, products with gentle, hydrating formulas help prevent dryness caused by both indoor and outdoor air.
“As we head into fall, temperatures get lower and humidity decreases. There can also be brisk winds and dry heat from heaters — and all of these factors can contribute to drying out our skin,” says Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “In low humidity environments, we lose more moisture from our skin into the air.”
The shift in seasons can also exacerbate inflammatory skin conditions, like eczema, that are associated with dehydration in the skin. “You can begin to counteract these changes by taking some initial easy steps such as turning down the water temperature to lukewarm when bathing, using a more emollient soap, and switching to a heavier moisturizer,” adds Dr. Carlos Charles, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of 4.5.6 Skin.
Ahead, the two dermatologists help us breakdown what skincare products to use in your fall skincare routine to help prevent and repair dryness, along with what to shelve until next summer.
Add: Creamy Cleanser — Drop: Gel or Foam Cleanser
Look for a creamy cleanser that will support and cushion skin as fall weather settles in. “A creamy cleanser that supports the skin barrier while it cleanses may be helpful as the weather gets drier,” says Dr. King. “Avoid harsh detergents that strip natural oils from the skin.”
Dr. Charles adds that gel and foam formulas may fall into the drying category. “Gel and foam-based cleansers that are meant to decrease oil production and increase cell turnover may become overly drying and strip away much of the essential and innate protection of the skin as we move into the fall months,” he says.
Add: Hyaluronic Acid Serum — Drop: Chemical Exfoliant Serums
For an extra layer of moisture, Dr. Charles recommends incorporating a hyaluronic acid serum into your routine. “When evaluating serums for the fall, thicker hyaluronic acid-based serum can help lock in moisture as opposed to the lighter water-based serums that you may use in the summer,” he says.
But depending on your skin type or concerns, you may still want to use a serum with chemical exfoliants or anti-aging benefits. “Proper formulations and usage of ingredients like hydroxy acids and retinols can still be helpful, depending on your skin,” says Dr. King. “So this means that depending on your skin type, it may be best for you to decrease exfoliation in colder weather — frequency and strength. And look for exfoliators that support the skin barrier while they exfoliate.”
Given that retinol is considered the gold standard of skincare ingredients, because it can treat a number of common issues like fine lines, hyperpigmentation, acne, and uneven texture, you might want to use it year-round. Dr. Dennis Gross’ Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Acid Texture Renewal Serum has supporting ingredients that help prevent irritation and dehydration.
Add: Rich Moisturizer — Drop: Lotion
“Moisturizers should always include a combination of humectants, emollients, and occlusives, but heavy occlusives may feel like too much when the weather is hot and humid,” Dr. King explains. “Lower humidity may make heavier occlusives more important to lock in moisture.”
Dr. Charles seconds this. “Cream-based moisturizers are heavier and therefore are more effective in sealing moisture content to the skin. A lotion is lighter with more water content and less oil, whereas creams have more oil content and less water which is ideal for the dry season.” He recommends the Day Hack Matte Moisturizer from 4.5.6. Skin.
Add: Moisturizing Mask — Drop: Clay Mask
While clay masks can be effective at drawing the extra gunk out of your pores, they can also leave skin feeling dry and tight. That’s why if you’re looking to indulge in a face mask during the fall, Dr. King recommends reaching for a hydrating formula.
Topicals’ Like Butter mask is designed to soothe and minimize irritation, while strengthening the skin barrier.
Add: Hydrating Toner — Drop: Exfoliating and Alcohol-Based Toners
If you’re a fan of toners, you guessed it: ditch ones with harsh exfoliants and alcohol during the fall. “Toners are always optional, but if you want to use one, you may want to switch to a more hydrating and soothing formula that is alcohol free,” says Dr. King.
Ah, retinol. When it comes to defense against fine lines and maintaining a healthy glow, there’s no ingredient in skincare more lauded. The irony? Even though the revolutionary youth-enhancing active is a mainstay of drugstores, department store counters, and dermatologist offices alike, it still manages to mystify. And thus, it’s often underutilized or misused.
What is retinol?
To bring it back to the basics, retinol—alongside other retinoids, such as retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate—is essentially a derivative of vitamin A, which is one of the body’s key nutrients for boosting cell turnover. “It’s added to topical skincare products to promote skin renewal, brighten skin tone, reduce acne, and boost the collagen production,” explains New York City dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD. “It also functions like an antioxidant to help address free radical damage, which leads to visible signs of aging.” The way dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD, sees it, it’s the ingredient that does it all in dermatology, both cosmetically and medically. “I consider it a gold standard in skincare and often explain it to my patients as something that sweeps away dead skin cells, clogged pores, and dull skin,” she explains.
Here, experts break down how to carefully incorporate the powerhouse ingredient into your regimen to achieve a supernaturally fresh-faced complexion, now and for decades to come.
Begin in Your Mid 20s or Early 30s
Thirty has long been the banner year for introducing retinol into one’s routine, but many women are starting before then, motivated by early signs of aging, such as sun spots or crows feet, or simply eager to get a head start and utilize the latest technologies—under the careful watch of their dermatologist. “Your mid-twenties are a great time to start using retinol,” says Ellen Marmur, M.D. “Many patients who have used it for years swear by it.”
Integrate Retinol Slowly and Gently
“Balance is critical,” cautions Bowe. “Retinol can be very irritating if used too frequently or if the formulation is too strong for your skin.” She recommends starting off with a pea-sized amount of a low percentage over-the-counter formula (.01% to 0.03%), and using it “two times per week, slowly increasing the usage to give the skin a chance to acclimate.” Moreover, you should skip your retinol product on the day before you exfoliate (Bowe recommends exfoliating two to three times per week). “Exfoliating is abrasive and irritating, and you do not want to compound the skin irritation by heightening your skin’s sensitivity,” she says, adding that if you’re getting certain in-office treatments like lasers, microneedling, microdermabrasion, you will want to take a break from your retinol. In the spirit of not overdoing it, there’s a spate of new time-release formulas fit for skin types prone to redness or breakouts. “They’re a good option for people who have sensitive skin,” explains Fusco. “It releases the active ingredient over time and may offer less irritation.” In terms of prescription retinol versus something over the counter, the former is much more potent with a higher percentage of retinol and one may graduate to it over time, says Bowe.
Watch Out for Harsh Side Effects
While certain side effects, such as mild irritation, dryness, and sun sensitivity are normal as your skin adjusts to the active ingredient, intense flaking, redness, and burning are not—and those with especially sensitive skin, or who struggle with conditions like rosacea or eczema, should be wary of retinol or shy away from it all together. “If you cannot tolerate retinol, don’t worry,” says Marmur. “It’s not the only anti-ager! There are plenty of amazing anti-aging ingredients, such as wild indigo, that work beautifully without any irritation or sun sensitivity.”
Use Retinol Only at Night and Wear SPF Every Day
“Retinol makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays and sunlight decreases the efficacy of the product,” explains Bowe, who instructs patients to only use retinoids at night and be diligent about applying a daily broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher during the day. Moreover, with retinol use, one should always be conscious of the weather forecast and trips to hot locales. “It should not be used during seasons or vacations when individuals will be spending extended time in direct sunlight,” warns Fusco.
Don’t Stop at Your Face
When applying a retinol-infused elixir, don’t neglect your neck or décolletage, which are areas notorious for showing the signs of aging, yet often overlooked. “If those zones seem too sensitive for your current formula, add a squirt of ceramide-enriched moisturizer before smoothing it on, or pick up a separate retinoid made specifically for the area in question,” says Bowe. “They typically contain a lower dose of vitamin A, zero fragrance, and loads of soothers.”
If, like me, you’re on an eternal quest to quench your dehydrated skin, there is an exciting new skincare gem destined for your face. CeraVe’s new Hyaluronic Acid Serum, which launched in the UK this week, is exactly that, and at less than £20, it’s a product I feel compelled to shout about.
If you haven’t yet heard of – or tried – CeraVe, consider this post your call to action. A budget brand that develop formulas under the discerning eye of dermatologists, it offers skincare that harnesses the power of ceramides to fortify the skin barrier, as well as other innovative ingredients. From the Hydrating Cleanser to the Facial Moisturising Lotion, those that know about it swear by it, and dermatologists regularly recommend its products to their clients for good and gentle home skincare. It is, quite simply, pharmacy skincare at its finest.
The new Hyaluronic Acid Serum is just as stand-out as its now-cult companions in the range. Unlike the jelly-esque texture of traditional hyaluronic acid (HA) formulas (which can often feel quite tacky, and not for everyone), CeraVe’s offering is delivered via a lightweight, ceramide-rich cream that essentially offers a two-in-one hydrator. Tom Allison, founder of the brand, explains why: “We were really thinking about what HA does and what is unique about it. It’s a wonderful ingredient, it attracts water to the site of application and is one of the most effective humectants out there,” he says. “But what it’s not going to do is help mitigate why you’re dry in the first place.”
The resulting “creamy serum” contains a high concentration of the HA active, but in true CeraVe style, also tackles the issue of transepidermal water loss (or dehydration) through an impaired skin barrier. That, after all, is what actually makes the skin dehydrated in the first place. “It takes advantage of HA but also restores the skin barrier at the same time,” he says. As well as HA, ingredients include glycerin, vitamin B5, three different ceramides, and the brand’s patented MVE technology, all of which works hard to keep the skin barrier strong and healthy, while locking hydration in.
Aside from sunscreen, moisturizer is arguably the most crucial part of any skincare routine. Whether you’re looking to banish rough patches, soothe sensitive skin, or simply to keep your hydration levels in check, the quest for the perfect formula can be frustrating, to say the least — and it can end up taking a toll on your patience and your wallet.
Although there are a lot of different moisturizers with their fair share of bells and whistles, a few characteristics should be standard. “A good moisturizer should absorb right into the skin and relieve any tightness or dryness,” New York City-based dermatologist Lokita Singh has previously told Allure.“It should be lightweight so you can’t feel it as a distinct layer on the skin.”
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
Certified by the National Eczema Association, the ceramides in CeraVe Moisturizing Cream tackle dehydration, while the hyaluronic acid draws in moisture. This gentle cream, which won a 2018 Best of Beauty Award for being the best sensitive-skin moisturizer, also guarantees a huge bang for your buck because a 16-ounce jar retails for under $20.
Think of this oil-free moisturizer as a sidekick for the Allure Best of Beauty Award-winning Differin Gel (one of the most revolutionary acne breakthroughs in years). Not only is this moisturizer noncomedogenic, but it actually absorbs excess oil. Plus, this formula contains an SPF, so it thwarts breakouts and UV rays.
Cetaphil is well-loved in the skin-care community for its super-gentle formulas that are safe enough for even the most sensitive skin — and the brand’s lightweight hydrator is no exception. It’s spiked with moisture-locking hyaluronic acid and glycerin, so itchy, irritated skin doesn’t stand a chance.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer UV
I’ve already raved about the magic behind this Best of Beauty Award-winning hydrator and how it effectively moisturizes deep into the microbiome, which is the top layer of the skin’s physical barrier. But I also have to give it props for its UV protection, which is a broad-spectrum SPF 30.
New York City dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali recommends Neutrogena’s Bright Boost Gel Cream because of its exfoliating poly-hydroxy acids and mandelic acid, an ingredient that brings down redness and corrects pigmentation issues.
Aveeno Positively Radiant Sheer Daily Moisturizer has earned an impressive five Best of Beauty Awards — and with good reason. It mixes together free-radical-fighting antioxidants, SPF, and soy (which dermatologists say can brighten areas of hyperpigmentation) in a lightweight lotion.
Housed in Bliss What a Melon Water Jelly Hydrator’s bright pink jar is a jelly of the same hue that feels like water as you massage it into your cheeks. The end result: skin that feels bouncy and hydrated.
The star ingredients in E.L.F.’s rich cream are hemp oil, anti-inflammatory fatty acids, and vitamins that work to diminish the appearance of fine lines. The brand also added moisture-retaining hyaluronic acid, brightening and smoothing niacinamide, and nourishing vitamin B5 for a powerhouse blend that improves your skin’s overall appearance.
Quell dryness and and soothe distressed skin with this thick cream. Sweet Chef Superfood + Vitamins Moisture Boost blends together hyaluronic acid and kale, a “superfood,” which touts major moisturizing properties.
If you’re not a fan of heavy, creamy textures, you’ll love L’Oréal Hydra Genius Daily Liquid Care. This liquid moisturizer, which contains hydrating hyaluronic acid and calming aloe water, soothes dry patches and leaves skin feeling soft and silky without a sticky finish.
It may be baby-pink and smell sweet like Jolly Ranchers, but Clean & Clear Watermelon Gel Moisturizer is as hardworking as it is delightful. It contains sodium hyaluronate to leave skin hydrated and feeling refreshed as you apply it. The best part: It costs only $6.
Dermatologists explain why you should be adding this skin barrier-boosting ingredient to your skincare routine.
As far as skincare ingredients are concerned, ceramides are among the most worthy of opponents when it comes to battling dry skin — which, with winter rearing its head, may be something that you’re all too familiar with. Thankfully, ceramide-based products are not only a favorite among dermatologists, but are widely available at every price point.
“Ceramides are fatty acids in the skin that help to maintain the skin barrier and retain moisture and hydration,” Shereene Idriss, dermatologist of Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, tells Allure. “Extreme cold-weather temperatures, exposure to hot water, and dry heat can all deplete the ceramide stored in your skin,” Idriss explains. “Using products that are fortified with ceramides help to restore your skin’s barrier function and lock in moisture.”
It helps to think of ceramides as the building blocks in your skin; in addition to possessing hydration-boosting properties, they’re especially key for maintaining long-term hydration and strengthening the skin’s surface against environmental stressors. “Ceramides are found in high concentrations within cell membranes,” New York City-based dermatologist Ellen Marmur says. “They hold skin cells together on the top layer of the skin, forming a protective layer that plumps the skin and retains moisture.” With that being said, here are 13 ceramide-infused skincare products — rich moisturizers, whipped body creams, and even a hydrating toner — to treat your skin this season.
Cosrx Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream
A one-two punch of manuka honey and ceramides make Cosrx Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream a game-changer for boosting skin elasticity and protecting against irritation.
Slather the emollient, rich Ceramedx Ultra Moisturizing Cream all over your body if you deal with chronic dryness. The plant-based ceramides, essential fatty acids, and hyaluronic acid instantly soothe and relieve everything from chapped elbows to cracked heels.
A moisturizing toner? It almost sounds too good to be true — but leave it to Dr. Jart to gift us with this lightweight, fast-absorbing fluid that balances skin and leaves your complexion feeling supple and hydrated.
Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum
Reduce the appearance of fine lines while treating your skin to ultimate moisture, courtesy of Elizabeth Arden’s Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum. Each ampoule features retinol and ceramides as the two hero ingredients.
“[Ideal] for those with sensitive skin, as well as dry skin, ceramides keep the skin hydrated and supple for the cold winter months,” says Marmur, who recommends Mario Badescu’s A.H.A. & Ceramide Moisturizer to patients. Its nourishing formula won’t leave you feeling greasy and doesn’t clog pores, making it ideal for those prone to breakouts, too.
Looking to brighten and revitalize a tired-looking undereye area? Try a ceramide-infused eye cream, like Orveda’s über-luxe Eye Unveiler 422, which contains a potent blend of bio-identical lipids, marine enzymes, and prebiotics to rejuvenate skin.
Vitamin C, retinol, and ceramides team up to turn up the glow in your complexion, in addition to providing long-lasting hydrating and firming benefits, with the Paula’s Choice Clinical Ceramide-Enriched Firming Moisturizer.
SkinCeuticals’ Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 won a coveted Breakthrough Award back in 2016, and it’s easy to see why: The nourishing cream moisturizes, repairs skin, and gives a plumping effect thanks to its formula, which includes 2 percent ceramides, 4 percent cholesterol, and 2 percent fatty acids. (2:4:2.)
The classic white tub (which took home a 2018 Best of Beauty award) is many a derm’s forever favorite for good reason. When it comes to offering lasting hydration to even the driest of skin, nothing beats the thick, hyaluronic acid-, ceramide-, and glycerin-laced cream.
“MDNA Skin’s The Finishing Cream can be used alone or under makeup to nourish, hydrate, and impart a look of flawless illumination,” says New York City dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank. “It moisturizes, firms, and tones skin.”
Every few years, a new “it” ingredient starts making the skin-care rounds—even if it’s not new at all. This time it’s niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that’s been a fixture in commercial cosmetic formulations and dermatologists’ offices for decades. Recently, though, it’s been popping up in all types of products as a recognizable and desirable skin-care ingredient.
But if you’re not quite sure what niacinamide is or what it’s doing in your moisturizer, you’re not alone. Here’s what you should know before adding it to your skin-care routine.
What exactly is niacinamide?
Niacinamide, which is also called nicotinamide, is one of two major forms of vitamin B3 (niacin) found in supplements (the other is nicotinic acid). It’s often touted to help manage acne, rosacea, pigmentation issues, and wrinkles. But is there any science behind those claims?
Scientists theorize that niacin (and therefore niacinamide/nicotinamide) may be effective because it’s a precursor to two super-important biochemical cofactors: nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+/NADH) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP+). Both of these molecules are central to the chemical reactions that your cells—including skin cells—need to repair damage, propagate, and function normally. Many of these essential reactions can’t occur at all without NAD+, which your cells can’t make without niacinamide.
“By giving your body the precursor, the thought is that it allows your body to make more NAD+,” John G. Zampella, M.D., assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman department of dermatology at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. This fuels your cells to proliferate and also allows your body to absorb and neutralize more free radicals.
Essentially, free radicals are molecules that have either lost or gained an extra electron, which makes them unstable and highly reactive. In high enough doses, they can damage healthy cells. But NAD+—courtesy of niacin (and niacinamide)—contributes an extra electron to those unpaired free radicals so they can chill out and stop wreaking havoc all over the place.
Interestingly, the same process—helping your body create more NAD+ and, therefore, repair damage—is thought to be the root of both topical and oral benefits derived from niacinamide on the skin. (Reminder: Niacinamide is just another form of niacin.) There’s also evidence that topical niacinamide can increase the production of ceramides (lipids that help maintain the skin’s protective barrier), which may contribute to its topical effects on wrinkles, fine lines, and the skin’s moisture barrier. All of this is probably why you’re seeing niacinamide listed in a bunch of skin-care products.
However, there aren’t a ton of high-quality studies looking at topical niacinamide for many cosmetic uses.
What can niacinamide actually do for you?
If niacinamide is involved in most important cell functions, then there’s nothing it can’t cure, right? Well, no—if every cellular process in our bodies could be perfected with vitamin supplements, we wouldn’t need antibiotics or radiation therapy. That said, oral and topical niacinamide may have some actual benefits for skin health:
Skin cancer prevention:
Ask a dermatologist what niacinamide does best, and the very first thing they’ll say is probably “skin cancer prevention.” In a 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers gave 386 patients 500mg of oral niacinamide or a placebo twice daily for 12 whole months. All the participants had at least two non-melanoma skin cancers within the previous five years and, therefore, were at a high risk for developing another skin cancer. Results showed that during the study year there were 23 percent fewer new cases of skin cancer in the group that received niacinamide (336 cancers) compared to those who got the placebo (463 cancers).
Both Dr. Zampella and Laura Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh, told SELF they frequently suggest oral niacinamide to their patients with a high risk for non-melanoma skin cancers, and cited this study as the reason why.
This doesn’t mean that two niacinamide capsules a day (which is what participants took in the study) will stave off skin cancer forever. The study focused on people who had experienced skin cancer before—not the general public. And it doesn’t tell us anything about using niacinamide to help prevent melanoma skin cancers (and the research we do have suggests it’s not super helpful for those). But if you’ve had multiple non-melanoma skin cancers in your life, it could be worth asking your dermatologist about oral niacinamide.
So, there is some evidence that oral niacinamide can be helpful for skin health in this specific situation. But is topical niacinamide helpful too?
Acne, rosacea, and other inflammatory skin conditions:
Niacinamide’s anti-inflammatory properties make it an attractive treatment for skin conditions marked by inflammation, like acne. In fact, in two double-blind studies—one published in 2013 and the other published in 1995, both in the International Journal of Dermatology—a topical preparation of 4 percent niacinamide treated moderate acne just as well as 1 percent clindamycin (a topical antibiotic commonly prescribed to acne patients) when applied twice daily for eight weeks.
Other research suggests that a 2 percent topical niacinamide may also inhibit the production of oil, which could be beneficial to people dealing with acne. Plus, both dermatologists we talked to say that niacinamide is relatively nonirritating compared to other acne treatments, making it an especially attractive option for people with dry or sensitive skin.
In addition to topical preparations, oral niacinamide supplements have been shown to reduce inflammation associated with mild to moderate rosacea and acne, particularly when oral antibiotics aren’t an option. But according to both Dr. Zampella and Dr. Ferris, the key words here are “mild to moderate.” They advise that severe cases usually call for stronger medications like retinoids or systemic steroids in the case of acne, not vitamins.
There is also limited evidence that topical niacinamide can help repair the function of the stratum corneum, the protective outer layer of skin, which may add to its anti-inflammatory effects.
Pigmentation issues, fine lines, and wrinkles:
There are very few clinical studies on the effects of niacinamide on fine lines and wrinkles, so the evidence we have is somewhat sparse. But there are a few studies. For instance, in one study published in 2004 in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, researchers had 50 women (all white and between the ages of 40 and 60) apply a moisturizer containing 5 percent niacinamide to one half of their face and a placebo moisturizer to the other half for 12 weeks. Their results showed that the halves of their faces receiving niacinamide had significant improvements in hyperpigmentation spots, fine lines, and wrinkles compared to the control side.
Another split-face study, this one published in 2011 in Dermatology Research and Practice, found that a topical 4 percent niacinamide treatment was less effective than 4 percent hydroquinone (usually considered the gold standard) for treating melasma over eight weeks in 27 participants. Specifically, 44 percent of patients saw good-to-excellent improvement with niacinamide and 55 percent saw the same with hydroquinone. So, the niacinamide wasn’t totally ineffective—and it came with fewer side effects (present in 18 percent of participants) than the hydroquinone (present in 29 percent).
However, niacinamide is more frequently studied in combination with other topical medications—not on its own, which makes it difficult to know how effective it would be by itself. Based on the available evidence, well-studied options like prescription retinoids (and sunscreen!) or other antioxidants, like vitamin C, will probably do more for you than niacinamide if hyperpigmentation, fine lines, or wrinkles are your primary concerns. But if your skin is too sensitive to handle those other options, or you’re just looking for a gentler treatment for whatever reason, niacinamide might be a helpful alternative.
Here’s how to get started with niacinamide.
Adding topical niacinamide to your skin-care routine is simple and low risk: Buy a product that contains it, and apply as directed. Some people experience some mild irritation, which will likely go away with repeated use. (If it doesn’t, or you have any questions about what kind of side effects you’re experiencing, definitely check in with your derm to make sure you don’t end up with something more serious.)
Most major studies used topical preparations containing 2 percent to 10 percent niacinamide, so look for a product in that range if you can. Those who are looking for a moisturizer with niacinamide may want to check out CeraVe PM Face Moisturizer ($16, Ulta), and Dr. Zampella also recommends the Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum ($6, Ulta).
There isn’t a prescription version of topical niacinamide, but your dermatologist may be able to add it to topical prescriptions in a process called “compounding”. According to Dr. Ferris, if you go through a pharmacy that specializes in compounded medications, it could be cheaper than a generic. The actual cost depends on your insurance and the compounding pharmacies in your area, so be sure to ask your dermatologist for more information.
Keep in mind that while niacinamide is unlikely to hurt you, it’s not a miracle drug—if you’re thinking niacinamide is the solution to all your problems, you may be sorely disappointed. “Not everything that’s red on your face is going to be acne or rosacea,” Dr. Ferris reminds us, “so make sure you have the right diagnosis before trying to come up with a treatment plan.” A dermatologist can help you decide if niacinamide is worth trying or if there’s another option that may be better for you and your skin.
The main focus of your morning routine should be hydration, plus setting the stage for the day with protection against whatever elements your skin is going to come into contact with.
Although most of the world is still abiding by shelter-in-place or social distance mandates, our day-to-day routines right now still impact our skin, from wearing a face mask regularly to the endless Zoom work calls you’re doing all day long. And if you’re anything like me, not adhering to proper posture and resting your chin on your hands instead.
“You may believe that most of the skin damage you get is caused by sun exposure and outdoor pollution, but the World Health Organization has now determined that indoor pollution is worse than outdoor pollution,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skincare. “Consider what you’re doing during the day and what elements you may be facing when you’re applying your skincare products in the morning.”
Step 1: Cleanser
Using a gentle cleanser in the morning is important for any skin type, concern, etc.
“Cleansers for sensitive skin in particular should have a creamy or milky formulation,” says Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology, who also notes that any topical treatments can have a bit of a drying effect at first. “I love Cetaphil milky cleanser because it gently cleanses without drying or stripping your skin’s moisture barrier.”
Step 2: Any topical treatment
“Differin is the only topical that can be applied day or night,” says MacGregor, but it should always be applied to skin directly after cleansing and patting — never rubbing — skin dry.
“Use only a pea-sized amount of Differin gel around your entire face,” recommends MacGregor. Then gently massage until the gel is absorbed.
Step 3: Serum
A hydrating serum is a great option for morning to ensure the skin is moisturized. MacGregor’s favorite, Alto Defense Serum by Skin Better, offers a generous mix of antioxidants, fatty acids, and ceramides. These powerhouse ingredients build a saran wrap-like cover over the skin, which protect from dryness and free radicals, plus it soothes inflammation and the appearance of skin redness. Remember: Hydrated skin is happy skin.
Step 4: Eye Gel
An eye gel can de-puff smooth out the under-eye area, which will make makeup application easier. Tap Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel around the upper and lower eye area with your fingertip to calm and hydrate skin.
Step 5: Moisturizer
Once your serum and eye gel are fully absorbed, follow up with a lightweight, but seriously hydrating moisturizer to further prime and prep your skin for the day ahead.
When it comes to the best ingredients in a moisturizer to satisfy thirsty skin, “look for barrier repair ingredients, like fatty acids and squalane,” recommends Alexiades, as a healthy skin barrier is essential to smooth, hydrated skin. Omega-3 and omega-6 are the most popular fatty acids. Although common plant, nut and seed oils, like sunflower, safflower, flaxseed, and rose-hip seed, also have high concentrations of omega acids, so keep an eye out for those ingredients, too.
But before you settle on a morning moisturizer, evaluate whether stress is also affecting your skin’s oil production, causing your face to look extra shiny by lunchtime.
“If moisturizers with those ingredients are too creamy and your skin is oily, consider Theraplex HydroLotion or CeraVe moisturizing cream,” says MacGregor, adding that these formulations were specifically designed for sensitive skin.
Step 6: SPF
“You should finish off with SPF,” says Dr. Ellen Marmur, dermatologist and founder of Marmur Metamorphosis Skincare. “No matter the time of the year, this ingredient should always be a factor in your routine in order to fully protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays.”
Active topicals (like Differin) that work to increase cell turnover tend to also increase photosensitivity, says Alexiades, making daily sunscreen applications an absolute must.
Marmur suggests using a mineral sunscreen with zinc or titanium dioxide, which sits on top of skin instead of getting absorbed. EltaMD’s UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is a sunscreen beloved by beauty editors and dermatologists alike.
Nighttime Skincare Routine
At night, Dr. Marmur says that your primary concern should be repairing and rejuvenating your skin.
“Your skin needs to be nourished morning and night,” adds Dr. Ciraldo. “But nighttime is when you should address your personal skin issues.”
Plus, let’s be realistic: Who has time to do a face mask when they’re getting ready in the morning?
Step 1: Cleanser
You’ve probably heard how important it is not to sleep with your makeup on, so unsurprisingly, cleansing your face should be the first step in your nighttime routine, but which cleanser you reach for depends on your skin type.
“People with normal to dry skin should choose a hydrating cleanser,” says Alexiades. “If you strip the skin with an alpha hydroxy acid cleanser, it may be too dry and the Differin gel will further peel the skin and result in itchiness and flaking.”
If you have oily skin, “a sulfur or acid cleanser may be okay to prep the skin before your topicals,” she explains, while noting that with serious breakouts, a medicated cleanser may be prescribed and should only be used at night.
Step 2: Any topical treatment
Just like in the morning, “a pea-sized amount of (in this case) Differin should be first on cleansed skin and then layer creamier formulations on top,” says MacGregor. Be sure to apply Differin all over your face rather than as a spot-treatment to defend against future breakouts.
Step 3: Serum
When treating acne with a topical product, there is truth to the “too much of a good thing” saying. Dr. Alexiades says to definitely avoid using retinol, Retin A, or other retinoids, and think twice before adding chemical exfoliants or peel pads to the mix. “If you use a benzoyl peroxide or acid, beware that your skin may get too raw, dry and inflamed,” she warns.
An ultra-nourishing and replenishing serum is your best — and safest — move for a bedtime serum after a topical. Go with a formula that has soothing, hydrating ingredients to bind moisture to skin without clogging pores, like SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel.
Step 4: Eye Serum
“Always use an eye repair serum, since this is one of the more sensitive parts of the face and ages faster than other areas,” says Dr. Marmur. “People may habitually itch and rub their eyes during the day due to dryness or just pure stress.”Elemis’ Absolute Eye Serum is designed to reduce dark circles and puffiness while keeping the entire area soft and smooth.
Step 5: Moisturizer
Nighttime is when you can use a moisturizer that’s richer than what you would typically use in the morning. “This will keep your skin hydrated throughout the nighttime and ready for the morning,” explains Dr. Marmur. “Look for a moisturizer that’s oil-free in order to not add to the amount of natural oil your body produces when you’re sleeping.”
Ask any skincare lover, and they’ll tell you there’s no better feeling than coming home after a long day, removing all your makeup, and applying your nighttime skincare routine. While you can use the same cleansers, toners, and serums that you applied in the AM, if you’re looking to really transform your skin, you should be using a night cream as the last step in your PM routine instead of your regular face moisturizer.
According to New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, that’s because “night creams are more nourishing and hydrating than your daytime moisturizer. Generally, night creams contain more moisturizing ingredients and are thicker in texture.”
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner agrees on the importance of having a night cream in your beauty arsenal, telling InStyle, “We know that skin goes through circadian rhythms, where specific activities occur in the morning and others in the evening. Skin hydration levels start to decline in the afternoon and continue into the evening, and skin cell turnover increases while we sleep. So a night cream is important to address the specific issues that the skin faces in the evening — offering hydrating and enhancing skin repair and collagen production.”
When it comes to choosing the right night cream for your skin, Dr. Zeichner recommends looking for creams that are “designed for nighttime use, usually containing ingredients that stimulate collagen production to address fine lines and wrinkles, such as retinol, hydroxy acids, peptides, or specialized botanical ingredients.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Jaliman says that in addition to formulas that will stimulate skin cell renewal, the best night creams should also feature moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and ceramides. That’s because “improving our skin’s hydration as we sleep is very important.”
With so many night creams on the market, it can be tricky figuring out which ones are actually worth buying, so with these dermatologist guidelines in mind, InStyle editors rounded up 20 night creams that customers say help them wake up with glowing skin each morning. From a retinol-infused night cream to a multitasking option and an affordable drugstore pick, keep reading to shop them all.
Top-Rated Option: CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream
Over 10,000 Amazon shoppers are obsessed with this CeraVe night cream, with many calling it a “miracle in a jar.” The popular product is packed with ceramides and peptides that work together to soften and rejuvenate your skin overnight, so you’ll wake up with a refreshed and glowing complexion. Even better, it’s also infused with hyaluronic acid to target fine lines and wrinkles. “This product is amazing,” raved one shopper. “I saw results the first morning after use. Unbelievable. Significantly less redness and a huge reduction in acne. It’s been about two weeks now and my skin looks the best it has in years. I’ve even had compliments this week on my clear, youthful skin! I’m hooked for life.”
Best Dermatologist Pick: Senté Dermal Repair Cream
Santé’s night cream may be pricey, but Dr. Jaliman says it’s worth every penny. It’s one of her top picks because “it contains green tea and hyaluronic acid and has an ingredient called Heparin Sulfate Analog (HSA) that works to deeply hydrate and maintain your skin’s health. It helps lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.” In addition to hydrating skin and reducing redness, Dr. Jaliman says it’s a great option “for those who need to repair the skin barrier.”
Best for Dry Skin: L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Shea Butter Cream
This L’Occitane night cream uses shea butter and glycerin as its active ingredients, which makes it a great deeply moisturizing treatment. Shoppers with extremely dry skin said this product is the only thing that finally got rid of their dry patches and flaky skin. Plus, they love that the night cream left their skin looking fresh and dewy and not greasy. “This is my holy grail product for my super dry and dehydrated skin. It is a lifesaver during the cold and drying winter in Massachusetts,” raved one reviewer.
Best for Dull Skin: Clarins Extra-Firming Wrinkle Control Regenerating Night Cream
Clarins’ overnight cream will revive lackluster skin and give you a more youthful appearance. Dr. Zeichner is a fan because it’s “a rich, hydrating cream that contains a blend of botanical extracts to help firm and improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles.” Reviewers say that it made their skin look firmer and smoother in just one use. One shopper called it “an overnight facial in a bottle,” before adding “My skin was glowing and plump. I was in awe of how much it changed my skin in less than seven hours. I repurchased this again finally and this morning my boyfriend mentioned how supple and radiant my skin looked”
Best Collagen-Infused: Maryann Organics Collagen Night Cream
This night cream by Maryann Organics is infused with collagen to help reverse prominent signs of aging. The multitasking product smoothes fine lines and wrinkles, diminishes the look of dark spots, and hydrates skin at the same time. Customers love how the cream is made in the U.S. from organic materials and that it doesn’t leave behind a sticky or tacky feel. “I love this moisturizer,” said one reviewer. “It’s not super pricey and it does exactly what I need, evens out skin tone and helps wrinkles — really makes me feel awake and young just after 20 minutes of putting it on. Especially overnight I wake up feeling great on my skin in the morning.”
Best Drugstore Option: L’Oreal Revitalift Night Cream
If you’re looking for an effective night cream that won’t break the bank, thousands of Amazon shoppers recommend L’Oreal’s Revitalift version. The product’s three main ingredients (pro-retinol, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C) hydrate and smooth skin while evening out your complexion. According to the brand, you’ll see brighter and firmer skin with just one week’s use, and tons of customers agree. “After a week, I felt that I had a younger glow. After at least two weeks, my skin actually does look a more consistent texture and color — I haven’t even been wearing makeup,” raved one shopper. “It’s lightweight and smells delicious and is very inexpensive, which surprised me. I almost feel like it’s too lightweight to work, but the ingredients must be doing something for my skin.”
Best Multitasking Option: RoC Multi Correxion 5-in-1 Restoring Night Cream
The best beauty products can tackle more than one issue at once, so it’s no wonder this multitasking RoC night cream is so popular with Amazon shoppers. The five-in-one product smooths wrinkles, reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentation, tightens and hydrates skin, and evens out skin tones at the same time. Plus, the product is non-comedogenic, so you never have to worry about it clogging your pores or causing breakouts. One shopper wrote, “I can’t rave enough about this product! I’ve been using it for over a year now and can really tell the difference when I miss a few days. When you put this on the night before, your skin feels so smooth and supple the following morning. Some days I can actually skip my day moisturizer, this product works that well. It is definitely a workhorse against fine lines and pores. I’ve used products costing far more that do much less.”
Best Cruelty-Free Option: Kleem Organics Anti-Aging Retinol Cream
If shopping cruelty-free products is important to you, check out this night cream from Kleem Organics. Along with toning and firming your skin, the paraben-free product also works to improve the look and feel of your skin’s overall texture. For these reasons and more, over 4,000 customers have given it a perfect five-star rating, with one writing, “This stuff feels like silk going on and works great. Soaks in immediately. I used it twice a day when I first received it because of the cold weather my face turns into scales. It worked overnight it seemed. My face is as smooth as a baby’s tushie.”
Best Brightening Option: Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Overnight Cream
Using viniferine and hyaluronic acid, this brightening night cream by Caudalie will visibly reduce the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation while also plumping your skin. In a clinical self-assessment study, 95 percent of users said their skin looked brighter and 100 percent of users said their skin looked more rested after using the night cream for just 56 days. “I’ve used this consistently at night for a least a year now, and I can honestly say this is one of the BEST night creams on the market,” raved one shopper. “No matter what my skin is going through, this cream restores my skin texture at night and leaves it bright come morning. I’ve also seen the effects of brightening as my dark spots have faded tremendously.”
Best Firming Option: StriVectin Advanced Retinol Intensive Night Moisturizer
To start off their day with firmer and smoother skin, hundreds of Amazon shoppers slather on this StriVectin night cream before they go to sleep. It’s loaded with powerful ingredients like copper tripeptide and retinol to minimize the look for wrinkles, tighten crepey skin, and increase your skin’s elasticity. “I have definitely noticed a positive effect on my skin. I’m 58, and have fair skin with a tendency to dryness, and, in this recent foul weather, redness. This intensive night moisturizer has done a lot to alleviate that. It goes on easily, and you don’t need a bunch to get good coverage. My skin is clearer, firmer, and some of my fine lines have already started to disappear,” said one shopper.
Best Strengthening Option: Lancome Bienfait Multi-Vital Overnight Moisturizer
This Lancome night cream is a favorite of Nordstrom shoppers who love how well it hydrates their skin and improves their complexion. The popular skincare essential uses a unique strengthening complex made up of omegas 3 and 6 and vitamins E and C, which work together to hydrate skin and protect it from external aggressors. “Absolutely love this night cream,” said one customer. “Best I’ve ever used. I suffer from dry skin on my forehead and cheeks and clogged pores on nose and chin. This has done wonders to hydrate and smooth my skin. I’m 41 and have finally found my holy grail! Better than any other high-end or drugstore brands I’ve used including those twice as expensive.”
Best Hydrating Option: Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Night Cream
Target dryness by letting your skin soak up this Burt’s Bees Night Cream while you sleep. Made from 98.9 percent natural ingredients like jojoba oil and Clary sage, the top-rated night cream promises to hydrate your skin for up to 24 hours at a time. After using the cream for a few weeks, many shoppers said it not only softened and moisturized their skin, but it also reduced redness and inflammation. “This feels amazing and creamy,” wrote one customer. “Rubs in well, leaves a little oily sheen, but I like that. I have super dry skin, particularly in the winter so it’s very soothing. I’m sensitive to smells and this doesn’t bother me. I’ve tried multiple natural night creams but none of them leave my skin feeling as hydrated as this one.”
Best Fast-Acting Option: It Cosmetics Confidence In Your Beauty Sleep Night Cream
While most skincare products can take weeks or months to work, It Cosmetics says you’ll see results from its night cream in just seven days. The fast-acting formula is full of hyaluronic acid, adenosine, and ceramides that smooth out fine lines, wrinkles, as well as revive dull, dry, and saggy skin, all while you sleep. Shoppers also love how great it smells. “What’s not to love with this cream? It has a pleasant, light lavender scent — perfectly relaxing for nighttime,” wrote one shopper. “I love that it’s thick enough to have that luxurious feel on my face, yet so absorbent that it immediately sinks into the skin. I never knew just how thirsty my skin was until I started using this. And bonus — my fine lines on my forehead have started diminishing after one week of use. It’s noticeable!”
Best Day & Night Option: Tula 24-7 Hydrating Day & Night Cream
Looking for a super hydrating night cream that’s also lightweight enough to be used during the day? Check out this option from Tula. The moisturizing treatment gives your skin a dose of olive oil squalane, shea butter, grape seed oil, and vitamin C to increase skin hydration and target dark spots, fine lines, and more. Meanwhile, the probiotics in the cream work to calm skin and reduce inflammation. “This product is amazing and is by far the best moisturizer I’ve ever used,” wrote one reviewer. “I first started using it when I was getting hormonal acne and it soothed my skin almost immediately (along with the salicylic acid gel). Then, I moved from a humid climate to the Arizona desert and it supported me through that too! The only con is the price, but the little jar lasts me well over a month, so no big problem.”
Best Vitamin C Cream: Derma E Vitamin C Intense Night Cream
This Derma E night cream is loved by hundreds of Ulta customers because it uses vitamin C to make dark spots and hyperpigmentation much less noticeable. The vegan face cream also helps smooth wrinkles, improve skin texture, and even out skin tone. “I apply a thick amount right before I go to bed, and magic seems to happen overnight. I’m a skincare buff and have tried so many products. I’m hooked on this night cream. My acne scars are slowly fading and skin is consistently smoother and more radiant. And the price for this cream is incredible, compared to hundreds I’ve spent on other brands that haven’t worked half as well.”
Best for Wrinkles: No. 7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Night Cream
Ulta customers say their wrinkles have met their match with this night cream by No. 7. According to the brand, your fine lines will be reduced and skin will appear firmer with just two weeks of use. The product also targets dark spots and scarring at the same time, leaving you with a brighter and smoother complexion. “This cream does exactly what it states it does, just better. In less than two weeks, I could see a huge difference in my skin,” raved one shopper. “Both my face and neck are so amazingly soft now. It has made me just speechless at how wonderful this product works.”
Best for Sensitive Skin: Clinique Smart Night Custom-Repair Moisturizer Cream
If you suffer from sensitive skin and need a night cream that won’t cause any outbreaks or irritations, consider this Clinique option. Along with being non-acnegenic and allergy-tested, the cream is also free from any fragrances, parabens, sulfates, and phthalates. Shoppers love the skincare product because it revived their dull and dry complexions and left them with smoother, firmer, and plumper skin. “I’ve been using this moisturizer for a little over a month now and I am quite pleased,” wrote one customer. “It is not heavy, has not caused any breakouts and I have noticed improvement in the appearance of my skin. I’m sure the longer I use it, the more it will help, and I look forward to further results.”
Best Splurge: Shiseido Future Solution LX Total Regenerating Moisturizer Night Cream
If you’re willing to splurge on a top-of-the-line night cream, Nordstrom shoppers say to make it this Shiseido option. The rich and hydrating formula features the brand’s signature SkingenecellEnmei complex, which “slows down the appearance of visible signs of aging and helps restore and prolong a youthful look.” The cream is also infused with Brunet extract and Japanese botanicals that make your skin look and feel more supple. One shopper wrote, “This cream is amazing. It makes pores tiny, leaves a beautiful texture on your skin, and my face has a healthy glow all day. I went on vacation and forgot my regular very expensive cream at home. Had a sample of the Future Solutions cream and used it. I kept looking in the mirror because my skin looked gorgeous after one day. By the time I got home, I had to buy cream! It continues to make my skin look terrific, and I will continue to buy it.”
Best Retinol Option: Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream
Retinol is the main ingredient in this Murad night cream, meaning it will boost skin’s natural collagen production and help reverse prominent signs of aging. The cream’s ultra-hydrating formula also features niacinamide and picolinamide, which help even out skin tone and leave you with a glowing complexion. In a four-week clinical trial, 83 percent of users said they “noticed firmer, more supple skin,” while 80 percent said they “saw increased radiance and glow.” One shopper called it their “holy grail” before adding, “This night cream is great for those who want to reduce fine lines and reduce breakouts. I was struggling with acne after stopping birth control and was under quite a bit of life stress (i.e. wrinkles formed) and this stuff has saved my skin.”
Best Mask: Glow Recipe Watermelon + AHA Glow Sleeping Mask
This Glow Recipe Sleeping Mask is one of Sephora’s most popular overnight treatments with an impressive 205,000 “loves” from shoppers who say it has transformed their skin. Like the other night creams on this list, the nighttime product should be applied to your face before you go to sleep. The hyaluronic acid and AHAs in the formula to exfoliate dead skin cells and shrink the look of pores, while the watermelon extract and peony root work together to hydrate and brighten the skin. “This stuff is amazing! The first night that I tried it, it made my face tingle. The next morning I woke up with a very noticeable difference. My pores were minimized, my skin tone was even, my fine lines were less noticeable, my skin looked healthier than it has in a long time. Very polished. The results got even better as I kept using it.”
Jamie Genevieve @Jamiegenevieve. Makeup artist, YouTuber, CEO, an overall STUNNER!
Welcome to Artist Spotlight #31 series on my blog.
What do you do?
Make-up artist, digital creator and founder of Vieve.
What do you love most about your skin?
I have little beauty marks on my right cheek and one prominent one under my right eye, which I love to fill in and enhance. I never disliked them, but after receiving messages from others saying that seeing me embrace and love my beauty marks made them love theirs too, now I really do love them. I’m grateful that my skin is pretty resilient too – there were a few consecutive years where it took a bit of a beating when I was finding my groove with make-up. Plus, I wasn’t exactly skincare savvy back then!
What one skin issue do you wish you could fix?
Probably scarring. I can be a bad picker, especially when I’m a little stressed. If I do have a naughty pick, the marks can last for weeks, but I’m getting to know my way around gentle acids and vitamin C, which help a lot. I try my best to leave my skin alone, and since I started double cleansing every evening, I’ve noticed my skin is much smoother in texture and I’m hardly getting any blemishes. Double cleansing is something I only started doing at the beginning of lockdown and I love it! I usually start with an oil cleanser, like the Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Cleansing Oil, and then go in with a cleanser that has a bit of lather, like the CeraVe Foaming Cleanser.
What’s your favourite skin product and why?
Only one!? I’m going to say two if that’s okay… I absolutely love the SkinCeuticals H.A. Intensifier, because it’s so gentle and soothing but really floods my skin with hydration. I use it day and night as a first step in my routine and have done for a fair while now, I’m on my third bottle! My second pick is the Ole Henriksen Phat Glow Facial. It’s a treatment mask and my go-to for when my skin needs some TLC – I love using it before an event. Super easy to use, you just massage it into the skin until it goes from pink to white, leave it on for 15 minutes, then wash it off to reveal your bright, glowing, baby-soft skin. It’s brilliant for decongesting my skin, getting rid of any dry patches and giving me a beautiful fresh canvas for make-up.
What was your first skin product purchase?
I think it might have been a Simple moisturiser, or maybe it was a Boots own-brand… I just remember it smelled like cucumber and, of course, at the age of 13 or 14 I probably used it once every few weeks! It’s so funny to think back on that time now that my skincare routine is something I enjoy making time for every day and night. I can’t think of anything better – as much as I love make-up, I love taking it off too.
What’s the one product you wouldn’t be without?
I love my Nurse Jamie Facial Roller. It’s a must whenever I travel (and so good the morning after a few glasses of wine!). I’m trying to get into using my gua sha tool but I think I need a lesson on how to use it properly – or maybe it’s just that I love other people doing it for me! I love to treat myself to a facial too – booking myself into spas is one of my favourite things to do.
Take us through your Sunday skincare routine:
Sundays are my favourite self-care days. I usually spend the whole day in my comfies and I definitely squeeze in a bubble bath. In the morning I keep it super simple: I whack my SkinCeuticals H.A. Intensifier on and then a nice moisturiser – I love the Glow Recipe Watermelon Juice when I want something light and fuss-free. Something I’m trying to be strict with is wearing SPF, so every morning I make sure to use one. I really like the Shiseido Clear Stick UV Protector SPF50 – it works great under make-up, too.
Ah yes, it’s winter again. Forget your bones, you can probably feel it on your face, now home to dry, flaky skin. Seeking solace in a favourite face oil or moisturiser might seem like the only answer (and they can help, more on this later), but there are a number of other things to be aware of when it comes to your winter skincare regime. If you refuse to let your skin suffer as a result of plummeting temperatures this year, read British Vogue’s seven rules of winter skincare – they’re simpler than you might think.
Keep your skin barrier strong
“As we move into winter, our skin is exposed to variations in temperature and humidity, as well as wind and rain, which can place stress on our delicate skin barrier. It’s the perfect time to rethink your skincare routine to battle environmental stresses,” explains consultant dermatologist Dr Thivi Maruthappu. The key indicators of skin barrier disruption are tight, irritated, itchy, and dehydrated skin.
Even in the months when the weather is less temperamental, our skin barrier is subject to disruption – excess use of stripping skincare products and external aggressors like pollution can all affect it – but it’s especially important it’s looked after in winter. Look for skincare that contains ingredients like niacinamide (try Paula’s Choice Clinical 20% Niacinamide Treatment), which “increases ceramide production in the skin, is anti-inflammatory and fights uneven pigmentation”, explains Maruthappu, as well as ceramides themselves (check out CeraVe), lipids, and richer creams that lock moisture in.
Medik8’s new H.E.O. Mask is exactly the tonic for winter skin, as it contains humectants, emollients and occlusives in optimal ratios, to first deeply hydrate, and then lock in moisture. Use it once or twice a week to tackle dehydration and dryness. Maruthappu is also keen to point out that upping your intake of healthy fats helps moisturise the skin from within – look to her Instagram page for sources of barrier-boosting fatty acids. “Look after your skin barrier and it looks after you,” she says simply.
Nail your nighttime regime
It’s at night that our skin goes into repair and restore mode, so it’s key to get your evening skincare routine in check. Facialist Debbie Thomas recommends cleansing with a non-drying acid cleanser – “look for polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), as they are the kinder cousins of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)” – like Exuviance’s Gentle Cream Cleanser, and then following up with an active product. “I alternate retinol with peptides, which are the second most proven ingredient when it comes to skin health and regeneration after retinol, and then apply a ceramide-rich hydrator to seal in the actives and protect the skin,” she explains.
Thomas is quick to warn about retinol, however, and says that though you might assume winter is the best time to start using it, the skin is already prone to becoming irritated and dry in the cooler months, so it’s important to tread carefully. “It can take several weeks for the skin to acclimatise to retinol use – it’s common to experience some dryness and redness – so if your skin already goes this way in winter, the combination of both could be unbearable and difficult to deal with. My main advice is not to overdo it.” Those already using retinol can continue as normal.
Dial down the exfoliation
When flakes strike, sometimes it feels like the only route is to exfoliate them away. Actually, this can further impair the skin barrier, leading to more skin issues. “I tend to advise reducing the frequency of exfoliation to once or twice a week,” says Maruthappu, “And avoid combining physical exfoliants, like grainy scrubs, with chemical exfoliants, like alpha or beta hydroxy acids, as this can lead to redness and irritation – particularly if you are also using a retinoid product.” The secret? Don’t overdo it with your skincare – less (and gentle) is more.
Load up on antioxidants
One of the biggest challenges for our skin in winter is the constant changes in temperature – moving from the heat to the cold outside wreaks havoc on our skin. Spending time inside with less fresh air also has its issues: “Recycled air has more toxins in it and central heating removes water from the atmosphere, which in turn removes water from the skin,” explains Thomas, who is a big fan of keeping an air purifier in the room you spend the most time in to promote healthy skin.
Antioxidant-rich skincare is also important, as it helps defend the skin against micro-toxins caused by recycled air, as well as those from pollution, UV and blue light damage, all of which are very much real, even in the depths of winter. Look for ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin E, resveratrol and niacinamide.
Avoid oils if you’re oily
Don’t assume that the cold months mean you have to switch your favourite moisturisers for face oils. While drier skin types can benefit, oilier ones should steer clear. “I generally recommend face oils for those with dry skin, as oils tend to sit on the skin surface and prevent further moisture loss,” says Maruthappu. “But the added benefit of a separate moisturiser can help to moisturise deeper layers of the skin. I tend to advise against oils in oily or acne-prone skin, as this can trigger breakouts by causing further congestion.” Those with oily skins should instead stick to non-comedogenic formulas that contain ingredients like dimethicone, ceramides or hyaluronic acid.
Heavier isn’t necessarily better
Just as with oils, thick and heavy formulas aren’t always best for the skin – although they do have their place in some skincare regimes. Thick, nourishing balm cleansers are a wonderful way to treat skin to some pamper time – try Chantecaille Rose De Mai Cleansing Balm – but they won’t necessarily hydrate skin. “If you apply a lot of heavy products to the surface, your skin’s sensors read this as not requiring true hydration, so they won’t absorb the required water into the deeper layers of skin,” explains Thomas. “After a time, the deeper layers become lazy and unhealthy, which eventually means more dryness and more irritation on the upper layers.” To remedy this, look to lots of hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid (a popular one is Oskia’s Isotonic Hydra Serum), and squalane, and simply seal them in with good hydrators, as mentioned earlier. “The best way to hydrate your skin is from within, so drink lots of water too,” advises Thomas.
Vitamin D supplements are a must
If you’re already an avid British Vogue reader, you’ll know the importance of taking a vitamin D supplement in winter; most in the UK aren’t getting enough year-round, let alone in the colder months when the days are shorter and darker. It’s important for our skin, too. “Vitamin D is key for the skin’s defences,” says Thomas. “Inflammatory conditions, like acne, rosacea, and eczema often flare up when we are deficient in it.” On top of that, a lack of it can negatively affect our mood, causing further hormonal imbalances, and meaning our skin is infinitely more likely to misbehave.