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Vancouver dermatologist dishes on the skin-care steps for the changing seasons.

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There are several elements that factor in to healthy skin.

Topical skin-care products are a primary element, of course. But, according to Dr. Monica K. Li, a double board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor for the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science at the University of B.C., additional aspects such as lifestyle habits and environmental aggressors also weigh into one’s overall skin health.

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To further tap into Dr. Li’s expertise, we asked her to answer a few questions about transitioning skin care through the seasons. Her first piece of advice? To remember that everyone’s skin is unique and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for it.

“An individual needs to consider their own skin type, degree of skin sensitivity, any underlying skin conditions, goals and comfort when establishing a routine, for any season of the year,” Dr. Li says. “If in doubt, talk to a dermatologist to determine what’s most appropriate and beneficial in terms of skin-care products for a specific individual.”

Dr. Li shares more below:

Q: Is it important to transition your skin care with the seasons? If so, why?

A: Transitioning skin care with the seasons is important in the face — no pun intended — of weather and other environmental changes. In spring and summer months, warmer temperatures and greater humidity is better paired with lighter formulations such as lotions or gels, skin-care ingredients that help control excess oils, and products that cool the skin.

In contrast, colder weather, indoor heat and dryness in the fall and winter could be offset with the use of more rich formulations such as balms and creams, skin-care ingredients that boost hydration, and strategic use of products that protect against the harsh elements. Of course, SPF is a must year-round.

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Q: What are some important considerations when transitioning to fall/winter skin care?

A: Important considerations transitioning from summer to fall/winter skin care can be categorized into three approaches:

  • First, to moisturize the skin better in drier and cooler weather, a more rich formulation such as a cream or balm can be beneficial. Hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin, colloidal oatmeal, lanolin and dimethicone can be selected. You may also increase the frequency of use of a moisturizer or emollient to more than twice a day, to help combat against increased environmental dryness.
  • Second, cleansing focuses more on removing dirt and environmental pollutants in the fall/winter, and less about removing excess oils and sweat. A gentle cleanser with ingredients that leave the skin feeling more supple after washing can be helpful; ingredients such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide can support this. Avoid cleansers with alcohol or fragrance as they can dry out the skin. Formulations such as a cleansing cream or oil may also be more agreeable with fall/winter skin than a foam.
  • Third, fall/winter can be a great time to address unwanted pigmentation or redness from sun damage during the summer. Skin-care products containing ingredients to help soothe the skin, or lighten pigment, could be introduced into the lineup. Some ingredient examples are topical tranexamic acid, niacinamide and kojic acid.

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Dr. Monica Li
Dr. Monica Li is a clinical Instructor in the Department of Dermatology & Skin Science at the University of B.C. Handout

Q: Are there any treatments people can consider to help prepare their skin for the colder weather?

A: Aside from skin-care product tweaks, treatments to help prepare the skin for the colder weather can be ones done at home and ones offered through medical clinics.

DIY options include facial masks and increasing body moisturizer use. Having a humidifier in the bedroom can also boost hydration on the skin surface overnight. In-clinic options include hyaluronic acid injections and hydrating facials.

Q: Are there any product swaps we should be thinking about?

A: Rather than swaps, I think of making adjustments to the skin-care routine with change of the seasons. This way, there can be sustainable benefits from targeted ingredients and product types but just ensuring the skin continues to tolerate them.

Skin-care products aimed at reducing fine lines and improving tone may include retinol. In the fall/winter, consider using a lower potency product or reducing the frequency of use per week, for instance, from three to four evenings to one to two. Exfoliating products containing ingredients such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid likewise can be reduced in their frequency of use to support tolerance of them during drier and cooler seasons.

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As mentioned earlier, choosing a more rich moisturizer and a gentle cleanser in the form of a cream, balm or ointment can be helpful as well.

Q: Of all the viral skin-care trends we’re seeing on social media, are there any you think are worth the hype? If so, which ones and what make them worthwhile?

A: Slugging — a Korean beauty skin-care practice where petroleum jelly or similar is applied as the very last/top layer before bedtime to enhance moisturization of the face, lips, hands or feet. It’s actually not a new trend, but one recommended by dermatologists for many years to help treat chapped lips, cracked fingertips and dry heels. Slugging is worthwhile especially during wintertime to combat increased moisture loss from the skin surface from outdoor cold weather and indoor heat. Slugging can also act like a sealant, to increase the effectiveness of other skin-care ingredients underneath, such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin.

Skin cycling — a regimen approach alternating between the use of active ingredients and letting the skin “rest”. The OG regimen is a four-night cycling nighttime schedule consisting of exfoliation, retinoid use, recovery, recovery, then repeat. The cycle supports an individual to be able to tolerate the regular use of an exfoliator and retinoid because of the built-in “break” for the skin. Skin cycling is worthwhile, though the four-night cycle may not be compatible for some, especially those with eczema, rosacea or sensitive skin, as there is focused use of one active skin-care ingredient at a time, to boost results but reduce the potential for irritation.

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