We all know the mantra for a basic skin care regimen: cleanse, exfoliate, tone and moisturize. Lather, rinse, repeat … At first glance, this seems simple enough and most of us follow it or some variation of it on a regular basis. The only problem is, as our environments change, so do our skin care needs. This usually becomes obvious with the change in seasons, but it can also happen when we travel to areas where the local climate differs considerably from the environment we normally find ourselves in.
In spite of this, it’s not unusual for most of us to follow essentially the same skin care routine all year-round. Whether its busy schedules that leave little time to adjust or a lack of knowledge of what to do, whatever the case may be, if you’re using the same routine year-round, you’re in a skin care rut! This virtually ensures that you’re not optimizing your skin’s health and appearance by addressing the seasonal skin care needs brought on by different weather conditions and climates.
Optimizing your seasonal skin care routine for any environment is not so much about using a completely different set of products for each season or climate change as it is about fine-tuning or tweaking your basic approach –emphasizing certain aspects over others to address your skin’s varying needs. If you know what those changing needs are then you will be well positioned to keep your skin in tip-top shape as you transition from one season to the next, or travel from one climate to another.
During the fall and winter months skin tends to be considerably drier requiring a special emphasis on moisturizing with less need for toning. At the same time you need to avoid conventional soaps and sulfate-based liquid and gel cleansers, or toners that are alcohol based – all of which strip the natural oils from your skin increasing dryness and contributing to a dull appearance.
Body and facial oils are more effective than lotions and creams in cold and extremely dry climates (like high altitudes and deserts) for hydrating skin and maintaining its elasticity. Use oils like jojoba, olive, high oleic safflower, sunflower, and coconut oils. In extreme conditions add more emollients like cocoa butter and/or shea butter, but avoid petroleum jelly and mineral oil based products at all costs. These products (known as “occlusives“) may provide the illusion of protection but will ultimately dry your skin out even more as they completely block moisture from getting in.
In contrast, warm and often wet spring-like weather calls for more exfoliation to slough off the dead skin cells that accumulate during winter and add a dull finish to your patina. The scrubbing action that comes with exfoliation stimulates circulation, which helps stimulate new skin cell growth. Always use gentle ingredients like ground flaxseed or almond meal, and avoid harsh ingredients like walnut shells or pumice stones that can damage sensitive skin. Even a loofah sponge or natural fiber sponge or washcloth can do the job.
As you shed your old skin for your new one, be sure to keep it moist and supple with a light moisturizer that you can use during the summer months without fear of promoting acne. This requires a lotion made with oils that are non-comedogenic and quickly absorbed into the skin without leaving a greasy film or residue. I highly recommend a lotion made with jojoba oil for this.
Continue to use light exfoliation during the hot and humid climate associated with the summer months, to minimize the breakouts that commonly come with increased perspiration. Use a mild toner made from witch hazel or hydrosol or a combination, and avoid toners made with SD Alcohol or containing propylene glycol. My favorite is a blend of lavender and peppermint hydrosol and lavender or calendula infused witch hazel, which can be very soothing and cooling. See our June 2009 blog post on how to make your own toner (this one works great for men AND women).
Of course the summer months require extra care as overexposure to the sun can seriously damage your skin. Use caution when going out into the sun and contrary to conventional wisdom, don’t overuse sunscreen as many of the chemicals used to make sunscreen can actually cause more harm than good. Limit your use of sunscreen for when you know you will be spending time in direct sunlight and for maximum UVA/UVB protection use a sunblock made from zinc or titanium dioxide. Increase your intake of Vitamin C as well as topical products containing Vitamin C during the summer months to counteract some of the damage.
Remember, to maintain a healthy glow no matter where you go, adjust your regimen to address seasonal skin care needs, but also follow these guidelines for year-round natural beauty from the inside-out:
- Drink plenty of purified water and herbal teas but avoid caffeinated and sweetened beverages
- Eat generous portions of antioxidant-rich leafy greens and fruit and other water-forming foods that help you stay hydrated
- Take a tablespoon of flaxseed oil or a fish oil supplement every day to ensure you get enough essential fatty acids
- Get plenty of exercise and make sure you get enough sleep