by Jessica Toscano Nov 30, 2020
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Whether you’re one of the 1.68 million Americans who’s dropped $500 or more on skin care within the last three months or a minimalist who occasionally splurges on a few product must-haves to maintain a clear complexion, you probably agree that skin health is pretty important — like, really important. I mean, it *is* your largest organ. Also, it’s a great indicator of your health, oftentimes changing in color when you’re sick; resulting in acne when you eat certain foods; and becoming raw, inflamed, or masked by dark spots if you’ve had too much sun exposure.
Your skin is also the protective barrier that shields you from environmental stressors like changes in temperature, UV rays, and bacteria that can negatively impact your general health and well-being. Since November is Healthy Skin Month and winter is rapidly approaching, we spoke with skincare experts to uncover *exactly* what you need to keep your skin healthy. (FYI, you probably could have done without the few hunnits you spent on products.)
Maintain a consistent skincare routine.
“Healthy skin is a lifestyle,” celebrity facialist Candace Marino, tells Intrigue, “which means what you put in your body, put on your skin, and how you spend your free time will ultimately impact how your skin looks and functions.” While you may not have control over certain factors (like the environment) that take a toll on your skin, you can still maintain a healthy barrier with a consistent routine.
Whether your main concern is pigment, acne, dryness, age, or a combination of the four, Marino recommends sticking to what she refers to as three "non-negotiables": sunscreen, antioxidants, and exfoliates. When used regularly, this combination can help prevent skin cancer and signs of aging, protect cells from everyday damage caused by air pollution and Blue light, and treat concerns with pores, acne, pigment, and signs of aging.
Eat antioxidant-rich foods.
“You want to eat the rainbow,” says Mary Stevenson, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor in the department of dermatology at New York University. “There are a lot of products you can promote, but that doesn’t stop anyone from needing to eat a healthy diet full of antioxidants — a lot of veggies [in] all colors: dark greens, dark reds, oranges, [and] purples.” Eating foods rich in antioxidants like kale, berries, and cabbage helps protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals, and thus, prevents signs of aging. Boom.
Ditch the booze.
You also want to be mindful of your booze intake. Studies show that those who sip frequently are more prone to rosacea and signs of aging like puffy under eyes and sunken cheeks. Since alcohol is a known diuretic, meaning frequent bathroom trips, it can also cause skin to become dehydrated, which can make it look and feel less plump and supple. Some studies have also pointed to an increase in psoriasis symptoms with alcohol consumption, although more research is needed to eliminate other factors that may play a role.
Slather on the SPF.
One of the most common misconceptions people have about winter is not needing SPF once the temperature drops, says Dr. Stevenson. The sun can be just as strong in the winter as in the summer, and UVA and UVB rays can still penetrate the skin and lead to skin cancer and signs of aging, like wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. This is especially true when you’re surrounded by snow, which reflects upwards once it compiles.
To protect yourself from sun damage year-round, slather on a broad-spectrum SPF like Neutrogena Ultra Sheer® Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 55 at least 15 minutes before heading outdoors and again after every 80 minutes of sun exposure. For forms of discoloration, Skinuva® Brite, a brightening cream designed by a team of board-certified physicians who specialize in hyperpigmentation, can reduce the appearance of melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, under-eye hyperpigmentation, and sun spots. Using selective synthetic growth factors to promote collagen growth and decrease melanin production, Skinuva® Brite has been shown to be more effective in improving hyperpigmentation than other often prescribed topicals like silicone cream and hydrocortisone cream 4%, according to a series of clinical studies they conducted.
Moisturize, then moisturize some more.
Another big stressor is the change in weather. Excessive exposure to frigid outdoor air and indoor heat can lead to dry, cracked skin and a breakdown in the skin’s barrier, says Dr. Stevenson. “Anything that produces inflammation and disrupts this barrier can [trigger] conditions like eczema [and] irritant contact dermatitis.”
To combat this, she recommends first applying a lotion or cream with humectants, like glycerin and hyaluronic acid (Try First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair® Cream Intense Hydration), to draw in moisture and keep the barrier intact, then following up with a petroleum-based moisturizer like Aquaphor Healing Ointment to lock in hydration.
Get topical with antioxidants.
Air pollution is year-round and can affect the skin to various degrees depending on where you live. In cities where vehicle emission, construction, and second-hand smoke are more prevalent, your skin might be more vulnerable to oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which can affect your skin’s microbiome and lead to signs of aging. “One of the things we can do [to help the skin] is use topical antioxidants to help fight free radicals,” says Dr. Stevenson.
Marino (who's a spokesperson for skinbetter science) recommends their Alto Defense Serum and Solo Hydrating Defense MEN to protect skin from everyday damage like pollution, UV rays, and blue light. “Both products are lipid, water, and enzyme soluble, which means they can penetrate and coat the cells to add a layer of protection from the free radicals [you] encounter throughout the day,” she says. She suggests a thin layer of serum in the mornings and evenings after cleansing and toning, but before moisturizing.
Reconsider harsh ingredients.
During cold temps you want to be especially considerate of the ingredients in your skincare products, and ditch those that can be particularly harsh during the winter, says Dr. Stevenson, who recommends avoiding brands that list fragrance high up on the ingredients list. Other ingredients to reconsider include denatured alcohol and sodium lauryl sulfate, both of which can seriously dry out your skin (For a gentle cleanser, we like Adonia Organics Daily Cleansing Gel), and those used in mechanical exfoliators, which can be too abrasive and lead to irritation.
For must-haves like retinoids that tend to be on the harsher side, Dr. Stevenson recommends pairing them with a lot of sunscreen (to both protect the retinoid from becoming inactive and your skin from burning) and moisture, since retinoids have been known to cause dry, flaky skin.
Marino, who says she’s a “huge fan of retinoids” as an exfoliating serum or treatment, recommends applying yours in the evenings between cleansing and toning but before moisturizing “to help maintain the health and youth of [your] skin.” “Retinoids trigger collagen synthesis as well as speed up cellular turnover. This helps thicken [the] dermis (the layer of skin underneath your epidermis aka the outermost layer)...and thin the epidermis, removing the dead cell build-up that can rob [you] of [your] glow,” she says.