The Expert-Approved Way to Adapt Your Skin Care Routine During Seasonal Changes

by Alice Broster
Leandro Crespi/Stocksy

There are few things I love more than not putting foundation on my face in spring and summer. For a start, I am lazy and often late so it frees up a whole extra two minutes of time to mess about. But also, if your skin is anything like mine and gets ridiculously oily as the weather changes, you don’t want to put anything on top of it. But how does the change in season affect your skin? I am endlessly chasing a glowy, gorgeous complexion all year round but does this mean changing up your beauty routine every season? I spoke to an expert about how the change in season can play havoc with your skin and the best ways are to stay on top of your skin game.

We are constantly bombarded with messages about how the sun, pollution, air conditioning, and heating can affect our skin. It can be hard trying to figure out how to deal with changes to your skin when you aren’t quite sure why you are having them in the first place. Dr Mervyn Patterson, cosmetic doctor and skin expert at Woodford Medical Aesthetics, tells me:

“With a change in season comes a different temperature, humidity, wind and UV exposure which can all affect changes which the body needs to respond to. Modern lifestyles with holidays and business trips to exotic destinations brings further dramatic fluctuations that the skin is constantly having to adapt to.”
Ali Harper/Stocksy

It makes sense that as the weather changes outside your skin will react differently to it. But it isn’t just outdoor temperatures that can cause changes to your skin. Dr Patterson says:

“In general skin tends to be dryer in the winter, oilier (or at least less dry) in the summer. This is primarily because the swing from a cold external environment into warm, heated interiors is such a challenge for skin. Extremes of temperatures and humidity disrupt the surface of the skin and cause changes in the function of the external skin barrier.”

One of the things I love most about spring is the fact that I can finally put my big winter coat under the bed, and the skirts and dresses in my wardrobe may actually see the light of day. It feels natural to swap out winter clothes in the change of season, but I have never thought about doing the same with my beauty routine. Finding completely different products four times a year sounds like a long and slightly expensive task. However, Dr Patterson explains:

“Minor subtle changes to the skincare routine can definitely help one’s skin to respond better to external changes. Use a good background skincare routine to ensure a healthy skin barrier coupled with an emphasis on dampening chronic inflammation. This means that, whatever the environment, the skin is best placed to cope with changes.”
Leandro Crespi/Stocksy

After you have found a core skin routine that works for you, it is easier to adapt it to how your skin changes throughout the year. In drier seasons like autumn and winter Dr Patterson advises to:

“Look to move more towards a Gentle Foaming Cleanser or even a Milky Lotion to help improve skin lipids. Toning might be better reduced in frequency or even better still discontinued completely. Many of our clients try a change in moisturiser such as moving from Epionce’s Renewal Facial Lotion to Epionce Renewal Facial Cream.”

Patterson also advises to "draw away from physical exfoliation," which he is "not a fan" of "in any part of the year."

"Look instead to use mild chemical exfoliants that don’t disrupt barrier function."

In terms of specific routines, if you have oily skin, Dr Patterson recommends a "light moisturiser."

“Many oily skin types are simply over producing oils to counteract deficiencies in surface skin lipids. Unfortunately, what many do in this situation is to be too aggressive with their skin with harsh cleansers, toners and physical exfoliants which dries the skin and in turn makes oiliness even worse. Instead correcting the lipid abnormalities produces a calmer skin with a more normal oil production.”

If you are on the other end of the spectrum and are suffering with dry skin Dr Patterson says, “Shift to a less stringent cleanser that helps repair the skin barrier." He recommends looking for products with "emollients and physiological lipids — ceramides, cholesterol and free fatty acids that encourage the epidermal cells to produce the correct balance of lipids in the external skin barrier. This ‘renewing’ process helps protect the skin from the external environment and also encourages the skin to retain water rather than allow it to be lost." Looking for products with anti-inflammatory properties is also a good shout.