Stories from Skin-Care Tips

Why Winter Is the Time to Deal With All the Troubles Summer Created for Skin

Zoe Weiner

Zoe WeinerFebruary 10, 2020

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Photo: Stocksy/Ania Boniecka

During the winter months, dry skin tends to get all of the attention. You swap foaming cleansers for nourishing milky ones, you double down on hydrating ingredients, and you slather on extra coats of moisturizer all day long. But there’s something else that’s also worth considering: Winter is the time to treat summer skin damage. Because if you’ve ever wondered how to get rid of texture on your face, the answer is not to deal with it in the sunny months.

No matter how diligent you are with your SPF, sun exposure is higher between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and any tan that appears (I repeat, any tan!) is creating damage within your complexion. “There are treatments for sun damage, but we’re worried about people getting sun exposure after them, so we encourage patients to do these treatments in the winter,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Anne Chapas, MD.  There are two main issues that occur as a result of sun damage: textural inconsistency and discoloration. We ask pros how to treat both, so keep scrolling for their top tips—and your winter gameplan.

For treating skin texture

As your mom and your dermatologist have likely told you thousands of times over the course of your life, spending time in the sun inevitably leads to fine lines and wrinkles. Enter resurfacing lasers, which Dr. Chapas says “create new texture and remove sun damage.” There are two different types of resurfacing lasers that can be used to deal with different skin concerns. Ablative lasers, like Fraxel Re:pair, are most useful for improving moderate to severe scarring, wrinkles, sun damage, and skin laxity, according to Dr. Chapas.  These lasers “vaporize tissue in a precisely controlled manner to promote new collagen formation and skin rejuvenation,” she says. While they’re highly effective, the downtime can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, and they’re really only suitable for light and medium skin tones, which makes them limiting in terms of use.

For less intense textural issues, Dr. Chapas suggests non-ablative lasers like Clear+Brilliant, which also stimulate collagen to produce a smoother texture. “The laser energy produces a wound healing response without injuring the skin surface, allowing for a faster recovery time, which is typically one to three days,” she says. Generally, Clear+Brilliant is regarded as the safest and gentlest option for darker skin tones, but always consult with a board-certified dermatologist ahead of getting any procedure.

At home, dermatologists repeatedly recommend reaching for retinol. The powerhouse vitamin A derivative stimulates cell turnover, bringing new skin cells to the surface. Simultaneously, it promotes collagen production to help plump the skin and reduce fine lines. One caveat, though: If you decide to test a laser, be sure to stop using your retinol for weeks ahead of time, because retinol and lasers don’t play well together in the sandbox, and can cause majorly unpleasant reactions. If you’re looking for a beginner retinol, try SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.25, which is gentle on skin and well tolerated.

For treating skin discoloration

Discoloration is one of the biggest issues that derms and estheticians deal with after summer, which shows up as sun spots and hyperpigmentation all over the skin. In these cases, you’ll want to target the top layers of skin to get rid of dead skin cells by exfoliating. “There are chemical peels for exfoliation and there are over-the-counter products for exfoliation,” says Nava Greenfield, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel Pads ($88), for example, give you dermatologist-level results at home, thanks to a two-step system that dissolves dead skin cells on your complexion in a matter of minutes.

Rhea Souhleris Grous, the aesthetics director at Union Square Dermatology, is a fan of starting hyperpigmentation treatments with lactic acid and mandellic acid peels. Once she knows a patient’s skin can handle that, she works up to stronger peels (like ones that tout vitamin A as an active ingredient) because she says they “really take sheets off” from the surface of the skin. Gentle physical peels, like microdermabrasion and dermaplaning, can also help to remove those dark, discolored cells from the surface.

If you’re dealing with melasma, a pigment disorder that’s largely charged by hormones, Dr. Chapas suggests combining topical peels with light, non-ablative lasers like the Clear + Brilliant for best results (at the hands of a professional, of course). The one constant no matter what you’re trying to deal with; however is to see a dermatologist. They can help you make a game plan for your skin that works 365.

Hey, maybe you want to steal your routine from a derm. Can’t hurt:

If you’re dealing with acne, go ahead and book this 3-step facial that will help kick your breakouts to the curb. And if you don’t want to go to the derm’s office, try one of these serums that are like laser treatments in a bottle.

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