A derm finally reveals why cold weather makes your skin break out


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I may be in the minority on this, but I happen to get very excited when the temperature drops to “sweaters and jackets” weather. Seriously—I’ll take 55 degrees over 80 any day. But the only downside to colder weather (in my opinion, at least) is that it often brings along the breakouts.

While our skin tends to deal with a whole lot of sweat and oil all summer long, most people have less pimples in the midst of this heat than they do when it’s freezing out. Why is this, exactly? It all comes down to dryness.

“When it’s very dry out, your body tends to want to make more oil and creates compensatory hyper-secretion,” says Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, FAAD, a New York-based dermatologist. So, basically, your skin creates more oil to make up for feeling parched in the colder air. “If patients don’t change their summer skin-care routine—using drying cleansers and toners—it can further dehydrate the skin and then oil production will go into overdrive. This can lead to breakouts and blemishes.” A-ha. (Also, some research has shown that UV rays can help kill acne-causing bacteria, but Dr. Bhanusali says it’s not recommended to rely on that because of sun damage and skin cancer risks—naturally.)

The key to staying zit-free is being strategic with your regimen. Dr. Bhanusali’s tip? Adjust it to keep your skin barrier strong and do whatever it takes to combat dryness. “A lot of [staying acne-free in the cold] has to do with changing your skin-care routine,” he says. “If your skin’s not properly cared for, your skin barrier function can also be compromised, so it’ll be easier for your pores to accumulate debris which can lead to breakouts.”

As for just what to stock up on this time of year, look for stuff that’ll give your complexion extra TLC—a la calming, soothing ingredients. “Think niacinamide, chamomile, etc., and less is more,” says Dr. Bhanusali. “Keep your routine simpler, and when using heavy moisturizers, make sure they are non-comedogenic.” So just as you stay ahead of the game to protect your bod with cute clothing layers, protect that skin with layers of good skin care and acne can keep its distance.

For a niacinamide serum, read up on what to look for. And this is everything you need to know about skin barrier protection so that you’re breakout-free this fall/winter.  

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