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10 Skin Care Tips to Prep Your Summer Skin for Fall

A summer of sun, wind, and chlorine can take a toll on your skin. Our experts offer their skin care tips to prep your summer skin for fall.

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Skin care tips to switch from summer to fall

The last days of summer are winding down as the temperature falls and the days feel shorter. You may be starting to rearrange your closet from summer to fall, but what about your skin care routine? In the summer, you probably focus on applying sunscreen (should be year-round), sunless self-tanners, and perfecting a sun-kissed glow (sans sweat). But in the fall, especially if you’re changing from a hot to a cooler climate, your skin needs to be prepped to prevent irritation and drying out. So, what skin care tips should you keep in mind?

We spoke with dermatologists and other skin experts who offer their skin care tips to effectively prep your skin from summer to fall effortlessly.

Woman having a facial massage and peeling in beauty salonTrendsetter Images/Shutterstock

Brighten up with a chemical peel

When the dewy, glowing skin you had all summer starts to turn dull and lackluster, it’s time to exfoliate. “Exfoliation is one of the most important steps to keeping your skin healthy and glowing during seasonal transitions,” says Gillian Garcia, treatment supervisor and lead therapist at The Spa at Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills. Removing dead/dry skin cells on the skin’s surface helps to brighten and smooth the skin, prevents clogged pores, and makes the skin more responsive to beauty products, allowing them to penetrate and work more effectively. One of the best ways to get your skin glowing again is to do a chemical peel. “A quick chemical peel can lift off the top layer and help peel away some of the sun damage and freshen and brighten the complexion,” says Rebecca Baxt, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Baxt Cosmedical in Paramus, New Jersey. Chemical peels come in different strengths—superficial, medium, and deep. The mildest peels use fruit acid or glycolic acid, types of alpha hydroxy acid, to rejuvenate the skin and can be purchased in lower doses over-the-counter or performed at a higher strength by a dermatologist or aestheticism.

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Reveal fresher skin via microdermabrasion

“Microdermabrasion is a good treatment for the end of summer,” says Dr. Baxt. Like chemical peels, microdermabrasion removes the top layer of the epidermis to help rejuvenate the skin, accelerate the cell renewal process, improve skin texture, lighten pigmentation, smooth fine lines, and reduce sun damage. Chemical peels use acid to remove the top layer of skin while microdermabrasion does it mechanically, using tiny exfoliating crystals to sand the skin, explains George Bitar, MD, a plastic surgeon at the Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute in Fairfax, Virginia. “It’s minimally invasive, and it helps those who have sun damage,” he says, “but is not recommended for those who have rosacea.”

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Upgrade your moisturizer

After exfoliation, you need to hydrate, especially after spending a summer swimming in chlorinated pools and salt water, which can dehydrate the skin. “It’s best to match your skin care regimen to the current season to provide the ultimate nourishment and hydration to your skin,” says Garcia. While gel moisturizers are ideal for summer, cooler temperatures call for richer, heavier creams to help lock in the skin’s moisture, explains Garcia. How do you decide which moisturizer is best for you? First, determine your skin type (oily, dry, or combination of both). People with oily/acne-prone skin should look for a non-comedogenic facial moisturizer that won’t clog pores while people with dry skin should opt for moisturizers with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, which has been shown to help increase the skin’s hydration and elasticity. Age also plays a role in finding the right moisturizer. “People in their 20s should opt for lighter, oil-free moisturizers while those in their 50s will need thicker textures such as oils and balms to combat dryness and volume loss,” says Garcia.

Sunscreen on armnito/Shutterstock

Don’t put away the sunblock

“Just because it’s Labor Day doesn’t mean you should stop using sunblock,” says Dr. Baxt. No matter the season, the sun’s rays can still damage your skin, and overexposure to the sun can lead to pigmentation, wrinkles, and skin cancer. “Skin cancer is at an all-time high because we are sitting in the sun longer, the ozone layer is being depleted, and people have a false sense of security from sunscreen,” says Dr. Bitar. He suggests using products that protect against UVA (the rays that cause pigmentation) and UVB (the rays that cause sunburn) and have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 35 or higher. When you apply sunscreen in the morning, you can’t be in the heat and sun all day and expect it to protect you, explains Dr. Bitar. “In the best-case scenario, sunblock will last for an hour.”

Makeup on handAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Use a powder sunblock with your makeup

Liquid foundation and other makeup products that offer built-in SPF may seem like a good one-stop way to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, but they are not enough. “The biggest mistake people make, especially on the face, is not reapplying,” says Dr. Baxt. “Makeup may last all day, but the sunscreen only lasts about two hours.” Before applying makeup, your morning beauty routine should start with a sunscreen, applying it liberally to your face, neck, and ears. For an extra layer of protection, Dr. Baxt recommends powder sunblocks such as those from Colorescience, Peter Thomas Roth, or Eminence, which can be applied on top of makeup and are portable.


Turn down the water temperature

While it’s tempting to take a long hot shower when the temperature outside drops, doing so will strip your skin of its natural oils and dry your skin out, says Dr. Bitar. “Take a room temperature shower, and make it quick—this will help your skin retain its moisture and allow the humidity to stay in your body.” Hot, dry saunas should also be avoided, explains Dr. Bitar. “Putting your skin in extreme temperatures is not healthy for the skin.”

woman with head out of car window soaking up the sunshineAdam Hester/Getty Images

Protect yourself from the wind

Sailing, hiking, and windsurfing are just some of the summertime activities that can expose your skin to wind, leaving it dehydrated and windburned. “While windburn is not a true burn, the wind makes the epidermis, the skin’s outer layer, more sensitive, more susceptible, and more painful—it feels like a sunburn,” says Dr. Bitar. The best way to protect your skin from windburn any time of year is to cover up. “Wear a sweatshirt, wear a hood or a hat, wear a thick layer of sunblock, and limit your time in the wind,” says Dr. Bitar. While continual exposure to wind leaves the skin dry and flaky, the problem intensifies for aging skin, says Natascha Froelich, spa supervisor at Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. If you have to be outdoors on windy days, she recommends applying serum, such as Samadara Ultimate Age-Defying Elixir by Sodashi, underneath a hydrating cream to prevent wind chafing.

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Tackle hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation, dark spots on the skin, happens when an excess of melanin, the brown pigment that produces normal skin color, forms deposits on the skin. Hyperpigmentation can be caused by hormonal imbalances, genetics, pregnancy, and medications, but the number one cause is sun exposure. Once you have dark spots, being exposed to the sun can make them more prominent. While limiting your time in the sun, covering up, and using a sunscreen with a high SPF can reduce the chance of hyperpigmentation, there are a number of ways to treat the brown spots you already have. Retinoids, vitamin-A derivatives that work by speeding up skin cell turnover and stimulating collagen production, are often used to treat sun-damaged skin and are in a variety of over-the-counter or prescription treatments.

“Retinoids, which are best used at night, can thin the top layer of skin, so they help reduce pigments, acne, and fine lines and wrinkles,” says Dr. Baxt. “Applying a thin coat of vitamin C serum every day should be a part of your morning routine,” says Garcia. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and is a tyrosinase inhibitor, which helps prevent enzymes in your body from creating excessive amounts of melanin in response to injury—such as overexposure to sunlight, she explains. Lightening treatments that contain kojic acid, a natural compound derived from fungi, also work to stop the production of melanin.

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Don’t be fooled by darker days

Your skin is the first line of defense against the sun’s rays, says Dr. Bitar, so it’s important to protect it by covering up, avoiding the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and not being deceived by fall’s cooler weather or clouds in the sky. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 40 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth on a completely cloudy day. “People have a responsibility to take care of their largest organ, the skin,” says Dr. Bitar.

close up of woman's smileJGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Get assessed by a board-certified dermatologist

When it comes to treating your skin, one of the first lines of defense is making an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist to find out how much sun damage you have, says Dr. Baxt. A dermatologist can use your family history, your history of sun exposure, and the number of sunburns you’ve had over the years to help determine your risk for skin cancers. Your dermatologist will also perform a full-body screening to check the moles and other spots on your skin that might be cancerous, and if needed, run tests to determine if they contain cancerous cells.


Kim Fredericks
Kim Fredericks is a freelance writer, content specialist, and editor with 20 years experience covering fitness, travel, hotels, design, real estate, and luxury lifestyle topics for major publications and web sites such as the Robb Report, Luxury magazine, Reader's Digest, and Oyster. Kim earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and English from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and a Masters in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston. She is an avid skier, golfer, and outdoor enthusiast. She lives in the NYC Metro area with her husband Victor and Rocky the Jack Russell. Visit her website: Kim Fredericks.

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