7 Ways the Weather Can Affect Your Skin

Updated: Feb. 10, 2017

Warm, cool, dry, or humid, here’s how the air around you changes your skin for better—and worse


Heat pumps up oil

It’s unclear whether skin actually produces more oil when the weather is warm or whether it just appears slicker on a sweltering day. Think of your skin’s oil like a stick of butter, suggests Neal Schultz, MD, a dermatologist in Manhattan. “If you heat up a solid stick of butter, it turns to liquid and runs,” he says. “Hot weather heats up the oil on your face, making it liquidy and conspicuous.” Blot excess oil without clogging pores using oil absorbing sheets such as Earth Therapeutics Purifying Oil Blotting Sheets. (Cleansing with harsh ingredients can make the problem worse, by the way, so check out these face-washing mistakes you’re probably making.)


Damp means dewy

“People in damp, but not sunny, climates—think England—have beautiful skin,” says Lisa Airan, MD, a New York City dermatologist. Moisture in the air means hydrated skin, and less sun exposure means less sun damage. Case in point: the “English rose.” If you don’t live in a rainforest, add moisture to your face with regular spritzes of a facial mist—like Avène Thermal Spring Water or OleHenriksen Nurture Me Facial Water. Try these homemade face masks for even deeper hydration.


Dry air causes buildup

If the climate is dry, your skin will naturally become dry too, causing dull, flaky skin, says Dr. Schultz, named one of New York magazine’s Best Doctors. “Dead skin cells that accumulate on the surface act like armor, preventing the ‘good stuff’ from entering,” he says. That means your products won’t penetrate your skin as well, and even your makeup won’t lie as smoothly on your face. When the air around you is drier, be sure to exfoliate regularly. You’ll see best results with a formula that combines physical and chemical exfoliation, like Exuviance Triple Microdermabrasion Face Polish, with microcrystals plus glycolic acid and papaya enzymes to loosen dead skin cells and dry patches. In the meantime, don’t let these makeup mistakes accentuate the dry, flaky look!


Hot and dry exposes wrinkles

When it’s both hot and dry—for example, in a place like Phoenix, Arizona—the biggest skin concern is wrinkles. “When your skin is dry, your wrinkles are much more prominent,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist. Cool, dry air isn’t much better, which is why Dr. Schultz recommends using a humidifier in your bedroom year-round. “In the warmer months, we live in air conditioned environments, and the AC removes humidity,” he says. “You need to humidify all year long.” (Related: Check out these dry skin home remedies that could save your face this winter.)


Pollution causes premature aging

Studies link high rates of pollution to the development of wrinkles and brown spots due to free radical damage, Dr. Jaliman says. If you live in Farmington, New Mexico, Cheyenne, Wyoming, or Casper, Wyoming—the top three cleanest U.S. cities for year-round particle pollution according to the American Lung Association—you’re less likely to develop signs of aging from environmental factors. If you’re a city dweller, protect your face with a broad-spectrum sunscreen, like Clarins UV Plus Anti-Pollution Sunscreen Multi-Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 50, that’s also designed to block environmental pollution. You might also consider popping a daily antioxidant supplement like Heliocare Daily Use Antioxidant Formula, to control free radical damage throughout the body.


Sunshine means skin damage

It’s no secret that sun exposure can cause skin cancer, dark spots, and wrinkles—and you’re still at risk when it’s cloudy, raining, or even snowing. “Anytime there’s daylight, you need sunscreen,” Dr. Schultz says. “Sun can reflect off of sand, water, snow, and even light-colored buildings. Even if you’re only getting 10 percent of the damage because it’s snowing, wouldn’t you rather have 10 percent fewer lines?” Make sure your sunscreen has broad-spectrum coverage of SPF 30 or higher, and reapply as directed. Among the top five best performing sunblocks of 2016, according to Consumer Reports, is La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk. (Related: These sunscreen myths make dermatologists cringe.)

iStock/Geo grafika

Weather shifts wreak havoc

The unpredictable weather of the past year isn’t doing your skin any favors. “It’s important for the skin to have time to adjust to different temperatures,” says Dr. Jaliman. “We always tell our patients to change their products before the weather changes.” If you live in a state with four seasons, Dr. Schultz has this golden rule: Change your skincare products when you change your clocks for Daylight Saving Time. That means switching to heavier products like creams to prepare for fall and winter, and lighter lotions and serums for spring and summer. Get a glowing complexion year-round with the skin care rules dermatologists follow themselves.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest