Why Your Breakouts Seem to Get Worse in the Winter
Article Published by: Allure.com
Dermatologists explain all the reasons you may be experiencing pimples in the dead of winter — and how to prevent them in the first place.
During the scorching, humid days of summer, pesky pimples and congested pores is, for many, simply an unavoidable fact of life. However, come wintertime, you may find that there’s a whole other beast of breakouts to deal with — and if your skin is naturally on the drier side, the last thing you probably feel like doing is slathering on a clay mask or reaching for harsh benzoyl peroxide in an attempt to get rid of them.
“When the skin is void of oils, moisture leaks out of the skin and causes dryness,” New York City-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman tells Allure. “When it’s cold, there is less moisture in the environment; when the skin’s natural moisture barrier is compromised, it less able to fight bacteria [like P.acnes] and infection.”
To get to the bottom of treating winter breakouts, we consulted both dermatologists and aestheticians to debunk the myths and shed some insight into how to prevent and treat cold-weather acne. Here, they share six of the most common culprits.
1. First of all, stop touching your face (seriously)
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Your hands come into contact with tons of things on a daily basis — doorknobs, greasy cell phone screens, etc. — and that bacteria transfer can easily amount to a zit. However, toss in the fact that you may be loading up on heavy hand creams during the winter, and you’ve got a recipe for acne.
“If you are someone who sleeps on your hands at night, or if you touch your face frequently throughout the day, layering on a greasy hand lotion in the winter could exacerbate acne breakouts,” aesthetician Renée Rouleau explains. “Hand creams are often formulated with a lot of oils and occlusive ingredients that may not be suitable for acne-prone skin.”
2. Yes, you can blame the weather…
“Cold air holds less moisture and our skin suffers [as a result],” says New York City-based dermatologist Ellen Marmur — and so the vicious cycle of oil glands overproducing sebum in a futile effort to hydrate skin begins, resulting in clogged pores and breakouts. Additionally, dealing with flaky or wind-chapped skin can sometimes mean that your first line of defense (aka acne products) may end up doing more harm than good. (More on that in a bit.)
3 …And hot showers and toasty indoor heating
“Central heating has less moisture, creating drier skin,” Marmur says “People assume all acne is from oily skin or lack of washing. The truth is, dry skin causes about 50 percent of the acne I treat.” And no, that doesn’t mean we’re recommending you adopt the polar dip method of showering. Simply avoid standing under a scalding shower head for longer than you need to; trust us, your body will thank you.
4. You’re not moisturizing enough
“In the wintertime, layer, layer, layer,” suggests Engelman. “Add a couple more products to your regimen: Instead of reaching for the heaviest cream, it’s more beneficial to apply different layers of products to provide [protection to] multiple barriers.”
How does this differ from what you reach for the other 275 days a year? The key might be in the hero ingredient. “Humectants are another important ingredient to look for in your products not just in the winter, but for year-round hydration,” says Rouleau. Humectants, which are ingredients that attract water, include glycerin, hyaluronic acid, allantoin, propylene glycol, and sodium PCA. For the ultimate hydration, we (and dermatologists) recommend the Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, which is pumped with glycerin to lock in moisture.
5. …Or you’re using too much of the wrong moisturizer
“Most people experience dry or flaky skin in winter climates,” Rouleau points out. “To combat this, you may end up over-moisturizing or even using the wrong type of moisturizer for your skin. If you have blemish-prone skin you need to be extra cautious because the wrong moisturizer may cause congestion, bumps, and breakouts.”
Not sure how to begin searching for your go-to winter moisturizer? Look for the following on the ingredients label when selecting your skin-care products: Hyaluronic acid, sorbitol, or exfoliating humectants like glycolic or lactic acid.
6. Incorporate smart acne products into your skin-care routine
All of this isn’t to say that you can’t reach for the common acne-targeting ingredients during the winter — just make sure that you’re picking the right ones, and more importantly, in the right formulation.
“It’s a myth that you have to [exclusively] use drying agents like calamine, alcohol, or benzoyl peroxide on acne,” Marmur explains. “Dry acne needs balance and moisturization with serums and moisturizers.” Incorporate a hydrating serum, particularly one formulated with hyaluronic acid, like the L’Oréal Paris Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum, to keep skin from drying out.
While it can never hurt to book an appointment with a trusted dermatologist to discuss other forms of treatment, the great thing about acne products nowadays is that many options are available without a prescription. “Differin Gel 0.1% is a prescription strength retinoid that is now available over the counter,” Engelman says. “Salicylic acid-based products are also great at calming acne without over-drying — prescription options are Soolantra, Aczone, and Azelex.”
ABOUT IFFIE OKORONKWO, M.D.
Iffie Okoronkwo, M.D. is a Spine and Sports Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Management physician at Manhattan Spine and Sports Medicine (http://www.manhattanmd.com/), a private practice based in New York City with 40 years of experience providing the finest expert medical care and services to patients around the world.
Dr. Iffie is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and, as a physiatrist, utilizes ultrasound guided injections, fluoroscopy guided injections, PRP, regenerative medicine, and more to evaluate and treat a variety of conditions affecting muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves.