When the first signs of spring emerge, it’s like a breath of fresh air — and your skin loves it, too. “With the change from winter to spring, our skin is exposed less to cold, dry air and more to higher moisture levels in the air, warmer temperatures, and increased sunshine,” says Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Medical Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York City and assistant faculty at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
You can look at changing your spring skin-care routine in a couple of ways: First, reevaluate your relationship with the products you should be using year-round, such as sunscreen, then pivot how you use other products to accommodate for warmer weather, says Michelle Farber, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with the Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. Because of rising humidity and extra sweat, you’ll change the way you’ll treat acne, signs of aging, or both, she says.
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Now that you know you’ll be switching things up, you’ll want to know how. Here are seven tweaks to consider for glowing and gorgeous skin all spring, depending on your skin type or concern.
If You Have Dry Skin, Get Your Glow Back With a Weekly Hydrating Mask
Winter has a way of stealing your natural glow, and it’s time to reintroduce yourself to a more vibrant skin tone come spring. “To get rid of dry, dull, and sometimes flaky skin, I recommend a combination of moisturization and exfoliation,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. A gentle hydrating mask once or twice a week will infuse skin with the moisture it needs to recover from parching winter winds. She likes SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Mask ($55, Dermstore.com), a gel-based mask with hyaluronic acid (which helps absorb moisture from the environment) and vitamin B5 (to support skin repair).
If You Have Dull Skin, Slough Off Dead Cells With an Exfoliating Cleanser
As Murphy-Rose mentioned, exfoliation is critical for removing the layer of dead skin cells that makes skin appear sallow and feel flaky. “Exfoliation will bring a fresh layer of skin to the surface. Your complexion will be brighter, and there’s the added benefit that your skin-care products will be more readily absorbed, and thus will work better,” she says. Gentle chemical-based exfoliants are less likely to cause irritation compared with harsh scrubs. If you’ve been using a creamy cleanser, switch to a cleanser with alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids, such as Glytone Mild Cream Cleanser ($33, Dermstore.com). Look for glycolic or lactic acid; those with salicylic acid are best for acne-prone complexions.
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If You Have Acne-Prone Skin, Switch to a Lighter-Weight Moisturizer
In winter, your skin needs all the help it can get when it comes to hydration. Now for spring, you may be emerging from hibernation and spending more time outdoors, which means you’re probably sweating more, says Dr. Farber. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you’ll want to consider making the change to a gel-based moisturizer, which is generally lighter weight and less likely to plug pores than those formulated with oil. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel ($28, Sephora.com) is one option.
On the other hand, if you have sensitive skin, you might want to keep using a thicker, richer cream to more readily lock in moisture and preserve skin’s protective barrier. If yours is the type that is both sensitive and acne-prone, look for moisturizers that are oil-free or noncomedogenic, which means it won’t plug up pores. One example: Neutrogena Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer ($9.39, Amazon.com).
“Make these modifications based on how your skin is feeling. Also remember that early and late spring can be very different from each other in terms of weather, so you may need to make adjustments based on the temperature changes in your area,” she says.
If You Have Aging Skin, Ramp Up Your Retinoid Usage
Retinoids, which are vitamin A derivatives, are the mainstay of a healthy skin-care routine because they increase cellular turnover on skin to make your complexion appear brighter and fresher and, according to a review published in June 2019 in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, keep pores clear to treat acne. Retinoids also bolster collagen production to help smooth lines and wrinkles, per Harvard Health. That said, they have the unfortunate effect of causing unpleasant side effects in some people, namely dryness or flakiness, as your skin gets used to the increased cellular turnover. Because of that, you may have found that your skin was generally too dry in winter to handle a retinoid or you could use it only once a week or so.
Now that spring is here, though, it’s time to consider using a retinoid or retinol (a weaker form of retinoid) more often, says Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, of Mudgil Dermatology in New York City. “Warmer weather months allow skin to tolerate more frequent application, and the more you can use a retinoid, the more benefits — to skin cell turnover, collagen stimulation, reduced pore size — you’ll get,” he says. Continue to ramp up slowly. For example, if you’ve been using it twice a week, go to three, then reevaluate how your skin responds. The goal is to get to daily use, or as close to daily as possible without experiencing side effects, he says. Applying a moisturizer over your retinoid will help combat dryness and flakiness, adds Farber.
Retinoids are prescribed by your dermatologist. You can also use a retinol, a generally weaker version of a retinoid; they are available over-the-counter. This can be a good option if you’re new to this family of active ingredients, as retinols generally cause fewer side effects.
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If You Have Rosacea, Calm Post-Winter Skin
Many people find that cold winter winds trigger redness and irritation if they’re managing rosacea, says Murphy-Rose. She recommends calming skin for spring by using moisturizers that contain anti-inflammatory ingredients, like niacinamide, aloe, vitamin C, or cucumber. CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($12.38, Amazon.com) contains niacinamide, as well as ceramides and hyaluronic acid to boost hydration.
If You Have a Pale Complexion, Get a Glow From a Bottle, Not the Sun
It’s not prime beach season yet. That said, you still may want to look the part. For a glow without the sun damage, Murphy-Rose recommends applying a DHA self-tanner. These lotions contain the ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA), an additive that reacts with the cells in skin’s outer layer to temporarily darken your color, according to the Mayo Clinic. They won’t protect you from the sun (you still need that SPF), but they are safe to use. Try St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse ($32, Sephora.com), a well-reviewed product with DHA.
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No Matter Your Skin Concern, Continue to Wear Sunscreen Every Day
Dermatologists will tell you to wear sunscreen on exposed areas of skin every day, no matter the temperature or weather. The reality is, they know you don’t always abide by that rule. If you live in a northern climate and were bundled up for winter and rarely outside, you may have gotten out of the habit of wearing sunscreen. Spring is the time to get a new bottle and start using it again. “In the spring, people are outdoors more, but the weather isn’t summer-hot yet, so people discount how strong the sun is and don’t protect themselves sufficiently,” says Murphy-Rose. Therefore, your risk of sun damage may be even higher in the spring, she says.
To choose the most effective sunscreen, go for an SPF 30 and look for one considered a “physical sunscreen,” which contains titanium or zinc oxide, suggests Dr. Mudgil. Active ingredients in physical sunscreens physically block UV rays, as opposed to chemical sunscreens, which absorb these rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. (Avobenzone or octocrylene are two examples of ingredients in chemical sunscreens.) A potential option is First Aid Beauty Weightless Liquid Mineral Sunscreen with Zinc Oxide ($34, Dermstore.com). “Chemical sunscreens are great for preventing skin cancer, but they’re not the greatest for protecting against photoaging.