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The 4 biggest mistakes people make when changing their skincare routine for fall and winter, according to a dermatologist

Kim Schewitz   

The 4 biggest mistakes people make when changing their skincare routine for fall and winter, according to a dermatologist
  • Cold temperatures, central heating, and wind during fall and winter can deplete the skin barrier.
  • A dermatologist said that making small adjustments to your skincare routine can help keep skin clear.

As the seasons change and we enter the fall and winter months, cold temperatures, wind, lower humidity, and central heating present new challenges for our skin.

During this time, a transitional skincare routine can help to protect the health of the outer layer of our skin, known as the skin barrier, and prevent dryness, sensitivity, and irritation, Dr. Sam Bunting, a dermatologist based in London, UK, with over 20 years of experience and founder of skincare brand Dr. Sam's, told Insider.

"So much of how we feel about ourselves is wrapped up in how well-conditioned that part of our skin is," she said.

But finding a solution for your skin struggles can be difficult nowadays because there is so much unfiltered information out there and a constant supply of new products, she said, meaning people can make mistakes.

Bunting shared with Insider the biggest ones she sees people make as we transition from hot to cold weather.

Not addressing the hangover effects of summer on skin

Summer can be harsh on our skin. Spending more time in the sun and applying fake tan can clog pores, which contributes to breakouts, Bunting said. Sun exposure can also make post-acne marks darker.

At the same time, sleeping in air-conditioned rooms and swimming in chlorinated pools can weaken the skin barrier, which can make skin look dull, flaky, and red, and feel tight and itchy, she said.

But before using active ingredients such as retinoids, which can initially irritate skin, to address breakouts you need to strengthen the skin barrier first, she said, to avoid making problems worse.

"Skin is probably more prone to breaking out in this state and it's definitely harder, if not impossible, to use corrective actives in your skincare when your barrier is damaged," she said.

To heal your skin barrier, Bunting recommended temporarily stripping back your routine to a gentle cleanser and a barrier repair cream until it regains a hydrated, smooth texture, and whatever color is normal for you.

Not applying a separate sunscreen

Bunting said that when it comes to sun protection, it's not enough to simply use a foundation or tinted moisturizer that contains SPF during the colder months.

You need SPF at this time of year not because you are at risk of getting sunburned, she said, but because harmful UVA rays, which come through glass, are present all year round. "Those are the deeper penetrating rays that actually do cause the damage when it comes to aging," she said.

Sunscreen should be applied 365 days a year across the face in a generous, even layer so that the whole face is protected, she said, but people rarely use enough.

"They use a little bit on the T-zone, where they have some redness, and not typically around the eyes, so it's not really fit for purpose," she said.

Not moisturizing enough

Being exposed to central heating indoors, chafing winds outdoors, and lower humidity can all make skin dry in the winter, meaning most of us will need to reach for more intense moisturizers, Bunting said.

Bunting said that she leans towards products containing more modern ingredients used in Korean skincare such as ectoin, squalane, and madecassoside.

They "are quite powerful but lend themselves to a less oily, greasy finish," she said.

Using the wrong lip balm

Most people experience dry lips as the weather gets colder, but a common mistake is reaching for a lip balm that contains ingredients that irritate the sensitive skin of the lips, Bunting said. "It's amazing how many lip balms do," she said.

Bunting said to avoid any products that contain fragrance or colorants when your lips are dry, because they often lead to more irritation after a few moments of initial relief.

"You end up just putting more and more lip balm on and getting more and more irritated," she said.

Bunting recommended using a simple lip balm that strengthens the lip barrier over time. She personally likes lanolin-based balms.