Skincare and Climate—Why Understanding the Link is Critical

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“The environment has a huge impact on the skin,” says Rebecca Marcus, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Dallas. Considering your skin is your first line of defense against the elements, this makes sense. Your complexion is constantly absorbing and reacting to what’s going on around it, which means people who live in dry, mountainous areas are likely to have different skin issues than those in a polluted city. And understanding the connection between skincare and the weather can help you organize a solid routine that will give your skin exactly what it needs.

While there are definitely a few skincare basics everyone should follow (like washing your face, moisturizing your complexion, and wearing SPF and antioxidants every day), you should also make sure you adapt your routine to where you live. . For example, if you live in a humid climate, you may experience oily skin and acne more frequently than someone who lives in a dry climate. If you live at altitude, you are closer to the sun and therefore more exposed to UV rays. And if you live in a very polluted place, you are more susceptible to free radical damage caused by dirt and debris getting into your skin.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a perfect formula – depending on where you live, some of these concerns may overlap. Below, Dr. Marcus shares things you can do to take better care of your skin in every setting.

How to take care of your skin in a dry environment

Simply put, dry air dries out your skin, but the impact goes beyond dryness and flaking. When your skin is low in moisture, it weakens your skin barrier, which can cause irritation and prevent your skin from retaining moisture. Additionally, it can make your skin feel rough and itchy while exaggerating the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. “If dryness is an issue, then double moisturizing is a good idea,” says Dr. Marcus. “So apply something like a hyaluronic acid humectant with a thick, rich emollient on top to seal in that moisture.”

Sweet Chef Celery + Hyaluronic Acid Shot Serum

Sweet Chef Celery + Hyaluronic Acid Serum Shot — $20.00

Humidity is essential when you live in a dry climate. This serum from Sweet Chef is packed with moisturizing and hydrating ingredients like cold-pressed celery, hyaluronic acids, and glyceryl glucoside. It also provides antioxidant protection with niacinamide and a green sprout blend rich in vitamins A, C, E, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and chlorophyll.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizing Face Cream with Niacinamide, winter acne treatment

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer — $20.00

This moisturizer is Dr. Marcus’ go-to. “I don’t think moisturizers have to be expensive or fancy, but they just have to really work,” she says. This moisturizer contains ceramides, which work to strengthen the skin barrier, which is needed when dry air constantly weakens the skin barrier.

How to Care for Skin in High Altitude Areas

“If you live at high altitude, it’s not just the dryness, but also the radiation that comes from being physically closer to the atmosphere and the sun,” says Dr Marcus. “People who are in the mountains get a lot more UV radiation.” This is also the case if you live near the equator, as either way you experience more direct sunlight.

Maei MD Serum 6

Maie MD Serum 6 — $140.00

Since being at high altitudes means you’re away from bodies of water and closer to the sun, you need moisturizing ingredients to keep skin hydrated and antioxidants to help protect skin from damage caused by UV rays. This serum from the Dr. Marcus line contains hydrating hyaluronic acid and protective antioxidants. It also contains repairing peptides, revitalizing plant-derived skin cells and balancing probiotics.

EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 44

EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 44 — $37.00

“In terms of sunscreen, I tend to prefer mineral sunscreens,” says Dr. Marcus. “I love Elta MD as pretty much every dermatologist says. Their UV elements are a really good moisturizing sunscreen. It offers SPF 44 protection with clear zinc oxide and hyaluronic acid.

EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 44

Heliocare — $28.00

Heliocare is an oral supplement that mixes polypodium leucotomos (an extract from ferns) and nicotinamide, which is similar to niacinamide in that they are both forms of vitamin B3.

Nicotinamide has “been shown in clinical studies to reduce the incidence of basal cell carcinoma,” says Dr. Marcus. “Polypodium leucotomos comes from a South American fern, and indeed studies have shown that it increases the sun’s natural defenses against UV. So it won’t replace sunscreen, but it’s a great base layer. And I think people in these high-radiation environments really need a layered approach.

How to take care of your skin in a humid environment

The humidity is more than uncomfortable. Because your skin is surrounded by heat and moisture, your pores expand and oil production increases, which can lead to congestion and breakouts. The key is to keep things light. “If you live in a very humid environment, sometimes you won’t need as much moisture for the skin,” says Dr. Marcus. “South Florida residents, for example, can just get away with a hyaluronic acid serum as their only moisturizer and then sunscreen on top.”

Paula's Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster

Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster — $39.00

If it’s humid enough that you can get by without using moisturizer or lotion, this serum from Paula’s Choice is a great alternative. It is made with hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid to help skin retain moisture; a triple ceramide blend to visibly soften, strengthen and firm skin; and provitamin B5, which draws moisture into the skin.

Isdin Eryfotona Actinica

Isdin Eryfotona Actinica — $60.00

This sunscreen from Isdin is ideal for those who live in a humid climate as it dries without leaving a greasy plaster. It provides protection over SPF 50 with clear zinc oxide.

How to take care of the skin in polluted areas

We know that pollution is bad for our lungs, but it can also wreak havoc on our skin. When your skin is exposed to things like car emissions and cigarette smoke, your body creates free radicals, which are reactive, unstable molecules with unpaired electrons. Free radicals can impact your skin cells and the damage they cause can lead to signs of aging such as wrinkles and dark spots. To protect your skin from pollution, Dr. Marcus says antioxidants are your best defense.

Platntkos Phyto Triple C

Platntkos Phyto Triple C Serum — $65.00

This lightweight serum is made from a blend of potent Ayurvedic herbs with hyaluronic acid and three forms of vitamin C (amla, e-ascorbic acid and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate) to provide ample environmental protection while hydrating and brightening the skin and stimulating the production of collagen.

SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic

SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic — $166.00

This serum is a favorite of derms everywhere due to its strong antioxidant protection. It is composed of 5% pure vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid, 1% vitamin E and 0.5% ferulic acid. These all work together to neutralize free radicals, protecting against environmental damage while helping to fade signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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