With each season your skin behaves differently. If you travel abroad, the change in climate may also call for skincare adjustments.
COLD WEATHER SKINCARE
Sticking to your usual regime when the thermometer plummets, cold winds whip up and central heating is turned up can mean lizard lips, alligator elbows and chapped cheeks. In summer, with the right sun protection, you can get away with minimum attention – and still look great. But in cold weather, skin, hair, body and make-up all need winter-proofing.
TLC for faces
First step: skincare. The cold weather watchword, regardless of skin type, is more: more moisturising, more gently, more often.
In winter, those who cannot otherwise be dissuaded from using soap and water really should put their soap into hibernation. ‘Soap strips the skin of its natural oily protection – and no cream can ever replace that moisture,’ warns skincare pro Jo Malone. Cold weather can incite skin sensitivity, too – to detergents, fragrances, lanolin. So choose a gentle, water-soluble cleanser that’s non-irritating to skin. After cleansing, if you feel you have to use a toner, make sure it’s alcohol-free.
‘Women often find that their make-up looks patchy in winter – it just doesn’t stay put,’ observes Creative Director of Guerlain Cosmetics, Olivier Echaudemaison. ‘The right moisturiser fixes that.’ All skin types need help. Lydia Sarfati, New York salon owner and creator of the Repêchage range, insists: ‘It doesn’t matter what your skin type – oily, dry, sensitive – everyone needs to moisturise in winter.’
Did you know that the conditions in your bedroom may be more harmful than the great outdoors? Few people realise that due to better insulation, the heating in modern apartments and homes forces humidity down. The newer the building, the lower the moisture in the air. Central heating dries out air and lifts moisture from skin into the atmosphere, so keep thermostats as low as possible (and cut fuel bills at the same time). Place small bowls of water near radiators to work as humidifiers, and if the air is really parched, drape them with damp towels. Turn your space into a jungle, with plants that thrive on regular misting. Best skincare investment of all? A cold water humidifier (from electrical stores).
Lips boast only three to five layers of skin cells, compared with 15 elsewhere on the body, which is why a barrier between your lips and the environment is essential. Most lip balms are petroleum-based, but lips can actually become addicted to these, meaning that they wil have to be used more and more often to have any effect. (Non-petroleum lip balms we love include The Body Shop’s and Kiehl’s). One definite don’t: habitual lip-licking. Once the moisture has evaporated, lips will feel drier than ever.
(Non-petroleum lip balms we love include This Works Turbo Balm, Jurlique Love Balm – and our own Beauty Bible Lip Balm, exclusive to Victoria Health – buy here). One definite don’t: habitual lip-licking. Once the moisture has evaporated, lips will feel drier than ever.
- A tip from Bobbi Brown: ‘During winter months, when skin tone may pale, try a lightly-tinted powder – translucent tends to make your skin pale and pasty. Pink offers a rosy cast; yellow or beige gives a healthy glow.’
- Paint concealer onto red, raw areas around the nose, lips and cheeks with a soft lip brush, then set with powder.
- Choose a lipstick with a moisturising formulation. (Look for the word ‘moisture’ in the name.)
- Avoid ‘long-lasting’ lipstick formulations, which can be extremely drying.
- Pick a rosy blusher shade which matches your cheeks after a breezy walk and won’t compete with your natural colour.
WARM WEATHER SKINCARE
Just as you pack away your woollies and bring out the silk and cotton, your cosmetic kit-bag needs ‘summerising’. If your skin is good enough, skip foundation and replace it with tinted moisturisers that include sun filters, mixed with a dab of concealer if necessary. Otherwise make sure to choose an oil-free foundation.
- Cheeks are naturally rosier, so skip blusher.
- Get your lashes dyed and leave the mascara on your dressing table: the sultry effects last for about six weeks.
- Look for cosmetics, particularly lipsticks and foundations, that do double duty as sun protection.
If you like contemporary horror stories, there is no need to reach for Stephen King. The reports from any dermatologists’ conference make shocking enough reading.
Fact: skin cancer statistics are soaring. (In the UK, as many as 40,000 people a year are diagnosed with different types of skin cancer.)
Fact: skin cancer (notably malignant melanoma) can be fatal.
Fact: a tan does not protect against skin cancer.
There are several kinds of skin cancer related to sun exposure, including solar keratoses (wart-like growths) and malignant melanoma, now the most frequent type of cancer for young adult women. This is thought to be related to short, sharp overdoses of sun – just one bout of sunburn may be all it takes. But that still doesn’t stop millions of us throwing caution to the off-shore breeze and racing to expose our vulnerable bodies to the sun at the drop of a wide-brimmed hat…
A tan is actually the body’s defence mechanism against the threat posed by the sun. Sunlight stimulates the skin to step up production of melanin. Darker-skinned people have more natural melanin in the skin; someone with (naturally) blonde hair and light eyes will never be able to tan like someone with dark hair and dark eyes. As the melanin supply is activated, it moves up towards the surface of the skin, where it helps prevent burning and reduces penetration by damaging rays. The side effect of this protective mechanism is to make the skin turn brown. As Brigitte Bardot knows all too well, over-exposure to the sun accelerates the natural pace of ageing.
However, we would say: partly as a result of our indoor, sedentary lives, and partly as a result of concerns about skin cancer (which have encouraged women to slather on SPF as soon as we venture outdoors), there is now a national shortage of vitamin D, production of which is triggered by sun exposure. Many doctors have revised their opinions on ‘safe sunning’, and recommend some sun exposure daily, if possible, on legs and arms, before sun protection is applied, in order to safeguard bone health and potentially protect against some other cancers (including breast cancer). You may also want toconsider a vitamin D supplement.
THE SUNSCREEN SCENE
To most dermatologists, no tan is a good tan. However, there’s no denying that seeing the sun and being brown makes people feel good – and there is (as you’ve just read) a rethink, currently, about the need for some sun exposure to help vitamin D levels. But everyone who goes in the sun for more than 15-20 minutes needs sunscreen. End of story. (And we never, ever expose our faces to the sun without an SPF.) Since the ozone layer has thinned, and more of the sun’s harmful rays reach our skins, many dermatologists insist that we wear a protective facial sunscreen all the time, even on cloudy days in the city.
Sunscreen factor numbers can seem baffling. The simple rule is the higher the number, the more protection a cream offers. Sun protection factor (SPF) numbers relate to the length of time you can stay in the sun without burning. Most fair-skins can tolerate ten to 15 minutes in full sun, according to consultant dermatologist Dr Tim Cutler. Multiply that baseline period of ten minutes by an SPF of 15, and you get two and a half hours’ protection (150 minutes). After that you really should come in out of the sun; that’s your daily ration. If you have naturally darker skin, you will safely be able to stay out longer, but the golden rule is to reapply sunscreen regularly. Once your body has acquired a protective tan, you could opt for a lower SPF, but Professor Rona Mackie, the UK’s leading expert on malignant melanoma cancer, cautions nothing less than SPF10.
Always opt for a cream that screens out UVA and UVB (ultra-violet) rays. Initially, research scientists believed that UVA rays weren’t as harmful to the skin as UVB. But, in fact, it has since emerged that UVA rays speed up ageing, damage elasticity and increase the long-term risk of skin cancer. UVB rays cause erythema (sunburn and redness). A simple memory device works: UVA equals ageing, and UVB equals burn.
Never, ever put your face in the sun. Even with a broad-spectrum SPF and under a broad-brimmed hat, it is pure madness; because facial skin is thinner, it is the fastest track to wrinkles. (Conversely legs, where skin is thick, take the longest to tan.) Nowadays, with bronzing powders, tinted moisturisers and a new generation of excellent fake tanners, there is absolutely no reason to expose your face if you want a sun-kissed look.
Don’t wear nylon or polyester sweatbands or visors; these fabrics can allow sweat to build up around the hairline, blocking sweat glands and encouraging little white bumps to come up, or spots to develop. Instead, wear cotton visors, baseball caps and sweatbands, and wash them regularly.
Do switch to an alcohol-free version of your scent, if available; the effect of sun on the alcohol can cause redness, even burning.
Don’t expose just-waxed or shaved skin to the sun – or to sunscreens. Rashes can break out.
Do dry your skin thoroughly with a towel after swimming in the sea. It may feel cooling to lie on your beach towel and let the sun evaporate the water, but it’ll leave a thin layer of salt behind – which can be extremely drying if you have sunburn or skin prone to feeling parched.
Don’t apply foundation on top of sun cream on top of moisturiser; it not only wastes time and money but you run the risk of clogging pores with so many cosmetic layers, thereby triggering tiny pimples or rashes. Look for one product that moisturises, protects and gives skin a healthy glow.
Don’t jump into the pool without waterproof sunblock; this protects against chlorine which can aggravate acne.
Do wash your beach towel every day; sweat, sunscreen and bacteria can build up on a towel, making it very unhealthy to dry your face on.
Don’t wear certain acne preparations in the sun: benzoyl peroxide products can be altered by UV rays, triggering irritation. (Save them for after sun-down.)
WHY A LITTLE DOESN’T GO A LONG, LONG WAY
- Be generous with sunscreen: one shot-glassful is the average amount a woman needs to coat her body. If you apply it too thinly, you can lose about half its SPF value. And don’t rub too hard: being over-enthusiastic can reduce a sunscreen’s potency by around 25 per cent.
- Always apply each day’s first dose of suncare to cool, dry skin, paying extra attention to delicate areas like face, ears, neck, upper chest, arms and backs of hands and feet. (N.B. solar radiation penetrates lightweight material, too.) Then reapply, preferably every hour (i.e. even more frequently than the maximum time the SPF allows you).
- Follow instructions and slavishly apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in the sun. It’s all too easy to spend the first half-hour on the beach locating your perfect spot and settling in – while the sun beats down on your unprotected skin.
- If you can’t reach some parts of your body, ask someone to help you. (Be particularly careful to cover areas bordering your bikini/costume.)
- One of the quickest ways to burn is snorkelling; always wear a T-shirt to protect your back, and cover up with a water-resistant block.
- If you do go into the water and towel-dry afterwards, always reapply your sunscreen all over; even a waterproof lotion isn’t towel-proof.
- Drink plenty of water and fresh fruit juices to keep your body and skin from becoming dehydrated.
- A word on hats – the bigger and more closely woven the better, to keep your face and the back of your neck covered.
- The combination of sun, snow and altitude when you’re skiing or mountain-climbing is especially potent. Piz Buin and Ambre Solaire make special suncreens for these conditions.
D-I-Y sensitivity test
The chemical ingredients in sunscreens, combined with UV light, heat and sand, can easily irritate sensitive skins. As a safeguard, head for the ranges designed for sensitive skin. (These include Clinique, Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Piz Buin, Boots Soltan and Ambre Solaire’s range for sensitive skin.) PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) is one of the commonest sensitivity-triggers in sunscreens; products containing titanium dioxide (e.g. Estée Lauder’s range) are less likely to irritate. Always carry out a D-I-Y patch test first: diligently apply a small blob of sunscreen to the inside of your elbow each day for five days. If you experience any redness/stinging/itchiness, abandon that product. Unfortunately, suncare companies seldom offer sample sizes, so always buy the smallest size first, just in case. If you continue to have problems, consult a qualified pharmacist.
THE TAN COMMANDMENTS
- Do a patch test the night before, to check you like the colour.
- De-hair your legs 24 hours before to ensure smooth, even results.
- Remove dry skin with a body scrub or loofah, concentrating particularly on dry patches like elbows, knees and heels.
- If you’re fake-tanning your face, exfoliate thoroughly first with a wet muslin square or washcloth.
- Because dry areas are much more absorbent, use lotion sparingly on the thick skin around elbows and knees. After you’ve finished applying your fake tanner, remove any excess by swabbing lightly around these areas with a damp tissue.
- Wash your hands immediately afterwards to avoid bronzed palms.
- Allow at least four hours for colour to develop before reapplying.
- Clothing can take on a fake tan, too, so remain scantily clad until it has sunk in properly, and avoid sitting on good furniture or sheets. Some products take up to an hour before they stop being tacky.
NB Fake tans are now sometimes labeled with an SPF. But remember: this is only effective if you apply the self-tan and then immediately go in the sun; there is no ongoing protection. And in any case, we personally wouldn’t rely on the SPF in a self-tanner at all.