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Acne during cooler months

During cooler months there are several changes our skin can experience that can result in breakouts. Read more...



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What is it about the cooler months of fall and winter, that makes the skin more prone to acne?

The cooler months can be a little frustrating when it comes to seasonal acne. It is very common for even some patients with severe acne to say that the summer tends to make their skin look and feel better. During cooler months there are several changes our skin can experience that can result in breakouts. There are changes in the composition of the skin, changes in the bio flora, and for many people an increase in stress.



What role do ceramides play in developing acne during cooler months?

Cooler months can result in decreased ceramides in the skin that help protect the skin. Acne-prone skin has been shown to be affected by altered ceramide levels. This is actually why the brand CeraVe holds a clear benefit over other moisturizers. The product focuses on ceramides and maintaining the skin’s barrier function.

How does the bio flora of the skin change and why does this affect acne?

Changes in the bio flora of the skin have been considered as a possible trigger for seasonal acne simply because we often use topical antibiotics in the treatment of acne. The theory is that UV light may contribute to improving the skin in the summer and the reduced UV in the winter could potentially impact the tendency towards breakouts.

The challenge here from a management perspective is that the risk of UV exposure outweighs the benefits when we have multiple methods of treating acne. The other interesting note to comment on is that as often as we hear about the worsening of acne in the winter, we do routinely have patients that experience exacerbations in the summer. This is why I try to keep my patients focused on the true underlying trigger of most acne which is hormonal. As much as we try to blame the environment, diet, and other factors, ultimately many of those factors are not entirely within our control.



Does stress really play a role in breakouts?

Stress from back to school, back to routines, holidays, and more can trigger flushing and inflammation in the skin. This can result in another type of breakout called rosacea. Seasonal acne often shares some features with rosacea and can overlap at times. For many pimples from acne can “pop" and be satisfying in that they resolve. Pimples from rosacea do not really “pop”- they just get angrier when manipulated. Sometimes the most we can get out of them if we try is a clear fluid.

Are there any practices that can exacerbate seasonal acne during these cooler months?

A good skin care routine is important year-round. However, we are increasingly finding that this routine may need to change with the season. The challenges our skin is faced with as the temperatures and levels of humidity change likely require a little tweaking of our daily skin care rituals. There are some “summer skin care habits” that we may need to drop as it gets cooler.

These include:

  • During the summer many people actively wash their faces more than twice a day to combat sweat, oil, and debris. Others may passively do so through swimming and sweating. Excessive face washing can impact our skin as it depletes our skin of natural oils, lipids, and ceramides. Decreased lipids in the skin have been linked to acne flares. This may be from an overproduction of sebum by the skin as it tries to compensate for the loss of hydration. As it gets cooler out, try to avoid over washing.

  • Exfoliation is not always a bad thing and there are times when our skin can really benefit from it. However, excess exfoliation achieved with physical or chemical exfoliants should be followed up with moisturizers to avoid excess dryness. The excess dryness can lead to inflammation. Inflammation is often a trigger for acne as well as another type of breakout called rosacea. In the summertime with humidity in the air, there may not be as much of a need for these moisturizers which leads many to leave them out of their routine. Come the fall or winter, it may be worth revisiting whether these should be added back in.

Do you have any tips to help prevent and treat seasonal acne in the cooler months?

Maintain a good skin care routine comprised of cleanser, protecting and repairing the skin. Re-evaluate your cleanser to make sure it is not too harsh in the winter. Protect your skin with a good moisturizer. Do not be afraid to do so worried that you may trigger more acne. Choose a non-comedogenic moisturizer to reduce the chances of this. If you have a history of seasonal acne, be prepared to start integrating acne combatting ingredients into your fall routine before the flares start.


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