The Fall Skincare Routine a Dermatologist Actually Follows

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Although we've spilled a lot of ink on hydrating serums, fall skincare goes beyond simply stocking your top shelf with potent moisturizing products. From treating sun-induced hyperpigmentation to preventing fine lines and wrinkles around your eyes, there are a number of factors—apart from dryness—to consider when curating your skincare regimen for the cooler months. So, in search of an effective daily regimen to implement during this transitional skincare season, we turned to a pro: Dr. Yunyoung Claire Chang, MD.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Yunyoung Claire Chang, MD, is a Manhattan-based dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology.

Ahead, she shares the tried-and-true products she actually uses on her own skin as soon as the temperatures start dipping below the 60s. Among her recommendations: A miracle-working retinol treatment that promises to reverse the skin damage (including minimizing dark spots) incurred during those sunny summer months. Keep scrolling to find out exactly how to make the fall skincare transition like a dermatologist.

Step 1 (Morning and Night): Gentle Cleanser

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser $13
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When it comes to choosing a cleanser for the colder months, opt for one that's gentle enough to remove dirt and excess oils without irritating your skin, Dr. Chang advises. "I avoid harsh chemicals and scrubs, especially during the fall when my skin tends to be drier and more prone to irritation," she explains. "Instead, use a hypoallergenic, hydrating cleanser like this one." 

Step 2 (Morning): Antioxidant Serum

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic $166
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Antioxidant serums deserve a spot in your skincare routine year-round, including both summer and fall, Dr. Chang suggests. "Antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, are an important part of a balanced morning skincare regimen," she adds. "Vitamin C protects against UV-induced photodamage, stimulates collagen synthesis to prevent fine lines, and helps lighten brown spots. Studies have shown that vitamin C, together with vitamin E, provides synergistic protection against UV damage."

Step 3 (Morning and Night): Hydrating Moisturizer

Skin Medica TNS Ceramide Treatment Cream $69
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Next up: A hydrating cream. "During the cooler seasons, the level of ceramides in the skin decreases, contributing to skin dryness. Ceramides are natural lipids that help keep moisture in the skin," Dr. Chang notes. "Skincare products can replace deficient ceramides to increase skin hydration. Scientific studies have shown that ceramide-containing moisturizers decrease water loss from the skin and increase hydration. My favorite product is SkinMedica TNS Ceramide, which contains ceramides as well as peptides to prevent fine lines and wrinkles."

One thing to note: There are so many moisturizers on the market, so before buying one, make sure it's right for your skin type. If you have oily skin, opt for an oil-free cream, and if you have dry skin, using a thicker moisturizer will do more for you than a gel. On the other hand, if you have combination skin, you may have to do a bit more research to determine which of the many products is best for you. 

Step 4 (Morning): Sunscreen

EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad Spectrum SPF 44 $36
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Just because the weather's cooled down, that doesn't mean you should skip applying sunscreen during your morning skincare routine. "Sunscreen is equally as important in the fall as it is in the summer," Dr. Chang advises. "UVA, which can cause both skin aging and cancer, is present all year round and can even penetrate through glass and clouds."

"I love EltaMD UV Elements for fall because it is a 100% physical sunscreen with broad-spectrum UV coverage and also contains hyaluronic acid to boost hydration in the skin. Another plus is that this sunscreen is tinted, so masks any brown spots that may have been accumulated over the summer months," she adds.

Step 2 (Night): Topical Vitamin A

SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex $93
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Although you may have shelved your vitamin A creams during the summer, fall is a great time to reincorporate these products back into your skincare routine, Dr. Chang suggests. "Many people stop using topical vitamin A treatments, like retinols and retinoids, during the summertime given the increased risk of photosensitivity," explains the dermatologist.

However, according to Dr. Chang, retinol products can help repair UV damage done during the summer months. "Retinols and retinoids increase skin cell turnover, exfoliate, lighten brown spots, and increase collagen production for preventing fine lines and wrinkles," she explains. "SkinMedica retinol products are effective but relatively easy to tolerate and not too drying."

Step 4 (Night): Glycolic Acid Treatment

Max Complexion Correction Pads 90 Pads
Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads $46
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When it comes to skincare treatments, Dr. Chang recommends reaching for products with glycolic acid on the label. "I use glycolic acid-containing products once a week during the fall to even out my complexion and lighten brown spots," Dr. Chang tells us. "Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads have 2% salicylic acid and 10% glycolic acid to even out the tone as well as green tea to decrease inflammation." 

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