Although we've spilled a lot of ink on hydrating serums (see exhibits A and B), fall skincare goes beyond simply stocking your top shelf with potent moisturizing products. From treating hyperpigmentation caused by sun-drenched summer days and preventing fine lines and wrinkles caused by a seasonal loss of ceramides, 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 skincare transitional season, we turned to a pro.
Ahead, Manhattan-based dermatologist Yunyoung Claire Chang, MD, of Union Square Laser Dermatology, shares the tried-and-true products she actually uses on her own skin as soon as the temperatures start dipping into the 60s. Among her recommendations? A miracle-working retinol treatment that promises to reverse the skin damage (aka minimize dark spots) incurred during those sunny summer months. Keep scrolling to find out exactly how to make the fall skincare transition like a dermatologist.
Morning and Night Step 1: Gentle Cleanser
When it comes to choosing a cleanser for the cooler months, opt for one that's gentle enough to remove dirt and excess oils without irritating your skin, advises Chang. "I avoid harsh chemicals and scrubs, especially during the fall when my skin tends to be drier and more prone to irritation," confesses Chang. "Instead, use a hypoallergenic, hydrating cleanser like Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser," she suggests.
Morning Step 2: Antioxidant Serum
Antioxidant serums deserve a spot in your skincare routine year-round, including both summer and fall, says Chang. "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 provide synergistic protection against UV damage. Products like SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic combine both vitamins C and E for greater efficacy."
Morning and Night Step 3: Hydrating Moisturizer
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," Chang explains. "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."
Morning Step 4: Sunscreen
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," advises Chang. "UVA, which can cause skin aging and cancer, is present all year round and can even penetrate through glass and clouds," she explains.
"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," she divulges. "Another plus is that this sunscreen is tinted, so masks any brown spots that may have been accumulated over the summer months."
Night Step 2: Topical Vitamin A
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, advises Chang. "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, retinol products can help repair UV damage done during the summer months, according to Chang. "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," she recommends.
Night Step 4 (Weekly): Glycolic Acid Treatment
When it comes to skincare treatments, 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," divulges Chang. "Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads have 2% salicylic acid and 10% glycolic acid to even out tone as well as green tea to decrease inflammation," recommends the dermatologist.