Winter brings snowy mornings, hot chocolate, and cozy sweaters to southern Illinois. For most people, however, it also brings bad skin. The combination of harsh indoor heating with cold, dry weather wreaks havoc on even the most even-tempered complexions. But, perhaps surprisingly, winter is the best time of year for many non-invasive skin treatments. Why? The sun has a lot to do with it.
Many popular skincare treatments, like laser hair removal and exfoliating procedures, cause photosensitivity. The skin becomes more sensitive to both direct and indirect sunlight, and over time, the side effect can permanently damage skin. This can create dark spots, scarring, and in the most severe cases, skin cancer.
Obtaining these procedures during the darkest winter months – November, December, and January – can mitigate photosensitivity. Because the days are shorter, there are fewer opportunities to experience damage. With sufficient preparation and care, most patients can avoid photosensitivity in the sunniest months. But with the dark days of winter on the horizon, getting a treatment now can make for a faster and easier recovery.
How Skin Treatments Cause Sun Sensitivity
Photosensitivity is one of the most common side effects of active skincare product ingredients, especially in stronger, prescription-strength medications. The ingredients most likely to cause this reaction are retinol, alpha hydroxy acids, and hydroquinone.
- Retinol – This is often touted as the holy grail of young, flawless skin. Also known as vitamin A, retinol is a topical ingredient that enhances collagen production and promotes skin renewal. By helping stimulate the production of new skin cells, the treated skin is newer, delicate, and thinner than untreated skin. This makes it more susceptible to sun damage.
- AHAs – Alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid and salicylic acid, are chemical exfoliators. They rid the skin’s surface of buildup, brightening the complexion and reducing acne in the process. This exfoliation makes the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation; it thins the skin while destroying the very top layer. The weakened epidermis is thus more at risk of sustaining sun damage.
- Hydroquinone – This ingredient is popular in acne scar removal and other scar reduction procedures. Hydroquinone disrupts the formation of excess melanin that can lead to dark spots, melasma, and hyperpigmentation. The decrease in melanin production can make the skin more susceptible to harmful UV radiation, so it is often recommended only in small doses.
Additionally, non-chemical treatments that exfoliate, like dermarolling and laser hair removal, can increase photosensitivity by weakening the skin’s outermost layer.
Opportunistic Winter Acne
While summer heat and humidity can cause acne vulgaris, or acne that appears as a result of excess oil production, winter poses its own challenges to clear complexions. Wearing tight fabrics, like winter hats and wind buffs, can cause acne mechanica, or acne that results from friction. This is often the cause of winter breakouts. Luckily, this is the best time of year to use strong spot treatments, which often contain alpha hydroxy acids. Winter provides an excellent opportunity for chemical peels, dermarolling, and scar reduction treatment, but acne treatments can also be extremely beneficial in the low winter light.
The Best Winter Weather Skin Treatments
Most skincare treatments, especially those that include retinol, AHAs, and hydroquinone, or any type of manual exfoliator, have a smaller chance of causing photosensitivity side-effects in the winter. If you’ve been meaning to get any of the following procedures, now is an excellent time to schedule your appointment.
While the winter reduces exposure to the sun’s radiation, the cold temperatures also take a lot of the humidity out of the air. A consultation with our board-certified dermatologist can help you understand if there are any special moisturizing products that should or shouldn’t be used with a wintertime skin treatment.
If you’re interested in learning about how these treatments can improve your skin tone this winter, Contact us to schedule an appointment.