Most of us know the usual suspects when it comes to breakouts and skin issues: bacteria and oil, hormones, and certain foods or medications. But did you know that where you live might actually be the reason for your skin woes?
No need to start packing yet though! We spoke with dermatologist Dr. Gary Goldfaden, founder of cult skincare line Goldfaden MD, and skin expert Kate Somerville, founder of her eponymous celeb-beloved line, for all you need to know about how the weather in your city might be affecting your skin—and what you can do about it.
Click through the slideshow to learn about the skin-city connection and how you can combat unwanted weather woes!
According to Dr. Goldfaden, pollution and smog in big cities can clog pores, but also lead to dryness in the winter. Additionally, the free radicals in the ozone layer of smog can cause premature aging, such as wrinkles and loss of elasticity, and those who live in highly polluted urban areas are at higher risk of developing eczema and rashes, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Another smoggy skies skin problem? Vitamin D absorption. Atmospheric pollution has been shown to block the absorption of UVB needed by skin to make the Vitamin D so crucial for our overall skin health and proper functioning.
“Smoggy climates call for serums that target environmental damage and almost shield the skin,” Dr. Goldfaden says. “Look for Vitamin D as an ingredient,” he advises. We like Goldfaden MD’s Vital Boost ($68), a daily skin-boosting and antioxidant-infused moisturizer with a powerful dose of Vitamin D, and Radical Skin Care’s Peptide Infused Antioxidant Serum ($190). A good cleanser is also key when living in a smoggy city, says Somerville. “Cleansing skin properly at night becomes even more important because of the elements skin is exposed to on a daily basis,” she says. For a deep and intense cleanser that’s both gentle and brightening—perfect for dull, polluted skin—try Eve Lom’s Cleanser ($80).
“Very damp climates can actually help to hydrate skin and keep wrinkles away,” says Dr. Goldfaden. However, the skin-related pros and cons of living in a seaside city come and go depending on the season. “These areas can be very cold during the winter, and have high winds, which can damage and dry skin,” he says.
Somerville echoes that sentiment, and notes that weather can shift dramatically in seaside climates. “Protecting skin from the elements is the name of the game,” she says.
Keep skin extra hydrated and moisturized during the winter months to protect against damaging winds and dryness. “Just like wearing layers in San Francisco is crucial, the same goes for skincare,” Somerville says. “Prep your skin with hydrating formulas and SPF to protect skin and keep it comfortable and healthy.”
Try Aveda’s Tourmaline Charged Hydrating Cream ($40), which is formulated with antioxidants and marine and plant extracts to safeguard skin against harsh elements, and layer with Somerville’s own Daily Deflector ($48), a broad spectrum SPF 55 sunscreen that provides hydration, anti-aging benefits, and doesn’t feel sticky or look chalky.
“Very humid climates keep skin hydrated and glowing,” says Dr. Goldfaden. However, like with seaside cities, there’s a flip-side: “high temperatures and intense sun can cause aging, sun damage, and wrinkles. Very humid climates cause the skin to sweat more and certain makeup may be too heavy. Sun protection is imperative,” he cautions.
“In warm or humid climates, look for serums and moisturizers that are oil-free or lightweight,” he advises. “Ingredients such as organic red tea can be beneficial, as it targets inflammation and irritation. Vitamin C keeps skin glowing and bright.” Opt for a lightweight, oil-free daily moisturizer with SPF and slight coverage, like Laura Mercier’s Broad Spectrum Tinted Moisturizer ($43)
Infuse essential vitamin C into your skincare routine with a nighttime moisturizer like Murad’s Essential-C Night Moisture ($63), and give sun damage the one-two punch with a hydrating, protective, lightweight antioxidant cocktail, like Kate Somerville’s Total Vitamin Antioxidant Face Serum ($65).
On those days you do get too much sun and skin is red, irritated, or inflamed, reach for antioxidant serum with organic red tea and cherry extracts to repair, rejuvenate, and reduce redness. Goldfaden MD’s Radical Difference Advanced Antioxidant Serum ($80) is targeted specifically for inflamed skin in need of extra protection.
Makeup-wise, you want to swap out heavy foundations that compound pore-clogging, breakouts, and surface oiliness from sweat. “When choosing foundation, mineral-based makeup keeps skin looking dry and flat,” says Dr. Goldfaden. We’re big fans of Bobbi Brown’s Skin Foundation Mineral Makeup ($39), which evens skin tone, keeps oil at bay, and has added SPF for additional sun protection – a.k.a. ideal for humid climates.
Dry cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix consistently get ranked amongst the worst to live in for the condition of one’s skin. “Dry climates dehydrate skin and can invite early onset of wrinkles,” Dr. Goldfaden says. “The sun can be very intense in these types of climate, so sun protection is imperative.”
“The more sun exposure you have, the more damage you’re doing to your skin. It’s really important to replenish skin while forming a barrier against the elements in dry climates,” Somerville adds.
Because skin is so prone to dryness in dry climates (go figure), certain lifestyle changes like taking shorter, cooler showers can help, as long and hotter showers exacerbate dryness. Product-wise, Dr. Goldfaden recommends looking for more anti-aging serums and heavier moisturizers when in drier cities. “Ingredients such as CoQ10, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and Retinol keeps skin tone tight and toned,” he adds. Try Clarins’ highly technical anti-aging serum, Complete Age Control Concentrate ($85), combined with Verso Skincare Day Cream ($100), an anti-aging hydrating moisturizer with concentrated retinol.
Somerville notes that in addition to consistent moisturizing, “living in dry weather with ample sun exposure means you must double-down on your SPF.” Her IllumiKate CC Cream ($48) offers broad spectrum SPF 55 and lightweight buildable coverage in a multitude of shades.
The primary issue with overcast cities is the false sense of security it gives people from the sun. Premature aging can be a big problem in overcast cities because people think they are safe from the sun on a daily basis and don’t use SPF—big mistake!
“Just because it is overcast, does not mean UV rays are not still present,” says Dr. Goldfaden. “It is very important to still wear sunscreen.” When in doubt, pick up the gold standard in drugstore sunscreen, Neutrogena’s Broad Spectrum Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunscreen ($9). The lightweight, non-greasy formula goes on smooth and sheer—perfect for daily use under makeup, even on the most overcast of days.
“Breakouts seems to show up in more humid climates. Wrinkles tend to be more prevalent in drier climates. The reality is: if you keep your skin clean and hydrated, your skin will look good anywhere,” says Dr. Goldfaden.