There's a common conversation that happens in my treatment room, that I've been meaning to address.
Usually what happens is this: a client comes in and when we start to chat about their skin. They tell me that they've never had problems with their skin until recently. Now after years of having perfectly decent skin, they find themselves suddenly breaking out/extremely dry/aging rapidly and/or some combination of the aforementioned. I see this so often that I know just what question to ask next: "How long ago did you move to Colorado?"
It's not always a sure bet, but during my time as an esthetician in the Mile High City, I've observed firsthand, just how much our arid, sunny, high-altitude climate affects the skin. Especially when you are a new transplant. The skin, much like the rest or your body has to acclimate to a new place and until it does, it's likely going to react to the changes. To be honest, I'm a Colorado native, and my skin still reacts at times.
Luckily, I'm here to tell you that this is a (mostly) temporary situation and there are steps you can take to adjust. I'm sharing the secrets because I'm a nice native like that.
Firstly, make sure you are drinking enough water. I know. It sounds super obvious, but lack of water is going to be the number one source of your issues when adjusting to dry climate. The more internally dehydrated you are, the more it's going to show externally in your skin. At higher altitudes air is drier and has lower air pressure. This causes you to dehydrate faster. Water will literally evaporate out of your skin faster than it would in a humid climate. You will likely need to increase your intake beyond how much H20 you are used to consuming. This is step one.
Another trick some of my clients report success with is investing in a humidifier. Adding some moisture into the air at home can really help ease the transition.
Hydrate Your Skin:
After you've hydrated your body, chances are good that you'll still need to give your skin a drink too. Moisturizer is your friend here. If you weren't a moisturizer person before, you're probably going to want to start the habit. If you were already moisturizing, you may need to do it more often or with a more heavy duty product.
Other products that can help are hydrating serums or toners. Look for anything with Hyaluronic Acid in it, because it binds moisture to the skin and will help with preventing water loss. A lightweight serum or a spritzing toner can be great hydrators when you're experiencing a breakout.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, acne can often be symptomatic of dehydrated skin. When the skin lacks proper moisture, it may start to over-produce oils in order to compensate and this leads to breakouts. Furthermore, without enough moisture to promote normal cell turnover, the skin can then become sluggish or irritated and the oil can get trapped under the surface. Hence, more breakouts. Keeping the skin moisturized with the right hydrating product will help re-stabilize your skin and prevent breakout activity from worsening.
Exfoliation can be especially helpful when you start to experience breakouts or just a buildup of dry, dead surface skin. There are numerous ways to exfoliate but a good place to start might be to invest in a great face scrub. I personally love Skin Script's Raspberry Refining Scrub with jojoba beads. You might be tempted to reach for that drug store apricot scrub, but hear me out when I say don't do it! Those over-the-counter $3 scrubs are usually full of alcohol and salycilic acid, which will further dry you out and aggravate the condition of your skin. They also contain harsh exfoliants which can scratch (damage) compromised skin.
You could opt for manual exfoliation in the form of a micordermabrasion or dermaplaning treatment. These are treatments performed by an esthetician to remove dead surface skin and promote new cell turnover. In the summer enzyme treatments can also accomplish this. Whereas in the colder months, a light chemical peel might also be appropriate.
Of course, you will also want to be mindful not to overdo it. Over-irritating the skin will only make it worse. When it comes to exfoliation, start with once or twice a week at home and increase the frequency gradually. If you start to notice conditions worsening, try backing off for a bit and adjust as necessary. Exfoliating is like a workout. It's good for you, but you have to give your skin days off to rest, just like the rest of your body.
As we've already covered, breaking out can be part of the skin's adjustment process. Your best bet here is to simply spot treat the places that are experiencing breakout activity and leave it at that. It may be tough to not go to town on your zits with new product, aggressive scrubbing or worse... picking and popping, but please trust me on this one. Once your skin's oil production starts to balance out with proper hydration, the breakouts will clear. Overdrying them will only prolong the process and cause the rest of your skin to freak out. Over scrubbing will inflame and irritate, potentially causing more activity. Same goes for picking, which can cause pigmentation and scarring as part of the recovery reaction.
Your skin will be much happier in the long term if you treat it with kindness and patience. So take a deep breath. Apply a dab of spot treat product (I like PCA's Acne Gel or Skin Script's Blemish Spot Treat) and apply your regular moisturizer all over the rest.
Get a Facial
I'm not just saying that because I give facials for a living. I'm saying that because I give facials for a living and I see firsthand what a huge difference a couple of facials makes for acclimating skin.
There is something about a facial that acts as a brilliant re-set button for the skin. Seeing an esthetician even a couple of times will help whip your skin into shape. In my treatment room I use steam, extractions, advanced exfoliation techniques, high-power ingredients and deep hydration to cleanse and restore the skin to its healthiest state. I like giving facials to new transplants because it's basically instant gratification. Unlike chronic skin conditions that take time to develop and time to treat, a little climate-related skin freakout is an easy fix.
Getting a facial is also a great way to de-stress! Moving to a new state can be pretty overwhelming. Your skin can be prone to extreme reactions when you are emotionally or physically taxed. Taking an hour for yourself to lay down and get pampered is truly good for your mental health, which in turn, is good for your skin health.
Yep. We're back on that again. If you've already been reading this blog, you know how keen I am on sunscreen. If you haven't been reading, go here and all will be revealed.
We all need a good SPF in our daily routine, but it's even more important at higher altitudes. We're closer to the sun, so you're getting that much more sun damage. See also: sun reflecting off snow. Enough said. Wear it. Love it. Re-apply often.
Up Your Anti-Aging Game
I'm just going to break the news to you now. Colorado is hard on your skin. If you haven't already figured that out, you've now been told. As a result of all the stuff we've covered, your skin is more vulnerable to collagen and elastin breakdown. Keeping it hydrated and regularly exfoliating is the best way to keep your cell turnover going at a healthy pace.
Additionally, you may want to invest in some of the following products: a good eye cream, anti-aging serum, lip balm, skin brightening serum and/or retinol. If these aren't already part of your routine, they can be a great preventative maintenance against unwanted signs of aging. Of course, if all of these options sound overwhelming to you, never hesitate to reach out. I am happy to point you in the direction of one or two to start with.
Just Be Patient
My last tip is just that. If you're new in town and struggling with skin problems you've never experienced before, I'm sure you're first reaction is to freak out too. But you can relax, I promise. I've worked on hundreds of faces and I can tell you that you are not alone and it does get better.
You've just moved to Colorado! Go out and enjoy it and try not to worry too much. With a little time and proper care, you'll have native skin before you know it.