When You Just Moved to Colorado and Your Skin is Freaking Out...THE SEQUEL
Hello all! Wow! I'm really excited to dive into today's blog! See, about three years ago when I first started my business, I wrote a blog called "When You Just Moved to Colorado and Your Skin is Suddenly Freaking Out." The title was meant as a bit of a joke, but the intent behind it was pure. As a practicing esthetician in Denver, Colorado, it hadn't taken me long to spot a trend that I was seeing among many clients in my treatment room, in particular new transplants to our beautiful, yet very very very very...very dry climate.
So I wrote a blog about it addressing the whys and the what-to-dos in hopes of helping a few people. Little did I know that it would become my most read blog of all time and that dozens of clients would find me because of it. I never expected the frantic texts, phones calls and emails from people elated to learn that they weren't crazy or the only ones dealing with what felt like a freakish transformation of their skin as a result of residing in Colorado. Many of you wrote to thank me, affirm that you were sharing this experience and ask me for more advice. What an exciting response to receive!
I can't even believe it's been three years since then. BUT! Since I'm kind of a nerd for understanding more and more about the skin (bet you hadn't picked up on that?) my learning didn't end there. Three years has brought me tons more experience and with it, more insight to contribute to this discussion. And thus, I felt like it was time for a sequel!
Read on for my top tips - a mix of the tried and true from the first blog, plus a few more I've learned and implemented since. Even more excitingly, I've gathered some of your lingering questions as well as the advice of my followers and clients to help anyone still struggling to aclimate their skin. There's a lot to cover, so without further ado:
My Top Tips for Dealing with Skin Issues in a Dry Climate
Prioritize Hydration - I know. I know. Everyone wants a sexier answer but this is really it. Three years has taught me just how important hydration is. I harp on it constantly, but it bears repeating. Water is at the root of all life and so it only makes sense that it is also at the root of all skin health. This is not just about dry flaking skin. If you live in a dry climate (or even if you don't) and you have acne, uneven skin tone or wrinkles, your skin is likely struggling with a hydration issue. If your skin lacks vibrance, plumpness, elasticity, or glow, it is likely that your skin is struggling with a hydration issue.
The answer is of course to drink lots of water to hydrate internally, but more importantly to apply hydrating products to the skin topically. Because the air is constantly stripping moisture from the skin in a dry climate, it's up to you to provide that line of defense by regularly putting moisture back in. A water-based moisturizer is a must. If you are worried about clogged pores and breakouts, look for a moisturizer that is "non-comedogenic" but don't skip this step!
DO Exfoliate - With very few exceptions which we'll talk about below, everyone should be exfoliating about 1-2x per week at home and about every 6-8 weeks with a professional treatment. At-home exfoliation can be done with a face scrub, peel pads, AHA /BHA cleanser or gentle cleansing brush. Professional treatment would involve dermaplaning, microdermabrasion or a peel of some sort. The important thing is to remove dead surface skin, so that your skin is encouraged to generate new healthy cells. It also helps ensure that products such as your moisturizer, can properly penetrate the skin and provide that much-needed hydration.
If your skin is feeling sensitive and reactive to products, that's when it's time to skip exfoliation as you might have already done too much with over-drying or stripping products and compromised your natural barrier. I talk about that more in the first version of this blog, so check that out if this is you!
Gentle is Better - Now. Just because I said to exfoliate does not mean I want you to go aggressive on your skin. In fact, that's the worst (and most common) mistake I see people making when caring for their skin in a dry climate. They reach for an acne cleanser full of potent acids and start using it daily. Or they slather on the highest percentage of retinol that a dermatologist will give them, when it's actually counterproductive.
What I've learned is that these tactics also don't really work. They only cause more inflammation and irritation to the skin. What does work, is making gentle progressive changes, focusing on healing the skin first. Address the hydration before anything else and the rest will likely work out on it's own without a need for completely resurfacing your face.
Also, I recommend a bit of patience. I've seen it take months and even the better part of a year for some clients to really adjust and figure out what works for their skin. Not to mention the transition of moving and the stress that comes with it. When you are patient and find your flow with it, the results are long-lasting.
Sun Protection is a Must - This is another one of those things that I'm always beating a dead horse about, but I can't stress it enough. Sun exposure without protection will exacerbate anything that is already out of balance in your skin. And we get a ton of sun exposure here.
A common complaint I hear from newish transplants, is the rapid aging effect that living in Colorado seems to have on their skin. They aren't crazy to notice this. Sun damage not only contributes to premature aging in the form of more fine lines but also sun spots. These are two things that can really age you, but the good news is that they are preventable if you wear SPF daily and re-apply diligently when out in the sun. I also recommend a good vitamin C or antioxidant product in your routine to help fight free radicals and protect the skin against further damage.
Face Oil + Moisturizer = Love - At the time of my first blog, I hadn't dabbled much in face oils. I have since come to see them as an important staple in the routine for dry climate skin care. I like oils such as jojoba or plant-based squalane, which are similar to your skin's natural sebum, and really help to nourish the skin. Even oily or acneic clients benefit from incorporating facial oils as they fight inflammation and balance out the skin's natural oil production. Facial oils also really help bolster and protect the skin against the elements. Something you definitely want, if you're skiing, hiking, camping, biking or just spending a lot of time outdoors.
My only caveat is that if you are using a face oil, you must also be sure you are using a water-based moisturizer so that you receive the benefits of not just oil but also water. You need both for the skin to create balance. Just like you need healthy fats and H20 in your diet, you need both things to nourish the skin topically. Combine the two components and your skin will be super happy.
Q&A Questions From My Instagram followers
What is the best way to moisturize in winter? Are Balms the way to go?
Moisturizing in winter is super important but you still have lots of options. I do think balms can be great as long as the ingredients are designed not to clog pores. They are perfect for chapped faces after skiing or being out in the cold for any reason.
I also like to layer products (just like clothes!) in winter. A good hydrating serum paired with a thick moisturizer and SPF in the day should provide you with plenty of protection. At night I like to layer on a restorative night cream with a bit of facial oil on top. As I sleep, the product all gets absorbed so my skin can rest and repair.
I have lived in Colorado my whole life and I still struggle with dry lips. Any tips?
This is a tough one. Most lip products simply aren't designed to actually moisturize or hydrate the lips. I would skip chapstick for the most part, as many of those can actually make your lips drier.
Instead, look for a good salve or balm. Ingredients to look for are oils like sunflower and avocado, shea and cocoa butter. It's also okay to gently exfoliate your lips from time to time, to help remove excess dryness. Just be mindful to avoid exfoliation when your lips are cracked or chapped or if you have a cold sore.
Should I use a retinol if my skin is already dry?
It has taken me some time to come around to retinol, but I do think there is some benefit to using a gentle percentage of retinol or retinol alternative such as beta-carotene, which is a more natural source of vitamin A. Using one of these products at night helps keep the skin exfoliating and shedding dead, dry cells on it's own. The trick I have learned, is to really pay attention to cues that your skin is getting stripped of too much moisture (such as flaking or sensitivity in certain areas) and back off as needed.
You may only want to apply a retinol product a handful of nights per week and ease your way in. I also like to go ahead and apply moisturizer after my retinol to ensure that excess dryness doesn't happen.
What kinds of masks do you recommend and how often?
I think masks are wonderful but not all of them are created equal. I see many clients still using drying clay masks, which I would avoid in a dry climate. Unless your skin is truly oily, I would avoid using these types of masks for anything but spot treatment (such as on a blemish or through the t-zone.)
Look for cream or gel masks that are designed to moisturize. I also love sheet masks for dry climate because they tend to be infused with all kinds of serums and hydrating products. You can even use the excess serum left behind by the mask, to do a little face massage and really work the hydration into the skin. Apply a thin layer of moisturizer afterwards and your skin will look dewy and radiant.
Real Advice: My Instagram followers share what has worked for them (and I agree with their tips!)
"Exfoliate, cleanse, tone and moisturize"
"Washing my face with oil and seeing an esthetician."
"Microdermabrasion, vitamin C in the morning topped by sun screen. I also use squalane oil for hydration. At night I was my face and apply retinol. I no longer use makeup and my face looks amazing."
"I survive with shea butter on my skin and rose water spray for my face constantly, even on my makeup."
"I use jojoba or apricot kernel oil on my face at night, usually infused with something from my garden."
So there you have it! I realize this has been a rather long blog and you've probably got lots of other cool Colorado stuff to get out and do, so thanks for reading! If you've still got questions or advice, drop me a line! I'd love to hear from you, because you just never know when there might be a need for Part III. Until next time!