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Fashionista Beauty Helpline: Do You Really Have to Change Your Moisturizer With the Seasons?

As our skin-care products smarten up and technology advances, are our routines falling behind the times?
Photo: Imaxtree

Photo: Imaxtree

Beauty editors and writers are used to getting late-night (or early-morning or literally 24-hours-a-day) texts with zero context and burning questions. No, we don't mean of the "U up?" variety. These inquiries are about skin freak-outs, product recommendations and makeup mishaps... and we've seen 'em all. With that in mind, we welcome you to our series, "Fashionista Beauty Helpline," where we address the beauty questions we get asked most frequently — and run them by experts who really know their stuff.

The beauty editor's "U up?"

The beauty editor's "U up?"

Anyone who's ever portioned out half a dozen different moisturizers into their own individual one-ounce containers for a long weekend away (oh, just me? Weird.) knows how important it is to be prepared for a catastrophe like a 20-degree drop in temperature or an unexpected bout of humidity. And despite what some TSA agents might say, that level of preparedness isn't all that crazy: We've long been told that we should change our skin-care products with the seasons to compensate for changes in the air and keep our complexions in check — think: a lighter moisturizer during the warmer months and a thicker, more emollient formula during colder months — but these days, that swap might not actually be necessary.

There seems to be a moisturizer for everything: one that can hydrate, tone, and shrink pores at a moment's notice; one that doesn't even notice your gender; another one that can singlehandedly fight pollution — you name it. So as our skin-care products smarten up and technology advances, are our routines falling behind the times?

"In the past, perhaps you may have seen a benefit by choosing moisturizers and cleansers according to the season," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai. "Nowadays, however, with advances in cosmetic chemistry and product formulation, that's not always the case: With so many well-formulated products on the market, your choice is determined by personal preference rather than necessity."

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But NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King says it's not all that simple: "It completely depends on your skin, your environment and what other skin products you're using," she explains. "If you have super-oily skin and live in [a humid area], then you may never need a moisturizer at all — or, a light moisturizing serum or lotion might suffice, even in the winter."

However, Dr. King says, if you tend to have dry skin or are using other products that make your skin drier, like a retinoid or an alpha hydroxy acid, then you probably need a thicker formula to keep skin from flaking — no matter the season. Conversely, "If you're particularly dry, that heavier moisturizer may work for you year-round."

There are a few exceptions, of course: Those with skin conditions like rosacea, eczema or cystic acne may find the same products that work well in the winter wreak havoc on their skin in the summer, and the decision to change up your routine should be done only with the counsel of an expert.

As for the rest of your routine: While Dr. Zeichner says you may be able to get away with the same cleanser year-round (both he and Dr. King recommend the Dove Beauty Bar), he says products like exfoliators or scrubs should be season-specific: "Harsh manual exfoliation or highly concentrated chemical exfoliators that contain alpha or beta hydroxy acids may be too much for the skin to tolerate during cold dry months," he says. "Instead, cut back or hold off all together on exfoliating my skin with harsh products."

In short: The push to swap out you skin-care might be a marketing ploy, but the key is to listen to your skin. Ahead, 13 hydrating moisturizers that are a reliable choice all year 'round.

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