Winter Acne Is Surprisingly Common As The Weather Cools. Here's How To Clear It Up

September 24, 2019

It’s practically impossible to avoid the wintertime dry skin woes (unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to live somewhere close to the Equator). But dryness and redness aren’t the only skin issues that tend to crop up in fall and winter. If you’ve ever experienced sudden breakouts as the temperature starts to drop, you’re not alone—I’m in the same boat.

The first time I noticed my acne getting visibly worse just as the leaves started to change color, I was a bit confused. After all, if my skin felt dry and flakey, why was I breaking out? It seemed contradictory. But as it turns out, the lack of humidity in the air that causes your skin to dry out can also prompt your skin to start overproducing oil. This is meant to compensate for the dryness and bring you back to a nice equilibrium—but it can also result in clogged pores and frustrating breakouts.

Plus, let’s be honest with ourselves—as the holiday season approaches, we often end up slacking on our healthy habits. Maybe you’ve been eating plenty of fresh fruits, veggies, and salads all summer, but now, it’s the season for Halloween candy, seasonal baked goods, and absolutely anything pumpkin spice flavored. The idea of dragging yourself out of bed for an early morning yoga class to de-stress is far less enticing now that it’s dark and chilly when you wake up. And most of us end up spending far more time inside and out of the sunlight, but sunlight acts as a natural antibacterial, helping keep your skin clearer all summer (although the UV damage means it’s not a good long-term acne treatment).

Basically, it’s a perfect recipe for acne. Luckily, I’ve figured out a few practices that help keep it at bay. Here are a couple of tactics that have worked for me when that dreaded wintertime acne starts creeping up.

1. Stay super hydrated.

It sounds a little cliche, but it’s true: healthy skin starts from within. Since it’s so easy to end up struggling with dry skin in the wintertime, it’s important to remember to stay hydrated. This oft-repeated skincare advice is even more crucial in winter! Drink a big glass of water in the morning when you wake up, before you have your coffee or tea, and keep a water bottle with you at work during the day. When the weather gets cooler, we don’t always remember to drink as much water as we should, so making a conscious effort is key.

2. Use a gentle moisturizer.

Back in my swim team days, I used to reach for Cetaphil moisturizer to soothe my chronically dry skin—it was an affordable drugstore option that helped combat the harsh effects of the chlorine in the pool. Now, I just use aloe during the summer months (I was crunchy enough to buy a big aloe plant in June so I could get it straight from the source and never run out), and in the winter, I like the Vichy Mineral 89 Face Serum with Hyaluronic Acid. A little bit of this serum goes a loooong way, so I just use a dab for my whole face. It’s one of the few products that doesn’t irritate my skin, and I notice a major reduction in redness and spots after just one use.

Vichy serum with hyaluronic acid is great for acnegenic skin


3. Skip strong spot treatments.

Tea tree oil is my personal spot treatment of choice, but when the cold winter air dries out my skin, I need to go easy on it. During the wintertime, I recommend using the gentlest spot treatment you can find that still gives you the results you want without exacerbating your acne. For me, this means using a minimal amount of tea tree oil on a problem area every couple of days—any more than that, and it simply makes my acne worse. If your skin is already very dry, spot treatments with high levels of active ingredients probably won’t have the intended effect—stick with something for more sensitive skin, or space out your usage.

4. Go easy on sugar and refined carbs.

It’s not a myth—there is a connection between consuming sugar and refined carbohydrates, like white bread, cookies, and cakes (yes, even the vegan kind) and breakouts. Naturally, it’s not easy to resist these goodies around this time of year. Pies from the farmer’s market, caramel apples, gingerbread cookies, bite-size candy bars, pumpkin spice cupcakes smothered in icing…they’re all so tempting. But if you notice a connection between your sugar intake and your acne, it might be time to cut back. Saving these sugary snacks for real treats makes them taste even better.


Have you experienced increased breakouts in cold weather?

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Jane Harkness is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. She writes about veganism, travel, and wellness, and her writing has been published on platforms like Thought Catalog, Student Universe, The Financial Diet, and Wholesome Culture. She blogs daily on Medium, and you can check out more of her work on her website.


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