Our largest body organ, our skin, needs a lot more care than we usually offer it. It rings close to home for us moms – we spend lots of time outdoors and our hands are constantly exposed to water. So even though we rarely have the time for ourselves, there are a few simple things we can do to protect our skin. Moisturizing, drinking lots of water, exercising and eating a diet rich in antioxidants and omega 3s, are some of the elements. Here’s our simple guide to skin care in every season.
Summer: Sun and Water
Yes, we all love the summer with its sunny days, so we spend tons of time outside. You get a healthy dose of crucial vitamin D, but you also get some dangerous ultraviolet rays. “Damage from the sun is unequivocally one of most aging elements as related to skincare”, says Wright. Your best defense is using sunblock every day, wearing a hat and staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. As to SPF, Dr. Bobbi Edwards from Michigan S.K.I.N. Associates in Souhfield, Michigan, tells us to use SPF 30 and reapply every 3 hours. “For the face, look for sunscreen specifically designed for the face. Facial products should say they are non-comedogenic (i.e. won’t clog pores & cause acne)”, recommends Dr. Edwards. She suggests not applying sunscreen near the eyes not to cause stinging, and instead wearing UV-blocking sunglasses to protect the eyes and prevent crow’s feet from the sun. “Note that some people have a tendency to tan rather than burn, so they may need a lower SPF solution”, says Molly Wierman, President & Managing Esthetician from Flourish Wellness Spa in Maple Grove, Minnesota. “Those who are fairer-skinned need a higher SPF as their skin typically burns faster. A happy medium for all is SPF 15-30.”
The warm weather is a natural incentive to spend a lot of time in the water, which can dry out your skin. Moms are surely familiar with this having to do the bathing, diapering, washing, cleaning and laundry. So what can you do to help? Wearing gloves when you do the water-related chores is your best defense. When you can’t (bathing your child, for example), Dr. Edwards recommends avoiding hot water and moisturizing hands frequently, especially with an ointment-based hand moisturizer. Ashley Beckman of Golden Path Academy likes hand masks for this situation.
“You can always make your own scrub or hydrating treatment at home. Think avocado, honey, olive oil….Yum!”.
Dry weather can be a tough offender in the summer months too. Ashley Beckman suggests using a good facial serum or moisturizer that is oil based and contains rich, nurturing oils such as coconut, rosehip seed, sea buckthorn, jojoba and almond oil, which are very hydrating.
Winter: Dry and Flaky
Everyone is familiar with how dry and flaky your skin gets in the winter time. Using a rich moisturizer is an obvious choice, but there are a few other steps you can take.
First, hydrate by consuming a lot of water and water-based foods. At the same time, work out, so the sweat and improved blood circulation helps your dry skin and also motivates you to drink more water.
Second, exfoliate. Exfoliation is a tool that’s good year-round to avoid breakouts, eliminate dead skin cells and maintain skin elasticity. It seems that most women are on board with moisturizing yet few exfoliate on a regular basis. I love the comparison made by Molly Wierman: “I always tell my clients that apply treatment products to skin that has been cleansed, but not exfoliated is like waxing a car that hasn’t been washed.” Without exfoliation, all the dirt and toxins are trapped along with the dead skin cells as our skin is shedding. Since there are different skin types, you can’t really pinpoint one type of exfoliation product. You will have to experiment with the scrubs until you find one that keeps the skin smooth without causing breakouts. However, you are better off with types that have fine sand-like granules. For the face, Wierman recommends a chemical exfoliant, an acid, enzyme or vitamin – you get both the skin smoothing results and brighten your skin tone, not to mention skin firming (less lines and wrinkles). Lee Wright, founder and owner of Ma Mi Natural Skincare, adds that some forms of exfoliation can be drying to the skin so “if you have dryer skin you want to do it less often, maybe twice a week instead of five times a week; doing it less in the drier winter months will help. I believe that exfoliating with the natural glycolic or salicylic acids is the best method”.
Some people suffer from dry and flaky skin all the time and so it gets even worse during the winter. Dr. Edwards recommends using moisturizing bar soaps or body washes when bathing, using warm, not hot, water, and applying a moisturizer right after the shower when the skin is still damp. “Look for moisturizers that contain ceramides, which assist in repairing the outer skin layers and help to retain water within the skin”, says Dr. Edwards.
Mild seasons: not the time to relax
It seems that winter’s dry air and summer’s sun exposure are the key offenders to the skin. However, you should be alert year-round. “Both men and women often forget about sun exposure as an all-year issue, attributing their exposure to summer months only”, says Dr. Stacey Silvers, MD, a renowned New York plastic surgeon. Many stop paying attention to the skin during the off seasons. “Good moisturizing and sun protection all year long keeps skin young and healthy as we age”, adds Dr. Silvers.
“Adhering to a consistent regimen of less sun and more moisturizing is a good program through the summer and into the fall.”
Molly Wierman identifies periods of winter thaw your skin goes through depending on your climate. “In Northern climates the oil levels ease their way back to a regular balance but the dehydration symptoms tend to still be working against us. Each change of season has its own difficulties. In the spring it’s best to up exfoliation levels, make sure to keep on top of water intake and adjust sunscreen levels for added outdoor exposure.”, says Wierman.
Pregnancy – a season of its own
Your skin undergoes serious changes during and after pregnancy, so we decided to look at the positives and negatives and ask the experts.
First, during pregnancy you probably noticed how few of your old skincare products you can use, so we asked the experts which skincare products pregnant women should avoid. Lee Wright says both pregnant and breastfeeding moms should avoid products with Salicylic Acid. “Some studies have shown that it is safer to stick with Glycolic Acid during these times”, says Wright. It is in your best interest to find natural products (Ma Mi Natural Skincare, for example) free of elements that can affect your hormonal balance. Molly Wierman suggests you also stay away from Vitamin A (Retinol, Renova, Retinyls, etc) and hydroquinone. Ashley Beckman adds, “The most common toxins to avoid are parabens, laurel sulfates, phthalates, petrochemicals (mineral oil, paraffin, 1,4 dioxane just to name a few), pesticides, propylene glycols or any of their many derivatives. No irradiated herbs, GMO’s, soy, wheat, synthetic fragrance, urea, EDTA, artificial colors, alkoxylated amides (such as TEA, DEA, MEA and MIPA) mercury, placenta, lead acetate, hydroquinone, synthetic emollients (such as PEG compounds), synthetic alcohols, silicones, artificial colors or synthetic preservatives. Basically if you can’t read the label and recognize the ingredients then you probably do not want to put it on your skin. Your skin absorbs 60% of what you put on it. If you want more detailed info go to SafeCosmetics.org“. The smart thing to do is to always check with your OB on any medications, including creams, during pregnancy and nursing.
Then, the much-dreaded post-pregnancy stretch marks. Can anything be done about them? “There is no topical cream that will be able to get rid of stretch marks completely, but certain topical creams/serums , like Ma Mi Stretch Mark Serum will help the skin heal and reduce the appearance of the stretch marks”, says Wright. And most experts agree there isn’t much you can do about the stretch marks. Dr. Edwards recommends consulting with a plastic surgeon for laser resurfacing of the affected skin. “Laser treatment can produce good results, but, as with any cosmetic procedure, can be expensive.” Before any surgery, however, consider prevention. Throughout your pregnancy, use a vitamin E rich cream or an organic essential oil on all the areas that may be expanding and it will help with that.
On the other hand, everyone is familiar with that much desired pregnancy glow. How do you get to keep it? Not too difficult, as it turns out. Using all natural products, hydrating a lot, getting your blood pumping more (the key process during pregnancy) through exercise, and sleep (whenever you can get it). Additionally, acid-based products can help rejuvenate skin turnover and complexion. Dr. Edwards suggests alpha hydroxy acid home products and/or in-office chemical peels to maintain a healthy, radiant glow. If you stop and think for a second about pregnancy, you realize that the glow is not just skincare. “Beauty comes from within, most women don’t realize that. The topical potions and lotions we use only compliment what’s coming out from inside us.”, says Molly Wierman.
5-minute Skincare Regimen for a busy mom