ILLUSTRATED BY ISABEL CASTILLO.
Shorter days, a cool breeze, and a radiator sputtering to life can only mean one thing: Fall is upon us. But it’s not all hayrides and apple picking. That chill in the air can also mean changes to your skin. We’re talking flaky patches, mystery breakouts, and the sudden appearance of sun damage, which is not a summer memento we want to hold on to.

Don’t start planning your move to a warmer climate just yet — we’ve got a 30-day plan to help you take action. Thanks to expert advice from dermatologists Dr. Jeanine B. Downie, MD, and Dr. Michele S. Green, MD, aesthetician Molly Lamb, and some key products from Murad, you can literally weather this storm. That means you can focus more on picking pumpkins and less on poking at your pores.

WEEK 1: Tackle Breakouts
ILLUSTRATED BY ISABEL CASTILLO.
1. Do a shelf evaluation. Take a good, hard look at your current skin-care routine, including the ingredients in the products you’re using. Are there potential irritants, like high levels of alcohol or menthol? Acne is an inflammatory condition, so anything that could possibly sting or aggravate your skin will harm, not help, your existing breakouts. Toss products that burn or tingle—that’s not the sensation you need.

2. Show acne who's boss.

3. Use soothing ingredients. The world of skin-care science has blessed us with some pretty potent acne fighters, but these treatments can act as double-edged swords: As effective as they are, they’re also fairly irritating, inflaming skin and making breakouts worse. To keep your skin calm while it’s in combat mode, look for products that combine treatments with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, like Murad Clarifying Cleanser. It has salicylic acid, an effective exfoliant that helps rid skin of pore-clogging cells, plus green tea extract, which guards against irritation.

4. Put your mechanical cleansing brush on hiatus. If you’re prone to breakouts, especially of the cystic variety, a brush is too harsh. Plus, with that fall chill in the air, your skin may be more sensitive than usual. “If you must brush,” Dr. Downie says, “limit it to twice a week and use your non-dominant hand, so you won’t press as hard.”

5. Don’t forsake your moisturizer. While most of us deal with skin issues as the seasons change, dryness isn’t the only symptom — oil production can also go into overdrive. (Though the acne-prone among us know this is a year-round delight.) But one of the most common misconceptions is that oily skin doesn’t need a moisturizer. Wrong! Oil and moisture aren’t the same thing and your skin still needs hydration to function at its best. The most effective way to tackle oily skin is with blotting sheets and mattifying products. The rest of your routine (cleansing, exfoliating, moisturizing) should stay the same.

6. Baby your brushes. Dirty makeup brushes can often be secret culprits behind bad skin. Think about it: You’re loading them up with product every day, sweeping them all over your skin, and likely tossing them back into a grimy makeup bag. It’s a bacteria-ridden cycle. Break out of it by giving your brushes a pampering bath at least once per week. Gently swirl the bristles in a bowl of warm, soapy water (baby shampoo works wonders here — we weren’t kidding about the babying part). Then, rinse and lay brushes flat on a towel to dry, so water doesn't seep into the handles and damage them.

7. Make over your makeup. While we’re on the subject, there are certain makeup formulas that aren’t ideal for breakout-prone skin. Solid products (like stick foundations and cream blushes) usually contain waxy ingredients that can clog pores. Opt for oil-free whenever possible.

8. Go hands-free. Both your cell phone and your hands themselves can be sneaky breakout-causers. If you apply lotion and then touch your face, you’re introducing all that extra oil to your skin. The same goes for your phone — when it’s pressed up against your ear, it can be a magnet for dirt and bacteria. Give it a daily wipe-down and make it your mission to keep your hands away from your face.

WEEK 2: Find Your New Routine
ILLUSTRATED BY ISABEL CASTILLO.
9. Put your skin on a schedule. Even if you’re not heading back to school anymore, fall is still the perfect time to get organized. Assign yourself a day for masks, a day for exfoliation, and establish an everyday routine. This helps you stay loyal to your skin-care regimen and reduces the risk of overwhelming your skin with too many potent products.

10. Order is essential. The general rule of thumb is to apply skin-care products from thinnest to thickest. That is, water-soluble formulas, like toners and essences, followed by serum, then moisturizer, and then a retinoid if you use one. Since you typically apply the most products at night, space out your routine to give skin a chance to breathe and let products sink in. Apply one step, then slip into your PJs. Come back and do the next step. Brush your teeth...you get the idea.

11. Maintain freshness. If you’re holding on to any old products, Dr. Green suggests tossing skin care that is more than two years old — the active ingredients lose potency.

12. Consider a new cleanser. Step away from bar soap! Any cleanser that is super foamy can have a tendency to be drying. If the cooler temps are also making your skin feel dryer than normal, switch to a gentle, water-soluble cleanser with a lotion-like texture. It’ll remove dirt, oil, and makeup without stripping your skin of moisture.

13. Amp up your moisturizer. If breakouts aren’t your struggle (lucky you!), but your usual moisturizer doesn’t seem to be getting the job done, you may need a more emollient formula. Rich creams have a higher concentration of humectants, so they’re able to grab more moisture from the air to hydrate your skin, Dr. Downie explains.

14. Strive for teamwork. Some ingredients work better together. One especially winning combination is antioxidants plus sunscreen. Including antioxidants within sunscreens helps them remain stable, so they don’t decompose when exposed to UV rays (meaning they stay effective longer). Check out the video below to learn more about how to work them into your regimen.

15. Prevent skin sabotage.
16. Make protection a priority. Sunscreen isn’t just for summer — applying it should be a year-round habit. Even if it isn’t sunny, those damaging UV rays are still out there. But as you transition from lazy days on the beach back to a busy fall, who wants to think about that extra step in their regimen? To make it easier, look for a multi-tasking product that combines SPF with other benefits, like Murad Invisiblur Perfecting Shield Broad Spectrum SPF 30. It works as a primer-slash-blurring cream, giving your skin a flattering, soft-focus finish. Wear it on its own for a smoother allover texture, or use it to prime your skin for foundation.

WEEK 3: Get Climate Control
ILLUSTRATED BY ISABEL CASTILLO.
17. Assess your post-summer skin. If you’re noticing a few more freckles than you thought, it’s likely a result of the accumulated sun exposure you’ve gotten over the past few summers, which causes the body to produce extra melanin. A serum featuring hydroquinone, a powerful spot-lightening ingredient, can help undo this damage and brighten skin overall. One with glycolic acid, like Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum, also helps to gently exfoliate, enabling the hydroquinone to penetrate deeper.

18. Make sure your water is just right. When it’s cold outside and you’re struggling to get your core temperature up, hot water might seem like the only solution. But those comforting splashes are stripping skin of natural, nourishing oils. Don’t rush to turn the tap to cold, either. “Cold water doesn’t clean as well and it closes pores,” Dr. Green warns. The ideal temp is tepid — warm enough that you’re leaving pores open to clean them out, but cool enough that you’re not drying your skin.

19. Speed up your routine. Speaking of water, a hot, leisurely shower or bathtub soak is not the best idea, even if you’re freezing. Too much water of any temperature is bad for the skin, because it can break down its surface layers.

20. Invest in a humidifier. Humidity is the ultimate frenemy. Depending on the season, it’s the reason for frizz, grease, and general allover swampiness. But in fall, a bit of humidity can be your BFF. “Cold-weather skin sensitivity is all about humidity shortage,” says Dr. Downie. “The cold air outside is naturally low-humidity and [the heat inside] saps moisture out of the air. Exposure to all this dryness depletes your skin’s moisture.” Humidifiers help by adding a controlled dose of water vapor back into your environment, which skin gladly soaks up to stay hydrated.

21. Free yourself of flakes. If the cold weather makes your skin rough and flaky, don’t just rely on moisturizer in an attempt to hydrate. Layer a lotion containing salicylic acid underneath your moisturizer a few times a week. It’ll help slough away those built-up skin cells that are causing you to flake.

22. Multi-moisturize. You may have heard of multi-masking, where you apply various face masks to different zones on your face, depending on your needs. You can also do the same with your moisturizer. If you have an oily T-zone, but your cheeks get dry in the chillier weather, go for a lightweight gel for your T-zone and a thicker cream for the rest.

23. Hydrate from the inside out. You know you need to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated, but sipping water throughout the day keeps your skin functioning optimally, too. “We excrete waste through our skin,” Dr. Green explains. “Dehydration hinders that process, which leads to a sallow, unhealthy complexion.” But that eight 8-oz. glasses per day rule isn’t for everyone. The amount of water you should drink varies by your activity level and size. For example, if you exercise intensely and sweat a lot, you’ll need to drink more water to compensate.

WEEK 4: Treat Yourself
ILLUSTRATED BY ISABEL CASTILLO.
24. Get a little misty. While the chilly air outside can be hard enough on your skin, transitioning from cold air to the blasting heat indoors is like doubling down on dryness. To help, try Lamb’s homemade antidote: Mix a few drops of rosewater and lavender oil into six ounces of water to make your own hydrating mist. “Rose has essential fatty acids that hydrate and give skin buoyancy,” Lamb says.

25. Throw your skin a tea party.
Once a week, soak a cloth in chilled green tea and place it on your face. “Your skin will absorb the antioxidants in the tea,” says Lamb, which helps to fight off damaging free radicals. “Plus, the caffeine constricts blood vessels for a de-puffing effect,” she adds. Good to know if you’ve had a night of too much hard cider.

26. Soothe yourself. Irritation comes from many sources — excessive dryness, too much sun, an annoying subway commute. Whatever the cause, good old milk can actually be a fast fix for redness. Soak a thin towel in cold whole milk, then lie back and apply it to your skin. “The fats in milk are moisturizing, producing an anti-inflammatory effect,” says Dr. Green.

27. Supplement your skin care. Flaxseed oil contains anti-inflammatory acids that reduce the skin’s adverse reaction to irritants, meaning less redness and dryness.

28. Eat your way to amazing skin. Omega-3 fatty acids — found in almonds, salmon, herring, and trout — have been reported to reinforce cell membranes, which hold in water. The result: plumper, softer, smoother skin.

29. Switch energy sources. If you get your usual morning kick from caffeine, be mindful of the fact that it can be dehydrating. Swap out your latte every so often for green tea — it has less caffeine than coffee, but will still give you that much-needed energy boost. Bonus: It’s loaded with antioxidants, so it’s doing even more good for your skin.

30. Don’t only focus on your face.
Your poor neck, chest, and hands get as much exposure to the environment as your face, but are often overlooked in skin care. As you go about your regular routine, squeeze out a little extra of each product, so you can extend it down to your neck and chest, and finish by rubbing the remainder into your hands.

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