How To Stop Your Acne From Freaking Out This Fall

Illustrated by Jessica Marak.
Fall seems like an especially good time for those with acne-prone skin: Less sweat means fewer clogged pores, which means fewer breakouts, right? Well, not exactly.
Aside from the stress of school and work that can cause breakouts, the seasonal shift can also contribute to acne, along with increased dryness. “As the seasons change and the weather becomes cooler, all skin types may start to feel more dry and even sensitive,” says dermatologist Shilesh Iyer, MD, of the New York Dermatology Group.
As the weather cools down, the wind picks up, and the heater turns on, now’s the perfect time to go through your medicine cabinet and swap in products that will soothe and protect your skin. Check out the pros' picks for every skin type, ahead.
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Keeping pores clean is essential to maintaining a blemish-free complexion, which includes exfoliating often. Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, suggests that those with acne-prone skin should scrub just once a week to avoid irritation.

But it’s not just how often you exfoliate that’s important; it's also what you’re using to get rid of that dead skin before it settles into your pores. If you have sensitive skin, Dr. Iyer, like fellow dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain, recommends avoiding strong chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, and retinoids. “These active ingredients act by pharmacologically exfoliating the skin which can have beneficial effects on acne but can increase epidermal water loss and further exacerbate problems of dryness and irritation," Dr. Iyer says.

The same should be said for physical exfoliators like face scrubs formulated with nut shells, as they can further dry out skin and even create micro-tears in the skin.
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La Roche-Posay's scrub uses finely-ground pumice particles to slough off dead skin, while its antioxidant thermal spring water soothes any inflammation, making it a great option for those with sensitive skin.

La Roche-Posay Ultra Fine Scrub, $17.99, available at Target.
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This scrub does double-duty to not only slough off dead skin cells before they clog your pores, but it also brightens skin with a dose of vitamin C for a clear and radiant complexion.

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Foaming Scrub, $9.99, available at Ulta.
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Don’t want to exfoliate at the sink or in the shower? Simply add a few drops of the Glow Tonic to a cotton pad after cleansing to wipe your way to a flawless face.

Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic, $15, available at Target.
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Oily and acne-prone skin types are usually told to use light gel moisturizers to reduce the risk of clogging pores. But the script can — and should — be flipped during the fall and winter. “Cooler weather slows down sebum production, and weather conditions, [like] heaters inside, cold outside, wind, etc., [which] leaves skin more sensitive,” says Dr. Golueke.

If you’re worried about picking the right product for your skin type, you can switch over to sensitive skin formulas. But regardless of which kind of moisturizer you pick up, make sure it’s one that includes an SPF.
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Dermatologist Carlos Charles, MD, of New York’s Derma di Colore, suggests adding cream-based moisturizers rich in ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help replace natural fats that may be missing from the outer skin layer and to protect the skin’s moisture barrier, which can be affected by the dry air and wind.

CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion, $16.49, available at Ulta.
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Dr. Charles regularly recommends this sunscreen to his patients, as it not only provides protection without clogging pores, but also comes in a tinted version to mask any redness or dark marks.

Elta MD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40, $29, available at Dermstore.
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This sunscreen sinks into skin to protect without adding shine, so it's great for oily skin types.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin SPF 60 Sunscreen, $19.99, available at Ulta.
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The need for moisture doesn’t end when the sun goes down — it’s actually more important to keep skin hydrated at night, since that’s when it repairs itself. Dermatologists also recommend getting a humidifier to combat the dry heat. But if you don’t have the money or the space for one, you can hang a damp shower towel in your room to keep the air and your skin moist.
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The derms say that heavier moisturizers with anti-inflammatory properties (that are noncomedogenic and oil-free, of course) are great to slather on before bed to help keep down inflammation.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, $10.93, available at Walmart.
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You won't have to worry about waking up with parched skin after slathering on CeraVe's cream, as the formula delivers a continuous punch of hyaluronic acid and ceramides to the skin over a 24-hour period.

CeraVe Moisturizing Skin Cream, $15.49, available at Walgreens.
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If your moisturizer isn't cutting it, you can take the Tyra Banks approach and apply a very thin layer of Vaseline over your skin to lock in moisture. But it's only recommended in extreme cases. “Ingredients like petrolatum [found in Vaseline] form a protective layer over the skin to prevent loss of hydration and allow the skin to heal itself,” said Dr. Zeichner.

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, $5.24, available at Rite Aid.
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If you’re dealing with a bad breakout or a surprise spot, you want it to disappear as quickly as it arrived. But some of the spot treatments that worked like a dream during the summer might feel harsher on skin during the fall. “Depending on your skin type, some acne treatments may be better tolerated than others and dermatologists will often switch your regimen from drying gels and solutions to more moisturizing vehicles such as lotions and creams,” says Dr. Iyer.

But just because the seasons change doesn’t mean that your spot treatments are any less effective in banishing breakouts. In fact, Dr. Zeichner says you shouldn’t have to switch if you already have an acne or spot treatment that your skin can handle year-round without stressing it out further. “Make sure that you are using a moisturizer along with these ingredients as they may cause more irritation when it is dry outside,” he says.
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Aside from trying more hydrating formulas, Dr. Golueke suggests using a zinc-based spot treatment to zap the zit without irritating the rest of your face.

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, $17, available at Ulta.
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If you're scared that your zit cream will wipe off onto your pillow overnight, these handy stickers shrink even the deepest-rooted zits and don't budge for hours.

Peace Out Acne Healing Dots, $19, available at Sephora.
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If you have a big bad zit pop up before a night out, this cream from Clearasil will help it disappear in mere hours, thanks to the 10% benzoyl peroxide in the formula.

Clearasil Ultra-Rapid Action Vanishing Treatment Cream, $7.59
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