life·10 min read

How to Transition to a Spring Skincare Routine, According to a Derm

Design: the Skimm | Photos: Amazon
Apr 7, 2022

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It’s finally time to peel off those sweatshirts, fold your cardigans, and give all of your layers a little springtime rest. Which means it’s also time to shed any dull, dry skin that may have built up during the colder winter months. And if you’re looking for that coveted dewy glow, we got ya covered too. We spoke with Dr. Nazanin Saedi, a Philadelphia-based dermatologist, to take the guesswork out of updating your skincare routine for the warmer months ahead. From gentle retinoids to an easier way to reapply sunscreen, we’ve rounded up the skincare essentials you need this spring. Okay, let’s glow. 

The Lowdown

“The most important thing is to acknowledge that your skin will change according to the humidity in the air,” says Saedi. She suggests switching to lighter products as opposed to the thicker creams you slather on during the winter. Why? Heavier creams are more likely to clog pores when combined with an increased amount of sweat and hotter temps.

She recommends upping retinoids, a vitamin A derivative that’s just shy of the strength of a prescription retinol. Both retinoids and retinols work by sinking deep into the skin to speed up cell turnover, stopping breakouts before they even start to form, and revealing fresher layers of skin. “Many people use retinoids less frequently in the winter because they can be too drying and irritating,” Saedi says. “In the warmer months, retinoids are better tolerated, and you can always add a moisturizer to soothe.” Just make sure if you’re acne-prone, that it’s a light moisturizer with hyaluronic acid. (A quick download on HA: It’s a molecule that naturally occurs in the body and can retain water like no other. That means more hydrated, plump skin.) 

“I definitely recommend exfoliators for the spring season, but not harsh scrubs that can damage your skin barrier. The goal is to exfoliate the dull skin that has accumulated all winter,” Saedi says. She prefers chemical exfoliators with gentle acids like salicylic (the tried-and-true active found in the acne cleansers you used in high school) and glycolic acid. Both are effective exfoliators, but if you’re more acne-prone, go with salicylic, which helps to stop excess sebum production. Most exfoliating products yield the best results when you use them consistently — meaning two to three times per week, not daily. Find what works for you. 

No matter what, more time outside means more sunscreen application (psst…here’s how to do it properly). Reapplying every two hours (yes, that’s right) is crucial, especially in the springtime when the sun doesn’t feel super strong but actually is.


A retinol to stop breakouts in their tracks…

What used to be a prescription acne product is now readily available over the counter. It works by sinking deep into pores and preventing breakouts before they even form by speeding up cell turnover. Color us impressed. Customers note that they did see an increase in breakouts before their skin cleared, so be prepared to weather the retinol purge period. ($12.78, Amazon)

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A gentle retinol serum perfect for beginners…

If you’re nervous about starting with a powerful retinol, dip your toes into the pool with this version made for sensitive skin. It’s packed with all-natural retinol alternatives that are less drying than traditional options, but will still refine the texture of your skin and prevent future breakouts. You can even sandwich this between layers of moisturizer to make it less potent if your skin is particularly reactive. ($21.97, Amazon)

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A pack of exfoliating pads gentle enough for sensitive skin…

Exfoliating skin that can react and get red quickly can be tricky. That’s why Saedi likes acids as opposed to harsh, grainy scrubs. These ‘swipeys’ are pre-soaked in lactic acid, a gentle AHA or alpha-hydroxy acid, the family of acids that contains both lactic and glycolic. If used regularly, they’ll eliminate any dry, rough texture leftover from the winter season. Plus, they’re formulated with essential oils to soothe and hydrate. ($35, Amazon)

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A TikTok-approved exfoliating toner…

It’s made with salicylic acid that will work to clear breakouts, shed dead skin on the surface of your face, and unclog pores. Yes, please. Press it in with your fingers or swipe onto clean skin with a cotton pad before serums or moisturizer. Customers say it can feel a bit sticky at first, so give it time to sink in. ($11+, Amazon)

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An exfoliating toner made with glycolic acid…

This incredibly affordable option is made with glycolic and amino acids to exfoliate, plus aloe to soothe. It’ll refine the texture of your skin without irritating or clogging your pores. Customers say it can even be used for dry, flaky skin on the scalp or body. ($10, Sephora)

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A sunscreen you can use on both your face and body…

Swipe this high SPF protection on and it will literally melt into your skin, leaving no white cast or greasy finish behind. It’s perfect for a day at the beach when you don’t want to carry multiple bottles in your bag. It’s oil-free, fragrance-free, and made with soothing spring thermal water. ($24.99+, Amazon)

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A foundation with SPF that will actually improve your skin…

All the best ingredients come together in this medium-coverage foundation. There’s hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, peptides, squalane, and vitamin B5. It’s like a second skin that hydrates, soothes, and protects. And we love to see that added boost of SPF. It also comes in too many shades to count, from very-light to rich-deep, so you’ll be able to find the perfect match. ($42, Sephora)

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A moisturizer that contains your daily sun protection…

If you’re looking for shortcuts in your skincare routine, this hydrating moisturizer will eliminate the need for an SPF layer on top (but you’ll still need to reapply). It’s oil-free and noncomedogenic (aka it won’t clog your pores), so you won’t look greasy after applying. It also has niacinamide, which will help soothe and calm any redness or irritation. ($12.49, Amazon)

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A powder sunscreen to brush on when you’re out and about…

Remember when we said you should be reapplying every two hours? Yeah, you should be. Stash this in your purse and apply a few quick swipes of this SPF 50 protection. It comes in three different skin shades, so you can find a match that will blend right into your makeup. The formula is completely mineral, which is great for sensitive and acne-prone skin. It will even protect against blue light and pollution damage. ($69, Amazon)

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Plus a few more helpful recs…

A face wash for instantly brighter skin…

Saedi loves this cleanser for its two hero ingredients: salicylic and glycolic acid. They both work to gently clean out pores and exfoliate the dead skin cells on your face’s surface. It also contains antioxidants like vitamin C and white-tea extract to brighten, but don’t worry — nothing here will strip your skin of its natural oils. Customers have said they noticed a difference after just one use. ($38, Amazon)

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A lightweight everyday moisturizer for hydrated skin…

This drugstore moisturizer is light enough to wear every day come springtime, but doesn’t skimp on hydration power. It’s mostly made of hyaluronic acid, but contains no added fragrances or dyes, so it’s safe for sensitive skin. It also has glycerin to really quench your skin. Dryness, be gone. ($16.85+, Amazon)

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A pack of pimple patches for your most stressful weeks…

Just pop one of these hydrocolloid patches on a problem spot overnight and get ready to wake up with a seriously reduced blemish. It’s also great for those of us who tend to anxiously pick at pimples: cover it up and nip that habit right in the bud. They also come in three sizes, depending on how big of an SOS your skin situation is. Customers say it’s most effective for pimples right at the surface, so the deep hormonal bumps might need more attention from a derm. ($13.50/4 pack, Amazon)

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A moisturizer that will literally drench your skin… 

It’s not called ‘cloud cream’ for nothing. This moisturizer has a gel-like consistency that’s pretty much the equivalent to a tall glass of water. It’s formulated with three different types of hyaluronic acid for maximum hydration. PS: It doesn’t contain any oils, fragrances, or alcohols. ($22+, Amazon)

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