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Ask A Dermatologist: Can I Use Tretinoin In Winter?

If you’ve spent all summer and autumn perfecting your skincare routine and getting your skin used to active ingredients, you might have a few questions now that winter has arrived. Can you keep using your tretinoin, and how should you adapt your skincare routine for the chilly months? We spoke to our in-house Dermatologists Dr Jason Thomson and Dr Malvina Cunningham to get their cold weather advice, so you can keep your skin healthy and happy all winter long.

Can I use active ingredients in winter/cold weather?

As the temperature drops, you might notice that your skin is changing a little. “Cold weather and reduced relative humidity means that our skin is generally more prone to dryness and sensitivity,” explains Dr Jason. 

So, should you stop using your active ingredients? Well, the good news is that you can often offset irritation by upgrading your supporting skincare routine instead. We’re not suggesting a major overhaul (we’re still skinamalists at heart) but it is worth tweaking your regime when the temperatures start to drop. 

Skin barrier-friendly cleansers and hydrating formulas that lock in all-important moisture will keep your complexion radiant, while continuing to use tretinoin to work on your skin goals – long after the festivities have fizzled out. So, if you want to soothe winter-worn skin, here’s our selection of cold weather-ready recommendations. 

The best cleansers for winter

A gentle cleanser will support your skin during winter, giving it a deep cleanse without compromising its protective barrier. Look for options that are ideally fragrance-free, marked as ‘cream’ or ‘hydrating’ and water-soluble to preserve your skin barrier without drying out or irritating your skin. 

We created the Skin + Me Purify + Prep Cleansers specifically to work alongside active ingredients. If you’re noticing that your skin is drier in the winter months, then you might want to swap your Clarifying Cleanser for the Hydrating version. It’s packed with nourishing ingredients including glycerin, a humectant that keeps skin cells healthy and protects against irritation.

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser or Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Cleanser are also derm-approved picks that work well alongside active ingredients. Other top-rated cleansers loved by the team include Avene Tolerance Extreme Cleanser, La Roche Posay Effaclar H Cleanser, Paula’s Choice Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser and if you have very dry skin, Clinique Take the Day Off Balm Cleanser.

The best moisturisers for winter

A hardworking moisturiser is key in repairing your skin barrier and allowing your active ingredients to work most effectively. As the weather gets colder, you may want to swap your moisturiser for a slightly richer formula. Look for one that hydrates your skin and doesn’t clog your pores, especially if your skin has a tendency to break out.

If you’re using our Skin + Me Soothe + Smooth Light Moisturiser, you might want to consider switching to the Rich version. It has all the ingredients you know and love – hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin – with the addition of nourishing shea butter. This rich emollient regenerates, protects and soothes the skin, making it the perfect pick for your winter skincare routine. 

If your skin type is oily, then you could also try La Roche Posay Toleriane Sensitive Fluid or Paula’s Choice Clear Oil-Free Moisturiser. Our derms recommend La Roche Posay Toleriane or Skinceuticals Redness Neutraliser for combination skin.

Expert picks for normal or dry skin include Avene Skin Recovery Cream and Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Moisturiser or La Roche Posay Effaclar H Cream.

Wearing sunscreen in winter

We’re big advocates of sunscreen all year round – even in the depths of winter. “Winter sunlight can be strong, particularly when at altitude and near reflective surfaces such as snow so you should definitely protect exposed skin in these situations,” Dr Jason explains. 

But why is it so important to wear sunscreen, even if it’s snowy, rainy or cloudy? “Sun protection is one of the most important, and beneficial things you can do for maintaining your skin’s health,” Dr Jason continues. “UV damage is the biggest contributor to skin ageing (around 80%), so regularly applying a high factor (at least SPF30), broad-spectrum sunscreen every day is essential.”

Some active ingredients, including tretinoin and azelaic acid, can increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, so it’s ultra important to shield your skin if you’re using a powerful treatment. 

That’s why we designed our Skin + Me Daily Defence Oil-free SPF 50 Sunscreen specifically to work alongside active ingredients. It won’t interfere with your treatment, and it’s an acne-safe formulation that dries down clear, without leaving a white cast. It’s also formulated with vitamin E and niacinamide to nourish your skin all year round, so you can be protected come rain or shine.Other dermatologist-approved SPFs for everyday wear include Heliocare 360 Gel Oil-Free SPF 50, Heliocare Advanced XF Gel SPF 50 and La Roche Posay Anthelios Shaka Fluide SPF 50. We also love Glossier’s Invisible Shield SPF 35.

Final thoughts

You can protect your skin and minimise irritation when using active ingredients this winter with a few simple skincare swaps. However, if your skin is feeling really unhappy in the cold, you should get in touch with your dermatology clinician for advice – your treatment might need to be slightly tweaked. Skin + Me members can email the experts at at any time for advice on their formulation. Armed with the right routine, your daily forecast will be fresh and glowing – whatever the weather.

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