There are many reasons to be grateful for autumn – Halloween, the ability to guzzle red wine with impunity (it’s been scientifically proven to insulate against the impending cold don’t you know.), and the return of Downton Abbey are but a few causes for celebration. But the end of summer also spells trouble for our appearance, thanks to shorter days and plummeting temperatures.
From acne to psoriasis and eczema, all kinds of nasty existing skin conditions worsen during the autumn and winter months, while fluctuating temperatures as we scurry in from the cold to our toasty homes, deprive the skin of moisture, promoting dryness, redness and fine lines.
[Related: Post-summer skincare essentials]
The lack of sunlight in autumn also wreaks havoc with our complexion. In the summer, a moderate amount of exposure to ultraviolet rays is essential for keeping the skin healthy and alleviating the symptoms of psoriasis and acne, for example. But the scarcity of ultraviolet rays in winter tends to have the opposite effect.
So what can be done to achieve healthy, happy skin this autumn? Getting into a regular skincare routine is key, says Claudia GF Louch of the Natural Dermatology Clinic on Harley Street.
“The bottom line during winter is TLC for your skin. Always moisturise before leaving the house and reapply when needed if you have very dry skin,” she advises.
“Once a week, use a deep hydrating facemask for an added boost. Avoid creams containing retinoids which may irritate the skin, especially during the winter when it gets drier, and don’t use any harsh peels.”
Look for non-clogging face and body oils, such as avocado, primrose and almond, and consider placing a few small humidifiers around the house to help disperse moisture evenly.
[Related article: How to boost your immune system this autumn]
What you eat is all over your face
All right not literally, but diet plays an important role in protecting your skin against the elements, with plenty of protein and fresh fruit and veg crucial in ensuring good dermatological health.
“Apples contain 40mg of vitamin C, which covers the daily adult requirement, so make sure to eat one a day,” says Claudia.
She also recommends seasonal foods, such as pears, potatoes and cabbage, for their vitamin C-giving properties, as well as carrots.
“Carrots contain carotenoids, which provide natural vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that’s important for skin health. Eat oily fish for its anti-inflammatory Omega 3s – these help keep our skin smooth and elastic – plus a healthy serving of protein from eggs and lean meat for their amino acid content – the very building blocks of our skin cells. Avoid fried and junk food, and try to prepare as much as possible yourself.”
Eczema and psoriasis sufferers should cut down on their alcohol intake and avoid smoking to prevent flare-ups of symptoms (there goes the red wine theory). When wrapping up against the cold, choose layers made from natural plant fibres such as cotton (wool can itch and irritate the skin) and always take gloves and socks off immediately after coming in from the rain, as wet garments can aggravate eczema. If it's sore, yoga, meditation and long walks have also been found to provide pain relief.
Claudia’s golden rule for winter skincare, however, is that age-old piece of advice dispensed by mothers worldwide:
“Never go to bed with your make up on. Cleanse with a gentle SLS-free (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) cream, and once a week, exfoliate either by brushing the skin or by using a mild exfoliator.”
There you have it. Autumn doesn’t have to mean dull, flaky skin you hide away until that first glimmer of sunshine in spring. A little bit of effort now will ensure a healthy glow all year round. But if you really can’t face getting out of bed extra early to boost your skincare regime on those icy fresh autumn mornings, there’s always blusher.