With the coming of colder weather, your wardrobe is not the only thing you should be adjusting. You may already have experienced the need to change more than just summer linens to wool sweaters. So what am I talking about already? Your skincare regimen.

This may seem obvious to you. Colder weather causes the skin to dry out more, right? Of course. But you may have also noticed that as you\’ve gotten older, your skin feels drier than it used to – and all year long. That\’s definitely not just your imagination, but a fact of what happens as skin ages and the body loses estrogen. In the uppermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, lies the stratum corneum which is made up of cells called keratinocytes, which mature and change their properties as we age. The net effect is that this top layer becomes thicker -which we experience as dryness, roughness, and scaling – and thus, needs more moisture. Therefore, we need to use more potent moisturizers routinely as we age, and then step up our moisturization routine further during the colder weather. This means not only using a moisturizer with more oil in it, but applying it more frequently – at least twice daily. And it follows that one should also decrease those activities which dry out the skin more – such as bathing (or showering).

You should not only change the moisturizer itself that you use, but also the other parts of your regimen. For instance, to clean your skin, you should now be using either a cold cream or an oil cleanser rather just plain soap. And you should especially not be using a foam soap to clean as it tends to cause further dryness. If you normally use a toner, you should skip this step, especially in the winter, as most contain alcohol which can further dry your skin. After cleansing, you should put on your moisturizer followed by your sunblock (unless your moisturizer has sunblock in it). Sunblock, you ask? In the winter, when you\’re not at the beach, or in the sun at all?

Absolutely. This probably comes as another surprise to some of you, but sunblock is no longer just to be used at the beach. That is, not if you want to prevent the wrinkles and other signs of aging that the sun causes. If you\’re exposed to any sunlight at all, even if it\’s through the windows, you\’re exposing yourself to both types of ultraviolet light – UVA, which causes longterm damage, including skin cancers, and UVB, which causes an immediate sunburn. Therefore, you should be wearing a sunscreen which is labeled as blocking BOTH types of UV light. And you should be wearing it daily. And what about women of color? Yes – you should be wearing sunblock as well. Though you are less risk of getting skin cancers and melanoma, that risk is not zero. So you too need the protection of sunblock.

I remember the days when the only type of sunscreen that was available was extremely greasy. When I wore it (which I started doing at an early age due to extremely fair skin) I looked like I was having one continuous hot flash! These days, the formulations are so much better. They may have different amounts of moisturizer in them, and may even be in your foundation. If you\’re not sure which to get, ask for help from a knowledgeable salesperson, or even ask your health care provider for a specific recommendation.

I know that we Baby Boomer women have been, and are, very individualistic. The same holds true for our skin. So if you are still getting the occasional outbreak of acne, you need a different moisturizer than your girlfriend whose skin is constantly flaking off her face. You\’re also probably wondering if I forgot to mention all those other skincare steps and products which are constantly advertised – like exfoliation, or using masks or peels. No – I didn\’t forget, but due to limited space, I\’ve just discussed the basics. Read on for my further suggestions, which will answer your question about exfoliation, etc.

Because we are all so different, I would suggest a visit to a dermatologist as a baseline. She/he can not only check your skin for worrisome lesions, but can also recommend a skincare regimen appropriate for your type of skin. Alternatively, I would recommend investing in a book which I have found extremely helpful in learning how to properly care for my skin. It\’s called The Skin Type Solution: A Revolutionary Guide to your Best Skin Ever by Leslie Baumann, M.D. (Bantam Dell, 2006). Even better – have all the ladies in your bookclub, bowling club, coffee klatch, or carpooling group buy it together. It will definitely be worth it, as each of you will find out your specific skin type and the best regimen to care for it. And I say this without having been wooed, taken to dinner, or paid by anyone having anything to do with the book.

So now you know that as you\’re pulling out those Shetland wool sweaters from the cedar chest, you should also be rearranging your skincare shelf in the bathroom. Wishing all of you a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!