The Winter Skin Protocol: Dr. Amy Wechsler Reveals Everything You Need to Know
For Amy Wechsler, M.D., there’s nothing more important than sunscreen. Board-certified in both dermatology and psychiatry, the New York-based doctor has spent years studying skin—and the mind that often works in conjunction with it—and just so happens to be one of the biggest supporters of SPF that we have ever met. Proper protection from harmful UV exposure has become one of Wechsler’s biggest soap boxes, a conviction, she stresses, that should persist well through the winter months, when sun damage can be just as pervasive. Here, Style.com caught up with the good doctor to get some of her winter skincare wisdom to help weather the frigid chill and those freak 60-degree December days that catch you off guard (to anyone who wore one too many layers for their morning commute, we feel your pain).—Tara Lamont-Djite
As summer tans fade away, so too does most people’s sunscreen diligence. Why is it important to keep it up even as the days get shorter and darker?
During winter, ray strength depends entirely on your location, but there’s still so much inadvertent sun exposure. Both UVA and UVB rays are certainly not as intense as in the summer months, but if it’s bright or the sun is reflecting off snow, it can cause some real damage. The sun is also at its strongest around noon, so it’s important to reapply sunscreen before you head out on your lunch break. Most women also don’t realize that if they work indoors by a window and it isn’t tinted, UVA rays will permeate the glass, causing sun damage. UVA rays are longer [than UVB rays], and what I call the ‘silent wrinkler.’ They penetrate deeper into the epidermis and cause lines, skin cancer, and long-lasting damage.
What level of SPF should you apply even in the December cold?
Personally, I never go below SPF 30. The best sunscreen to wear is broad spectrum, which blocks both UVA and UVB rays. A broad spectrum sunscreen—my favorite is Chanel’s UV Essential Multi-Protection Daily UV Care SPF 50—will contain physical blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide. A good sunscreen should have at least 9 percent zinc oxide or 5 percent titanium oxide. Ensuring that the formula you use has a physical blocker is the best rule to follow.
Noted. Besides sunscreen, what’s the best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy until spring returns in four long months?
Most women should increase how often they moisturize because the ambient humidity in the air is lower. Someone who moisturizes once a day should do it twice, and you should try a humidifier in your bedroom. I also think adding facial oil or serum to your regimen—if you don’t use one already—is a good idea.
And next you’re going to tell us to drink lots of water, right?
While it’s important to hydrate, the myth of increasing how much water you drink is actually incorrect. By the time the water reaches your skin there is little left to moisturize, so unless you’re dehydrated, drinking extra H2O isn’t going to do much.
Interesting. What about lasers and peels? Any special wintertime protocols we should bear in mind?
I always suggest using a stronger laser on patients in the wintertime, as there is less sun exposure, which can affect the treatment. I generally advise to stay away from harsh chemical peels, though; if you do want to try it, this is definitely not the time. Your skin is more sensitive and dry, so a chemical peel can cause more harm than good. I’d suggest using more hydrating, cream-based masks or trying an in-office treatment that uses a super-hydrating moisturizer. My diamond microdermabrasion is followed by Chanel’s Hydra Beauty Serum, which is extremely soothing.
Photo: Courtesy of Mikael Jansson/H&M