cold weather skincare: an interview with dermatologist Dr. Jeanine B. Downie

I’m plagued by skin issues—especially in the colder months. Rosacea and eczema make just about my whole body red and itchy and leave me wanting nothing more than to hibernate until buds start popping up on the trees again. Not fun.

Since October is Eczema Awareness Month, I teamed up with Aveeno to have some cold weather skincare questions answered by a widely-recognized dermatologist. Dr. Jeanine B. Downie answered some of my pressing questions… and maybe a few of yours too!

What is it about the colder weather that makes my skin so angry?

A decrease in ambient humidity in the air, which leads to the skin being more dry. Unfortunately, the skin can become more itchy and then we scratch. This makes the skin angry. It is all about the decrease in ambient humidity because the weather is colder.

Is there anything I can do for my skin to prepare it for colder temperatures in advance?

Hydrate your skin by using Aveeno® Eczema Therapy Itch Relief Balm at least twice a day. This will provide wonderful hydration so that your skin doesn’t dry out and become itchy. Other things you can do include limiting your cologne/perfume and switching to all cotton or breathable fabrics for clothing that you wear. I never recommend wool for anybody who has dry skin, and definitely not if they have eczema.

Do you have any special advice for those of us suffering from rosacea and/or eczema?

Yes, I do! Many of my patients suffer from both. Rosacea typically flares from sun and stress. What I recommend is that rosacea patients decrease their stress level by exercising. Unfortunately when you exercise, your skin can also get red so I do recommend you drink ice water which will cool your face down rapidly. Therefore you can break the vicious cycle that stress has on rosacea.

In addition, rosacea patients need to wear sunblock (like everyone else) every day, rain or shine, January through December REGARDLESS of ethnicity. Wearing sunblock and reapplying is one of the key ways to make sure the rosacea is not flaring.

Other triggers for rosacea include spicy foods, steamy hot foods like pasta, red wine, coffee… I’m not saying that you may not have any of these things, all I am saying is that these things can also make your skin turn red thereby flaring your rosacea.

Special advice includes limiting scented products, moisturizing, using all-free detergents, sleeping with a humidifier, keeping nails cut super short so you don’t scratch and get a bad bacterial infection.

What is your skincare routine like?

My personal skincare routine is complicated. As a kid, I had eczema and acne. As an adult, I have eczema, acne, rosacea, and malasma (I am not happy but I do what I can).

Anything I put on my face must be oil free or it will break me out with a vengeance. I tend to use glycolic acid cleansers from SkinMedica that are anti-aging to wash my face morning and night. After this, I use a sunscreen every single day that I reapply multiple times during the day. I am actually one of those annoying dermatologists who practice what I preach. You’ll never catch me smoking because that will flare my rosacea and make it much worse. I exercise every day, and I eat more vegetables than I care to.

Going back to my routine, I then put on an anti-aging moisturizer and if I have a particular acne pimple I am trying to defeat, a little bit of prescription Tazorac cream on that bump. By the way, I never use anything greasy in my hair because that would break me out around my hairline and not be attractive. Greasy hair stuff does not work for me nor do I recommend it for my patients.

Mid-day is much more sunscreen and potentially more anti-aging moisturizer. At night, I take every stitch of makeup off, which everyone should but nobody does. I use Latisse for my eyelashes, TNS essential serum and Lytera for my melasma and rosacea as well as a moisturizer and a retinol like Tazorac for pimples. It is hilarious and annoying all in the same breath. Fortunately for me, my skin looks 15-20 years younger than I actually am so I think it might be working. Aren’t you sorry you asked me this question?

What are your top tips for healthy, glowing skin all year long?

I drink a ton of water and I recommend everybody drink a ton of water. 8 glasses for someone who weighs 120 pounds. 11 is for someone who weighs 151 pounds. Extrapolate based on your weight. Water is important for your skin. I drink no alcohol, no coffee and no tea. You can have healthy glowing skin if you drink these things, I just don’t.

Other tips include exercising regularly (4 days a week for a min of 45 minutes). One should vary between weights and cardio, pilates and yoga. Make sure you have proper form so your efforts are not wasted. As Americans, we tend to overeat and under exercise.

I also recommend that people put on sunblock with at least an SPF of 30 and reapply throughout the course of the day, even if they’re just sitting by a sunny window and not actually going outside.

I recommend that you hydrate your skin properly by using moisturizer all over your body after your shower in the morning, and again at night. As well as a separate moisturizer that is based on your skin type for your face.

Finally, I recommend that patients understand their pore size has to do with family history, smoking and sun damage. If you truly want smaller pores, sunblock is critical and if you smoke, you should quit for a wide variety of reasons including the impact it has on your pore size. I have about another 50 pages of information I can give you on this, but I think that’s it for now.

P.S. Don’t pick at your skin, ever. Oh and I recommend at least 7 hours of sleep a night.

cold weather skincare: an interview with dermatologist Dr. Jeanine B. Downie Jeanine B. Downie, M.D of Image Dermatology is licensed to practice not only in New Jersey but also in California and New York. Board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, she is also a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. Her reputation for excellence and personal patient care has made her one of the most sought-after physicians in our country. She has consistently received the honor of recognition as one of Castle Connolly’s Top Doctors in the New York Metropolitan area. Dr. Downie has appeared on many TV shows and her melanoma segment on Fox 5 Sports and MSG Network was nominated for an Emmy. 

Written by Jennifer Garry
Jen is a freelance writer and girl mom from New York. When she's not knee-deep in glittery crafts and girl talk, you can probably find her sprawled across her couch in the middle of a Netflix marathon with dark chocolate smeared on her face. The struggle is real.