Wintertime skincare is full of don'ts: don't take warm showers, don't skimp on rich creams, don't use retinoids! Is there anything we can do? Actually, yes. More aggressive skin treatments are ideal this time of year, thanks to less intense UV rays. Here's what you need to know—and DO—for prettier skin this spring and summer.
You want: Smooth, stubble-free skin.
Do this: Laser hair removal.
Number of treatments needed: Ideally, you’ll want to undergo six sessions spaced four to six weeks apart with yearly maintenance to avoid regrowth. (One session for underarms is about $250, basic bikini around $220 and legs can be upwards of $1100 per session.)
Why now?: Because of the way lasers work—by seeking and destroying the dark hair set against lighter, paler skin—a tan makes it harder for the laser do its job. A week before each session, you’re required to keep the body part being treated out of the sun, says Cindy Barshop, founder and owner of Completely Bare Spas, which makes areas like the legs easier to treat in the winter when you’re likely to be wearing pants.
You want: Clearer, brighter skin minus sun spots.
Do this: Fade dark spots with lasers like Fraxel Re:Store (approximately $1200) and a skincare regimen containing retinoids, azeleic acid or lightening ingredients like hydroquinone.
Number of treatments needed: Conditions like melasma, which are influenced by hormones and the sun, need constant vigilance and typically take four laser treatments to minimize. Your skincare regimen will remain fairly consistent throughout the year, but will require loads more SPF in the summer.
Why now?: “Many patients prefer to start a pigment-regulating regimen in the winter, in order to treat increased hyper-pigmentation from the previous summer,” says Eric Schweiger, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Schweiger Dermatology in New York City.
You want: Sleek, dimple-free thighs and upper arms.
Do this: Zeltiq CoolSculpting (ranging from $750 for a small area to $1500 for a larger area) or Thermage treatments (around $3000 for large areas); Zeltiq freezes fat cells which then die and are swept away by normal immune system functions. Thermage works by stimulating collagen in the area treated, thus tightening the skin.
Number of treatments needed: Zeltiq needs only one treatment, and Thermage usually requires only one session.
Why now?: It can take between two and four months to see results from either treatment. In order to be ready for swimsuit season, it's best to schedule your appointment around March.
You want: Blemish-free skin.
Do this: A strict skincare regimen composed of a gentle cleanser, spot treatment and moisturizer with SPF works wonders. Annet King, Dermalogica Director of Global Education, advises using salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide only as a spot treatment—both can be irritating, and inflammation is shown to trigger more breakouts.
Number of treatments needed: You may need in-office treatments in addition to the products you use at home—ask your derm if you don’t see progress. Photodynamic Therapy also known as PDT (approximately $450 per session), a type of blue light therapy, sometimes requires multiple sessions every two weeks for noticeable results.
Why now?: Seriously aggressive treatments like the oral medication Accutane are best started in cool temps since the sun makes skin more sensitive. Recovering from a blue light therapy like PDT means that you’ll need to avoid the sun. (And thanks to frigid temps, it’s much easier to hibernate in the winter.)
You want: Legs that you can show off—free of varicose or spider veins.
Do this: Depending on the severity, Luis Navarro, M.D., founder of the Vein Treatment Center in New York City, recommends either surgery to remove faulty veins (the newer Endovenous Thermal Ablation is an upgrade to the traditional vein stripping), or sclerotherapy (injections that work to shrink and destroy spider and varicose veins).
Number of treatments needed: If you opt to undergo surgery, expect to spend an afternoon at the doctor's office for the procedure and a follow-up visit the next day coupled with a few weeks for recovery. Injections can be done during a short visit, although you may require multiple appointments to see full results.
Why now?: Two words: compression stockings. In addition to the inevitable bruising, doctors require that you wear special leg gear during healing—it’s ugly and especially itchy during warm weather. Further, most patients need two to three months to see full results, so undergo treatment now for great-looking legs in the summer.
You want: A more radiant, glowing skintone.
Do this: There’s a range of resurfacing lasers that can correct nearly every skin ailment—from scarring and wrinkles, to broken capillaries and sagginess. There are literally hundreds of options; Fractional CO2 and the non-ablative Fraxel laser are both common. Your doctor will be able to recommend the right laser for you.
Number of treatments needed: Depending on the laser used, you may need multiple sessions for optimal results. However, both Fraxel and Fractional CO2 tend to produce results in one treatment.
Why now?: “Fall and winter are the best times for laser treatments because the skin isn’t tan, which means it can be treated at a higher energy and thus, achieve a better result,” says Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D. co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington D.C.
How are you getting your skin ready for warm weather?