Regardless if you hop on the ‘New Year, new you’ bandwagon or not, the start of January often empowers most people to think about their life, their choices and their future. With 12 bright, shiny new months ahead that present a clean slate ripe with opportunity, the start of the year really makes us think about recreating ourselves and improving various aspects of your life that are currently lackluster. But just going to the gym for a month and dropping off? Or eating healthy for two weeks before a golden-brown cookie attracts your eye? Or saying you’ll become a morning person only to have one too many glasses of wine and hit snooze? Ask any therapist or life coach and they’ll tell you the big secret to making a difference in anything you do is setting small, attainable goals that’ll last you throughout the year, not just the first 31 days.
So how do we apply this advice on skin care? One easy way to check off that resolution box—without overhauling your entire routine at once—is to focus on one major change each month. To help us with this task, we talked to top-rated dermatologists to get their insight into the best product to use for every month of the year. While most of these skin care products are vital all year round, by taking one baby step each month, you’ll be more likely to keep your skin care promises for the long haul and wake up to a healthier, newer you each day!
January: A Rich Moisturizer
If you live in most parts of North America and Europe, January often presents the most frigid weather. And it’s not just ice, snow and below-zero temperatures that wreak havoc on your usually-dewy skin—it’s the dry heat and, well, your diet that influences your pores, too. That’s why board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills, Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., says January is the best time to truly invest in a moisturizer that’ll do double-duty for your thirsty skin. “Between the cold, dry weather, dehydrating heaters and coming off of a month of holiday partying with alcohol and layers of makeup, your skin is going to need a little more help to add some moisture back and to repair an irritated, compromised skin barrier,” she explains. “Look for thicker, cream-based moisturizers with hydrating ingredients like almond oil, shea butter and oatmeal, as well as barrier protectants, like dimethicone and petrolatum.”
February: A Nourishing Lip Balm
It seems obvious enough, but it’s not just the annual lip-locking fiesta during the month of paper hearts and love that concerns Dr. Jill Waibel, board-certified dermatologist and owner of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute. “Lip balm provides defense and relief from chapped lips or discomfort caused by cold sores, weather, cosmetics, sunburn or medication,” she explains. “This also comforts and soothes inflammation while leaving your lips feeling moist and supple.”
Try: Drunk Elephant Lippe
March: An Antioxidant Serum
Most people go through their closets and start off spring with a clearer wardrobe, why not do the same thing with your skin? Dr. Waibel suggests investing in an antioxidant serum that preps your skin for sunshine and warmer weather that’s surely on its way: “Antioxidant serums contain an abundance of vitamin C and E to fight the free radicals while also containing ferulic acid, which helps boost the collagen in your skin,” she explains. “This product should be used every morning (before sunscreen application) to help your sunscreen work more effectively.”
With more sunny days than cold ones, now is the time to prepare your skin for summer before it officially gets here. During sticky, humid months you don’t want to clog your pore with a heavy foundation that could cause unfortunate breakouts, so Dr. Waibel says to get your coverage from a lighter product that packs a sunscreen, too. “A tinted moisturizer or BB cream adds a soft touch of color to even out skin tone and enhance the natural beauty of your skin while also hydrating and softening dehydration lines,” she says. “Some also contain broad-spectrum sun protection along with antioxidants to protect from the damaging elements of our environment.”
May: A Product Featuring Hyaluronic Acid
“Warm days and rainy nights leave skin less parched, but your face still needs a moisturizer to replenish and hold in moisture and to maintain a healthy skin barrier. “Look for lighter, hydro-gel formulas with hyaluronic acid,” explains Dr. Shainhouse. “These products help bind and temporarily lock water in the skin, leaving it looking dewy and smooth.” If the start of summer has you traveling for back-to-back weddings or impromptu getaways with your friends, try a hyaluronic acid mask that’s easy to use, even on an airplane. Dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai, Dr. Debra Jailman M.D., recommends a sheet mask that has both hyaluronic acid and glycerin to get the most nutrients for your time.
On behalf of dermatologists everywhere, let us give you this piece of advice: wear sunscreen every single day, no exceptions. Capishe? However, during this time of the year, the daily sunscreen that you use every A.M. (with touch-ups throughout the day) isn’t the same as the one you’ll wear when you’re lounging poolside or at the ocean. Since you’ll be spending more hours in direct sunlight, you’ll need something that offers more protection with each application. “For the hot summer days, opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen and don’t forget to re-apply every two hours,” Dr. Waibel says. “If you have acne-prone skin, look for an oil-free formula with micronized zinc. This will not clog your pores or trigger acne breakouts.”
If you hate the greasy aftermath of sunscreen on your skin, you’ll love Dr. Waibel’s suggestion for the most important product for June: a sunscreen powder. Look for formulas that are fragrance- and paraben-free and contain the skin-nourishing vitamin E for antioxidant protection,” she explains.
July: An Acid-Based Cleanser
While a fun time of year that’s often full of celebrations, the sun, the sand, the booze from outside happy hours and frequent travel will have your skin begging for a little TLC. Though sunscreen still falls to the top of your skin care essentials list around this time of the year, now is the time to take a quick glance at your facial cleanser too, according to Dr. Jailman. “Summer is the time to change from a mild cleanser to an exfoliating cleanser to keep your skin healthy, clean and hydrated,” she explains. “Look for glycolic acid or salicylic acid in the ingredients.”
August: Cooling Face Masks
Too much sunlight can do a number on your skin, especially if your skin is particularly prone to redness and irritation. During the hottest month of the year, you’ll need something cool and refreshing to calm inflamed skin—like a face mask. A nutrient-rich gel mask not only provides much-needed relief from rising temperatures, it also seals in moisture and calms stressed and inflamed skin. For the ultimate heat-relief, reach for a mask infused with cooling agents—like cucumber—that refresh and invigorate your skin and calm your senses.
September: Vitamin-Rich Products
Out with the swimsuits and in with the scarves, leggings, boots and the vitamin C-rich products that will rid of any sun damage or excess dirt and sweat from balmy days. “Now is the time to combat the sunspots and/or skin damage due to the summer months. Use an all-in-one anti-aging power serum designed to treat fine lines and wrinkles, fade sun spots, and correct uneven skin texture that occurs from UV damage,” Dr. Patel says. By choosing one that also packs some vitamin C, Dr. Jailman says you’ll be rejuvenating and enriching your skin’s appearance and keeping it firm.
October: Clay Face Mask
Though you have a spooky holiday that falls at the tail end of the month, October is often a time when you can relax after months of jam-packed weeks and weekends. Your skin will likely breathe a sigh of relief as it can wear less makeup and keep itself safely away from the sunshine rays, too. That’s why Dr. Waibel says to take that R&R to another level and invest in a luxe clay masque that pairs well with your red wine and Netflix. “A clay facial mask gets rid of the impurities and calm the skin and prepare it for the cooler months to come,” she explains.
November: Exfoliant or Peel
As the days become increasingly shorter and the weather outside cooler, you’ll begin to notice your summer glow fading. For a quick pick-me-up, Dr. Waibel suggests a fragrance-free exfoliator with a thick gel texture to help loosen up deep-seated dirt and dead skin cells that accumulated over the months. “A good exfoliant helps remove the damaged and dead skin to create a brighter glow for your skin,” she explains.
December: Foot Creams
Though you might not consider the skin on the bottoms of your soles important when they’re stuffed into boots for months, keeping them smooth and hydrated is essential for health. That’s why Dr. Shainhouse suggests focusing on a foot cream for December. “Look for exfoliating ingredients, like ammonium lactate and salicylic acid, as well as humectants, like urea, that will pull moisture into the top layers of the skin,” she suggests.