Skin scientist Dr Michelle Wong on why Autumn is perfect time to change skincare

The expert behind cult Instagram account Lab Muffin explains the importance of reinventing your skincare routine for Autumn. 

As the season changes, so should your skincare. I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve heard that line. Cool weather, a spike in rain, the rise in arguments over who changed the temp of the aircon and the sudden dehydration and redness showing up on your face are all signs that winter is on the way.

You can’t control the weather (or the thermostat for that matter) but you can control the toll it takes on your skin. Science educator and founder of Lab Muffin Michelle Wong tells body+soul why these simple scientific swaps can make all the difference.

Up your hydration while you sleep

The dry air and wind as the weather gets cooler can wreak havoc on your skin. What worked for your complexion in summer may no longer be enough, especially at night. In general, moisturisers with thicker textures will contain more emollients and occlusives (think of ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil, olive oil, beeswax and lanolin) which will keep skin supple and seal in water.

Try: Lanolips Face Base The Aussie Flyer ($26, at Lanolips)

Introduce a plant-based oil

Your skin gets less oily in cold weather, so if your face is relatively dry, adding a facial oil can help supplement your natural sebum. Facial oils won’t work for everyone, though. Some oils are more prone to clogging pores than others. Some safer choices for those with acne are hemp seed oil and jojoba oil.

Try: Butt Naked Hemp Face Oil ($33, at Flora and Fauna)

Think twice about actives

As skin gets drier it also becomes more prone to irritation, so it’s a bad idea to introduce new irritating actives into your routine as winter comes. Retinoids in particular can exacerbate flaking skin. You might also need to use your current actives less. For example, you might have to apply less of each product, or use some products only every second day.

Try: Kora Organics Noni Night AHA Resurfacing Serum ($92, at Kora Organics)

Try a different kind of exfoliant

Exfoliating acids can be too much for some people’s skin as winter comes, so switching to a gentler exfoliation method is an option if you still want to keep flaking skin at bay. Larger acids tend to be less irritating – glycolic acid is the smallest and most likely to cause irritation, while lactic acid is larger and gentler. You can also switch to a gentle physical exfoliant like a konjac sponge or soft washcloth.

Try: Garnier Organics Botanical Cleansing Konjac Sponge ($8.99, at Chemist Warehouse)

Don’t skimp on sunscreen

While there’s less sunshine around, there’s still lots of UV on cloudy days which contributes to ageing skin and skin cancer. It’s especially important to wear sunscreen daily if you’re using chemical exfoliants or retinoids which can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage. Sunscreen goes on at the end of your skincare routine, right before makeup.

Try: We Are Feel Good Inc Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+ ($24.95, at We Are Feel Good Inc)

Cut down your shower time

It’s tempting to turn up the heat as it gets colder, but hot water strips away your skin’s natural oils and humectants (the natural moisturising factor) leading to dry, itchy skin. You can use a moisturising body wash or add bath oils to help protect your skin.

Try: QV Shower Milk ($10.49, at Chemist Warehouse)

Michelle Wong has a PhD in Chemistry and blogs at Lab Muffin. You can follow her on Instagram @labmuffinbeautyscience