Summer Skin Care in Colorado’s Harsh Climate

I get so many beauties on my esthetics table that have just moved to Denver and have no idea how to deal with the havoc that’s wreaking on their skin. Colorado’s climate is ROUGH on our skin, bbs. And just because winter is (almost - looking at you, gray skies) behind us doesn’t mean we’re in the clear. And, unfortunately, your favorite beauty editor’s advice on swapping out your products to thinner, gel formulas doesn’t always apply here. Read on to learn about how to protect your skin this summer.

1. Always keep physical sunscreen handy.

I know this seems like common sense at this point, but it bears repeating. Colorado has a record 300 sunny days a year, and we LOVE our sun - look at any Denver patio or mountain trail on a warm summer day. But, combined with the altitude, that gorgeous sunshine does some serious damage. At elevation, we have a thinner atmosphere, meaning there’s less that filters the sun’s UV rays before they make contact with your skin. So keep yourself protected with a physical SPF - look at your sunblock’s active ingredients for zinc oxide, which provides the safest and most effective protection. While chemical SPFs work for some, I generally advise to steer clear of them due to the reactivity they may cause in the skin (more in that in another post).

And make sure to reapply! Because physical SPF creates a protective shield on your skin against the sun’s rays, if it gets wiped away throughout the day or after swimming or sweating, that means you’re left unprotected. Carry a handy powdered sunblock like :


Light, luminous, translucent


Mineral Fusion Brush-On Defense SPF 30

Matte, translucent coverage

2. Protect skin with antioxidants.

In addition to protecting skin with SPF, antioxidants are vital to boost skin's inherent protective mechanisms against UV damage, discoloration, collagen degradation, and fine lines and wrinkling. Vitamin C is the most studied and proven antioxidant, and is required for the skin to produce new collagen and elastin. Get it internally with a diet rich in strawberries, citrus, and leafy greans. Topically, a good Vitamin C serum is an absolute must and is worth the splurge. Here are a couple of tried and true options:


Great for normal to oily skin types


Ideal for normal to dry, sensitive skin types

3. Moisturize in layers.

With Colorado's dry climate, it can be tempting to find the thickest, heaviest cream and slather it on. While that might feel nice for a few minutes, it can end up clogging pores and turning off the skin's own natural moisturizing mechanisms. Instead, hydrate skin in layers. Remember, the skin needs both oil and water to stay effectively hydrated, so give it both! Always apply moisturizing products to damp skin, when it's most absorbent and to help seal in some of that water. Start with your Vitamin C Serum, and then layer on a light-weight hydrator (either an oil, serum, or moisturizer) before applying your SPF. If you're going to use something with a thicker texture to moisturize, do it during the day when it can serve as a protective layer against trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), rather than at night.

I'm not a huge fan of the heavy night cream idea. Skin warms up at night and, as an eliminatory organ, needs to be able to expel toxins as it sweats. So, I recommend using an exfoliating treatment 1 to 2 nights per week, and following it up with a humectant (think hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, or glycerine) in the lightest, most liquid formula that provides your skin with enough moisture. And always pair your humectant with a humidifier at night. Because Colorado's climate is so dry, humectants can back-fire by pulling hydration out of the skin if there isn't enough in the atmosphere to bind with - hence, the humidifier recommendation. Here are some of my favorite nighttime humectants:


Great for all skin types


Yu-Be Cream

An emollient, humectant balm for lips, super dry skin, hands and feet

4. Don't over-exfoliate.

Ditch the aggressive exfoliating regimens during summer, when your skin is more likely to be exposed to the sun's rays. That means to ease up on the retinol regimen and hold off on aggressive chemical peel treatments. Instead, opt for gentle weekly exfoliation to keep skin glowing and pores clear. 

For clients with congestion issues, I like to recommend weekly treatments with a Clarisonic brush and a cleanser with Salicylic acid. REMEMBER: Clarisonics are exfoliating devices. I really don't agree with using them daily. Using a clay mask after showering can also help de-gunk pores.

For clients with normal to dry skin, I like gentle acids to keep skin exfoliated. Here are a couple I like:


Cult favorite liquid exfoliant


Salicylic acid exfoliant

Sameera Ahmed