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Update your skin care routine for fall with these dermatologist tips and 22 essentials

Ease the transition from summer to fall with these skin-savvy products and expert advice.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

Now that school has started and the leaves are starting to change colors, it’s time to say goodbye to swimsuits and sandals and say hello to chunky sweaters and fall-scented candles.

Lower temperatures also mean moving on from lightweight moisturizers. Because our skin requires more moisture and vitamin C (thanks to the lack of sun) in colder weather, fall skin care essentials include heavier moisturizers and other solutions that can tackle dry or cracked skin, as well as products that provide subtle sunscreen protection.

To figure out what the best fall skin care products are, we talked to dermatologists Dr. Michele J. Farber, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia; Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologic surgeon with NYC-based Shafer Clinic; and Dr. Hadley King, a New York-based board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology.

You can skip ahead to our list of the 22 best fall skin care essentials. Or, you can keep reading: Our three experts shared their top picks for combating colder weather and tips on how to survive the winter weather with stunning skin.

What products should I add to my fall skin care routine?

Subtle sunscreen products

Year-round sun protection was number one on all of their lists of must-haves for the season, because even though the sun doesn't seem as present as it was in the summer, its harmful effects don’t change.

“The UV index does not always correlate to temperature,” said Dr. Farber, adding, “While we may get less overall exposure, UVA rays can penetrate windows, so it is possible to accumulate sun damage unless you are still protecting your skin.”

Products such as SPF lip balms and moisturizers can help implement sunscreen into your daily routine with the products you already use and rely on. “It's important to practice sun-smart behavior, including [applying] SPF, on an everyday basis,” said Dr. King.

Fragrance-free and oil-free moisturizers

Our experts highly recommended turning to a thicker moisturizer in the fall and winter to keep your skin safe.

“Switching from a lightweight lotion to a thicker, more hydrating cream is necessary in the winter,” said Dr. Engleman. “Colder weather often leads to drier skin, so it’s important to ensure that your moisturizer is supplementing your skin barrier with enough hydration to avoid dryness, flaking, cracking and redness.”

To prevent flare-ups that could come with a product switch or pesky pimples that might show up thanks to a different ingredient than what your skin is used to, opt to add a fragrance- or oil-free moisturizer into your routine.

“Moisturizer should still be adjusted for skin type, meaning very oily skin may only need a lotion in the winter, while sensitive skin will require a cream or even ointment,” said Dr. Farber. “It is preferable to use fragrance-free and oil-free moisturizers for most skin types year-round.”

Serums and moisturizers with hyaluronic acid

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Not only can hitting your daily ounce count in terms of water consumption make your skin glow, but adding products that add extra hydration to your routine will also give it the extra boost it needs.

Hyaluronic acid and ceramides are two of the best ingredients for preventing and repairing dry skin in the winter,” Dr. Engelman said. “When the temperature drops, reaching for a hot cup of coffee or tea often seems more appealing than drinking a glass of water. However, reaching your daily water goals is still important in order to maintain sufficient moisture levels in our bodies, flush toxins from our system and keep fluid moving efficiently through the capillaries — all of which contribute to overall body and skin health.”

With those tips in mind, keep scrolling to see all 22 fall skin care products based on our experts' guidance, including our experts' own top picks. Or, you can navigate to specific categories using the table of contents below:

Dermatologists' fall skin care must-haves | Subtle sunscreen products for fall | Fragrance- and oil-free skin care products | Hyaluronic acid serums and moisturizers

Dermatologists' fall skin care must-haves

Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream

This is Dr. Farber's favorite because “it contains glycerin to lock in moisture but does not feel greasy.” This fragrance-free cream travels easily to the office, on the slopes, or can remain in the bathroom cabinet for whenever you need to combat dry skin. Need further convincing? Not only is this product free of fragrances and oils, but also from chemicals such as dyes, parabens and phthalates.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Aquaphor and Vaseline are also recommended by Dr. Farber, “for especially dry, cracked skin and are great for dry lips in colder weather.” Luckily, both Aquaphor and Vaseline have moisturizing products for both lips and skin. This advanced therapy healing ointment by Aquaphor can also be used on scrapes, burns and cuts that dry skin is often prone to.

Lano Lips Multipurpose Ointment

Recommended by Dr. Engelman, this ointment packs a lot of punches in one tube: “from soothing chapped lips to healing dry, cracked hands to saving dry elbows and heels and more.” It also “softens hand skin and nails with vitamin E and shea butter, and leaves behind a light vanilla scent," she said.

Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream

Dr. Engleman recommends using this moisturizer during your daytime skin care regimen in order to give “skin a plumper, more youthful appearance while hydrating all day.” With hyaluronic acid and the vitamins C and E among the ingredient list, this magic moisturizing cream is sure to keep your skin hydrated and glowing.

Canopy Humidifier

A humidifier may not be one of the first things that comes to mind when one thinks of skin care, but adding one to your nighttime routine can be more beneficial than you think. “I find that running a humidifier is a must year-round, but especially during the winter, when the air tends to be drier,” said Dr. Engleman. She added, “It is an easy way to help keep the skin on your whole body hydrated and prevent flakiness and cracking.”

Engleman recommends the Canopy Humidifier specifically because of its technology, which she said inhibits mold and bacteria growth. Plus, "it releases hydrating air, instead of water vapor, which can carry contaminants and allergens," she added.

Bliss Cloud 9 Body Lotion

Another recommendation from Dr. Engleman, who loves this body lotion due to its “long-lasting hydration and protection,” which comes primarily from shea butter. Available in both scented and unscented options, this body lotion is also vegan and cruelty-free, a major plus in the cosmetics and skincare world.

Subtle sunscreen products for fall

Super Goop Lip Shield SPF 30 Trio

Whether you reside in states that are always sunny or you’re awaiting the days when the sun sets past 7 p.m. again, these sunscreen chapsticks are an easy way to ensure your lips stay safe from sly UV rays. With ingredients like coconut, avocado and grapeseed oil, the flavors in this antioxidant-heavy balm proves hard to resist, as reviewers love this product compared to other SPF lip balms that “generally taste terrible.”

Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Lip Balm

An affordable option for SPF lip balm, reviewers love this mineral-based solution because it “goes on matte, doesn’t look oily, doesn’t feel greasy,” according to one user. With shea butter and vitamin E ingredients for additional protection, several reviewers say they also love how soothed this makes their lips feel.

Cerave Face Moisturizer SPF 30

Designed to be implemented into your morning routine for all-day protection, this SPF 30 moisturizing lotion also provides relief for dry skin. With over 2,300 five-star reviews, this moisturizer is praised because “it’s not oily, applies easily and has no smell,” as one verified reviewer put it. Plus, it works to prevent pesky pimples, too.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream SPF 30

A thick moisturizer that also includes SPF 30 protection, reviewers love this cream because it does both the job of both a sunblock and moisturizer without skimping on either. "I LOVE how hydrating it makes my skin feel and how dewy it makes my skin look," said one reviewer, adding, "I anticipated a break-in period where my skin was like, whoa! But it never came. There was an effortless transition from [my old] moisturizer to the one with SPF."

Aveda Sun Care and Body Cleanser

Taking care of your skin and hair from the sun's rays doesn't just mean applying SPF product pre-exposure. It can also take the form of post-sun TLC. Enter this Sun Care and Body Cleanser from Aveda. Use it like a body wash or conditioner while in the shower to protect your hair from harsh chemicals that can be found in chlorine. The plant-based oils within the cleanser also work to moisturize and hydrate your skin, especially on your scalp, which is one of the areas that are most often overlooked when applying sunscreen.

Sun Bum Scalp and Hair Mist

Spray this mist in your hair and gently wave throughout to protect your hair and scalp from harsh UV rays-even when it's below zero. Even on the slopes, the sun can be sly and cause harmful burns and dry scalp. Reviewers love it because at the end of the day, they have "no flake, no itch, and best of all, no burn."

Fragrance- and oil-free moisturizers

Tula Brightening Vitamin C Fragrance-Free Moisturizer

This fragrance-free moisturizer both intensely hydrates (thanks to HA) and doesn't weigh one's skin down due to its gel-cream formulation. But this moisturizer packs a brightening punch: It boasts a mix of vitamin C and mandarin orange that are also said to brighten skin and even out skin tone and texture. Plus, one reviewer highlighted its very light orange-vanilla scent.

Burt’s Bees Fragrance-Free Daily Moisturizing Cream

With aloe as one of the main active ingredients, your skin can feel refreshed and nourished all day long with this moisturizer. The brand recommends using this cream in the morning as part of your getting-ready routine. It's also touted as a go-to option for users with sensitive skin and allergies thanks to its minimal ingredient list. "It works fantastically as a moisturizer and keeps my skin very soft," said one reviewer, adding, "It also helped a lot with my (admittedly mild) breakouts."

Drunk Elephant Sili Lotion

For all-over moisture, the brand promises to bring skin to a more balanced and healthier-looking state. Some reviewers say a little goes a long way, with a bottle lasting them about a month or so. "This lotion is exactly what it needs to be,'' said one reviewer. "I love that there’s no frills, no fragrance, just a very calming and moisturizing lotion without any sticky film. I have very sensitive skin, and this is my go-to lotion on those very irritated days," they added.

EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer

This scientific-based moisturizer can be implemented into your morning skin care routine for day-long moisture. After conducting a clinical study, EltaMD found that this moisturizer increases the thickness of skin and works to prevent signs of premature aging, such as wrinkles. Fitting for all skin types, but especially for sensitive skin due to its oil-free and fragrance-free factors.

Tula Oil-Free Moisturizing Gel Cream

Here's another lightweight gel-cream formula from Tula that won't leave any grease on your skin. Tailored for sensitive, oily or blemish-prone skin, its key ingredients include probiotics and superfoods like watermelon, apple and pear, which are said to help smooth fine lines and wrinkles and calm irritation. One verified reviewer who says they don't wear makeup, raves, "I need a good moisturizer that is not greasy (oily T-zone) and light [so] that I don't feel like I've put something on. This gel fits the bill."

Hyaluronic acid serums and moisturizers

Glossier Hyaluronic Acid Serum

With promises to be "never sticky," Glossier's hyaluronic acid serum, combined with vitamin B5, soothes and softens skin while hydrating it. Reviewers with sensitive skin rave about how this serum has not irritated their skin. "I’ve always wanted to add a serum to my skin routine but have struggled to find one that doesn’t make my skin red, flakey or react to my eczema," said one reviewer. They added, "FINALLY, after months of searching, I’ve found my go-to! It’s perfect to soften skin and tone down my redness."

Cerave Hyaluronic Acid Serum

With over 15,000 five-star reviews, this serum is described by several reviewers as "soft," "one of the best creams" and "worked wonders." Cerave is highly recommended for those with sensitive and irritable skin, especially with those struggling with eczema. Featuring vitamin B5 as one of the core ingredients alongside hyaluronic acid, this moisturizer is said to keep skin hydrated for up to 24 hours.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost with Hyaluronic Serum

A different approach to the hyaluronic acid game, this moisturizer from Neutrogena is a water gel rather than a cream. Reviewers say they love the "fresh feeling" this moisturizer offers compared to other traditional cream-based moisturizers on the market. There's no oil or fragrance, meaning it could be a good option for those with sensitive and easily irritated skin.

Youth to the People Superfood Air-Whip Moisture Cream

This cream was crowned one of Allure's Best of Beauty 2020 and "hearted" 121,000 times on Sephora — and that's likely because it ticks off quite a few boxes. Not only does the cream have an ultra-lightweight consistency as well as the skin barrier-protecting ingredient hyaluronic acid, but it also has a superfood blend of kale, spinach and green tea in the mix: That means vitamins like C and E, as well as radical-fighting antioxidants. Note, however, that it's best for those with oily skin types or sensitive skin, according to several reviewers.

Kiehl’s Vital Skin-Strengthening Hyaluronic Acid Serum

As you could probably tell from the term "skin-strengthening" in the name, Kiehl promises to prevent early signs of aging, smooth fine lines and enhance your skin's radiance with this jam-packed product. Don't let the size fool you — this serum has a whole herbal complex in the ingredients list, which includes basil, berries and red ginseng root in addition to hyaluronic acid. "In just a short time my face [looks] and feels more hydrated," said one reviewer, adding that there is a "noticeable decrease in fine lines."