Dermatologist Dr. Brittany Carter-Snell Gives Her Winter Skin Care Tips

skin care tips

Biting cold and bone-dry air. The harsh winter months aren’t exactly an elixir for our skin. But fear not. Board certified in both dermatology and internal medicine, black Detroit’s go-to dermatologist Dr. Brittany Carter-Snell of The Carter Snell Skin Center is offering salvation for your tired skin. Follow the Midtown doctor’s tips for beautiful, healthy skin year-round and prolong that melanin magic.

Stay With the Sunscreen.

“Many people get confused about whether or not sunscreen is a necessity during the wintertime – and the answer is yes,” Carter-Snell says. The doctor recommends that you “kill two birds with one stone” and adopt a daily moisturizer that contains SPF. Her favorite affordable brands include CeraVe and La Roche-Posay by L’Oréal, which features a sun protection factor of 30 – what she considers the bare minimum and typically sufficient during the winter months – but, “The higher the better.” 

There’s a common misconception among black people that we don’t need sunscreen. Let’s bust that myth. “Our melanin gives us a sun protection factor of at least 8 to 11. So, you’re missing protection,” Carter-Snell says. We’re more susceptible to hyperpigmentation, and we can get sunburned or even skin cancer. While it’s true that the risk for cancer is lower than in people with lighter skin, the doctor warns that because black folk are not as frequently checked for skin cancer, when it is caught, it’s often too late.

Up the SPF when vacationing.

For the snowbirds that look to escape the cold by jetting off to warmer climates, Carter-Snell suggests increasing your normal SPF. “When you’ve gone a prolonged period of time without having your skin exposed to sun, when it is exposed to sun it’s very much a shock, and that’s when you’re at higher risk of being burned,” she says.

So, if you’ve been using an SPF 30, for example, when you hit those sandy beaches you’ll want to up that to SPF 50 or 70. And resist the urge to let it all hang out and instead go for protective clothing like sun hats and long sleeves and pants in lightweight materials.


Avoid harsh products and fragrances.

Carter-Snell recommends fragrance-free products, especially during the wintertime. “The skin is naturally drier, and the fragrance is going to more easily cause irritation” to already compromised skin, she says. This is the time to give your smell-good soaps, body washes and lotions a rest. Also beware of laundry products – detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets – which are also often teeming with harsh, potentially harmful fragrances that can cause itching and irritation.

The dermatologist says to avoid all fragrances, not just the synthetic chemicals, and that “unscented” is not the same as “fragrance-free.” Products touted as unscented may contain masking fragrances used to camouflage the scent. Instead, opt for products with moisturizers and healers like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, or natural ingredients like shea butter and lighter plant-based oils.

Keep an eye on scalp health.

Many of Carter-Snell’s patients come into her office this time of year with scalp conditions. “So I do like to stress scalp health especially for our community, because we have a tendency to wear really pretty protective stylings – and that doesn’t always allow us to cleanse our scalp or shampoo as often as we would otherwise,” she says. That dryness or flakiness that may seem like benign dandruff could worsen if left untreated or may be a symptom of a more serious problem.

“The scalp should not solely be greased and expected to resolve itself. It could be a yeast causing an actual dermatological condition called seborrheic (dermatitis) that would need to be evaluated by a dermatologist,” Carter-Snell says. Schedule a sit-down with your doctor if routine scalp moisturizing isn’t helping the issue or if you start experiencing itching, irritation, hair loss or acne-like breakouts on your face, neck or back.

Carter Snell Skin Center, 72 Erskine St., Detroit

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