(Skin)

How Runway Models Treat Fashion Month Breakouts

Runway models tell-all, and skin experts weigh in.

@arlenissosa

The most high-stakes time in the fashion industry is undeniably Fashion Month. Twice per year, in September and February, runway presentations kick-off in the world's top fashion capitals: Milan, Paris, New York, and London. As fashion houses and designers present their collections, editors, celebrities, and influencers bear witness, taking notes that will define fashion's top trends and stand-out stars of the season.

Although Fashion Week in the era of COVID looks different than in other years, with less hectic travel schedules, runway models are on-call for castings, fittings, and backstage beauty prep and makeup looks that put their skin under the lens’ scrutiny. Whether prepping for digital shows, presentations, or on-film close-ups, the frenetic pace keeps stress-levels — and the onslaught of products — high. It is the worst time to be dealing with problem skin, yet paradoxically, a month presenting what is arguably the most at-risk accumulation of stressors for the skin.

"Typically, models are running from show to show, traveling a ton, eating on the go, and not sleeping much. Their skin is tired, dull, and usually breaking out by the end of fashion month," explains celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, who often works with models and is the founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care, and the author of Glow From Within. Plus, the stress and packed schedules of Fashion Month can seriously impact the state of runway models’ skin. "We do know that stress and anxiety can [cause flares] of acne, rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, [and more]," confirms board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, who practices in NYC.

Antonello Trio/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Because holistic lifestyle factors impact the skin, it is easy to understand why high stress levels, minimal sleep, dietary changes, regimen inconsistency, and an onslaught of new beauty products can push models' skin into an imbalanced state. "It isn't uncommon for models to notice stress-related flare-ups and clogged pores from multiple makeup applications and removal after fashion month," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf, who practices in NYC, tells TZR. "All the stressors of Fashion Month can lead to acne, under-eye bags, dryness, and more. As makeup is being put on for longer periods of time, then stripped on and off, the skin can't breathe and [doesn't] have as much time to reset and produce the natural oils it needs to be healthy and glow."

Less sleep and high stress also exacerbates inflammation in the skin, which can result in puffiness and breakouts, even on typically clear skin. "Any time you're stressed out, whether it's something major or minor, the whole body becomes inflamed," Vargas says. "Whenever the body goes into inflammation mode, the skin starts breaking out. At the very least, that's when the skin looks its dullest. If you are already oily, then the internal inflammation will lead to breakouts. If you are dry, then you will see red, dry patches in spots around the face."

Dr. King also points out that dietary factors compound these skin issues. "Caffeine, alcohol, and lack of hydration can also lead to dehydrated skin, which can appear dull and less plump," she notes. In other words, three-to-six hours of sleep, after-parties, and hot coffee to wake up in the morning are directly counter-productive to your glow.

Below, we hear from runway models themselves on the impact of Fashion Month on their skin, with tips from skin care experts on how to restore and repair.

ARLENIS SOSA, FASHION MODEL

Featured Shows: Oscar de la Renta, Dior, Hermes, Carolina Herrera, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Prabal Gurung, Philip Plein, Lanvin, and more.

Q: What is your skin type and how does it usually react during and after Fashion Month?

A: I have very sensitive skin, [even more so] during shows because of the different products used backstage and lack of sleep. Weather-related changes make it very dry, which prompts it to break out.

Q: Do you have any favorite skin remedies to share?

A: One of my favorites is retinoic acid.

Q: What is the one beauty product you can't live without?

A: The one product I can't live without is Biologique Recherche Masque Biosensible. This mask is incredible and works well with sensitive skin. This mask restores, calms, and soothes, helping your skin feel clear and refreshed after a whole day of work or travel.

Q: What is your go-to beauty treatment, in or out of the office or salon?

A: I see my esthetician every six to eight weeks for a facial. She works on the revitalization of my skin. We start by cleansing and checking on the state of my skin, as every visit [my] skin feels slightly different due to the weather, products used, etc. She uses different tools, and one of my favorites is microdermabrasion to remove all the dead cells and give a cleaner look. Then we do extractions and end with a cooling mask and LED light.

Q: Has your skin ever reacted negatively to products or makeup used on the runway?

A: Yes it has. Some makeup and creams used backstage are too high in oils, which I am very sensitive to.

Q: How much sleep do you get on average during Fashion Month, and does this ever impact your skin?

A: On early call times for the shows, depending on my fitting schedule, the day before I get about three-to-six hours of sleep. This is only when my schedule is very hectic. Of course, lack of sleep is definitely a big factor in causing your skin to act up, so get your eight hours of sleep! That is real advice.

Q: Do you have a go-to dermatologist or esthetician you reach out to for advice?

A: Yes, I love her. She is really great. Her name is Michiko at Ling Spa.

Q: How do you wash your face before bed after walking in a show?

A: I first rinse my skin with cold water and add Biologique Recherche Lait U, a milk cleanser, to my fingers or two cotton pads, and cleanse. I also use the soap cleanser from Kat Burki to finish cleansing, then I add Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 onto a cotton pad and [apply it to] the skin. Then I add eye cream, apply hyaluronic acid, hydrating cream, and my secret retinol, finishing with a cooling mist.

Several of our experts mention the efficacy of chemical peels to rid the face of post-Fashion Month debris. At her eponymous spas, Vargas often incorporates LED light into post-Fashion Month treatments for models. "I usually like to do a light lactic acid peel to brighten them up again, lots of face massage, and I use cryotherapy and the LED bed to calm inflammation. It's a process that takes two hours, but really restores the skin back to a healthy and glowing state," she says.

Celebrity facialist Shani Darden, founder of Shani Darden Skin Care, praises the hydrating potential of lactic acid peels, which can allow your moisture-rich products to better penetrate the skin. Dr. Graf turns to the SkinMedica Revitalize Peel, which uses retinol, lactic acid, and salicylic acid to purify the skin and restore glow. "I also like using the Dermasweep treatment as I can customize it to meet specific skin care needs," Dr. Graf continues. "It gently lifts away the top layer of skin, increasing micro-circulation, and providing the skin with key nutrients."

NAOMIE BROQUET, FASHION MODEL

Featured Shows: Eckhaus Latta

Q: What is your skin type and how does it usually react during and after Fashion Month?

A: My skin type is oily most of the time, but tends to be really dry during winter. After Fashion Month, my skin doesn't change that much because I always keep up with my skin care routine and diet. It was really hard for me to get to a point of having clear and smooth skin, so I try to be consistent with it.

Q: Do you have any favorite skin remedies to share?

A: I do have a favorite skin remedy, which is a product from my skin care line named Naomie Nourish Your Natural Beauty. Its name is 'A Touch of Vanilla,' and it's [a lotion] made of shea butter from Senegal, mixed with vanilla oil, and infused with vanilla. It helps me moisturize my skin during the cold winter and stay hydrated almost the whole day.

Q: What is the one beauty product you can't live without?

A: The one product I can't live without is CeraVe Facial Cleanser, which I use to clean my face before using any of my own products.

Q: What is your go-to beauty treatment, in or out of the office or salon?

A: My go-to treatment in or out of the salon is probably facial cleansing. I am really into opening the pores of the skin and deep-cleaning. Then I use my 'Coconut Flake' product from my skin care line. Coconut has been the one ingredient that helped clear my skin.

Q: How do you wash your face before bed after walking in a show?

A: I clean my face twice with the facial cleanser from CeraVe, and after this use my 'Face Potion,' which is really soothing for the skin. It is made out of infused rose petals, coriander, and jasmine.

Consistency in the at-home regimen is another key to maintaining skin's resiliency. "At home, it is important to back up the work we do in treatment with a proper routine and products that are rich in vitamins A, C, and E," says celebrity esthetician Joanna Czech, who works with models Lily Aldridge, Candice Swanepoel, and Bella Hadid, among others. "You need the appropriate basics: cleanser, toner, and moisturizer as a bare minimum. Concentrate on your nighttime regimen, as products have greater efficacy when the body is at rest," she adds.

"Retinol Reform is always what I recommend to all of my clients to keep their skin glowing in between facials," says Darden of her line's celebrity-beloved retinol serum, which combines encapsulated retinol and lactic acid to encourage cell turnover and even out skin tone. She also stresses the role that the weather and environment have on the state of the skin, noting that, "Cold, dry air can leave you with parched skin."

DAHELY NUNEZ, FASHION MODEL

Featured Shows: Helmut Lang, Lanvin, Moschino, Self Portrait, Dion Lee

Q: What is your skin type and how does it usually react during and after Fashion Month?

A: My skin type is normal, and [often] it does develop pimples during Fashion Month, on my forehead specifically. This can kill my mood a bit, but I remind myself that it is something normal that happens. However, I have my go-to products to get rid of those pimples in less than a week, which is a great thing. After Fashion Month, I try to get a facial to make sure all of the makeup and dirt are removed, and my skin feels absolutely amazing afterwards.

Q: Do you have any favorite skin remedies to share?

A: I do not have my own skin remedy unfortunately, but I do have this special eye mask that you can heat up and cool down. This item is definitely a need during Fashion Week to help with puffiness, dark eyes, and also irritation.

Q: What is the one beauty product you can't live without?

A: The one beauty product I can't live without is for sure my face roller. I use it day and night. It keeps my face tight and makes sure my pores don't get out of control. My face tends to get really swollen in the morning, so using my roller is the best way to start my day.

Q: What is your go-to beauty treatment, in or out of the salon/office?

A: My go-to beauty treatment is an overnight face mask. It takes everything out of my skin, so every pimple and blemish can go away quicker. Even if there's a time period where my skin doesn't look perfect, I know that it is at least purging away all the bad stuff.

Q: How do you wash your face before bed after walking in a show?

A: After walking in a show, I will make sure all of the makeup is wiped off my face and then use a deep cleanser. I have my absolute favorite face brush that exfoliates and cleans my skin very well, making sure there is nothing left on it. Afterwards, I put on an overnight hydration face mask to give my skin more of a glow fresh upon waking.

Sleep is important for skin health, plus inadequate sleep can exacerbate puffiness and dark circles. "Sleep is the body's chance to repair itself from all the damage and stress we put it through during the day," Vargas explains. "Less sleep means the body can't finish its repair cycle, which will [also] result in more inflammation and breakouts."

Reaching for products like overnight masks is a good call for stressed skin. "I encourage my clients to sleep in my Exfoliating Mask the night before an event," Vargas continues. "It evens out pigment, takes down inflammation, and after a good night's sleep in it, you'll wake up fresh-faced like you have just had a facial."

At-home beauty tools that promote circulation and lymphatic drainage are also helpful for dealing with puffiness, and can also be coupled with specific active ingredients to help mitigate issues like breakouts. "For those with acne-prone skin, I recommend anti-acne ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and adapalene gel, before, during, and after Fashion Week, if needed," Dr. King says. Darden recently developed a vibrating Facial Sculpting Wand to help mimic her in-office massage treatment, and sells at-home beauty tools to her clients, noting that, "Vibration therapy, oxygen therapy, and LED light can all help to make the skin glow again."

BHUMIKA ARORA, FASHION MODEL

Featured Shows: Jonathan Simkhai, Tibi, Brandon Maxwell

Q: What is your skin type and how does it normally react during Fashion Month?

A: My skin type is dry and sensitive, so during Fashion Week my skin gets stressed — but nothing that can't be recovered from. That's why I believe in at-home and natural remedies.

Q: Do you have any favorite skin remedies to share?

A: I put aloe vera on my skin, sometimes sandalwood paste, or turmeric packs. Sometimes just rubbing ice on my face makes my skin feel better.

Q: What is the one beauty product you can't live without?

A: Hydrating face cream — any good one, but oil-free.

Q: What is your go-to beauty treatment, in or out of the salon?

A: I like [cleansing facials], and go to the hair salon from time-to-time.

Q: Has your skin ever reacted negatively to products or makeup used pre-runway?

A: Nothing too crazy that stands out.

Q: How much sleep do you get on average during Fashion Month, and does this ever impact your skin?

A: It's mostly less than five-to-six hours, and yes, sometimes that has an impact. I try to keep it hydrated to cope.

Q: Do you have a go-to dermatologist or esthetician you reach out to?

A: I visit Dr. Sapna Westley from time to time.

Q: How do you wash your face before bed after walking in a show?

A: I take off all my makeup with a nice remover, wash my face with a mild face wash, and put on a hydrating, oil-free cream.

Our experts also identified several lifestyle practices, like stress-reduction, as crucial in order to maintain skin health. "Aside from treating skin, I recommend getting back to a healthy, well-balanced diet [including] the proper amount of water, sleep, [stress-reduction], etc.," Czech notes, emphasizing practices like meditation, yoga, exercise, and therapy to lower stress levels. "Lifestyle makes up 70% of skin."

Diet and hydration are two other lifestyle practices that our experts referred to. "Models need to make sure that they are properly hydrating," Dr. Graf reiterates. "I also believe in the importance of internal alkalinity for glowing skin and health… It's best to have a diet that consists of green, colorful veggies, fruits, and supplemented with green powder drinks to mix in water or spirulina tablets to increase alkalinity. Avoid sugar, avoid alcohol, get plenty of sleep, and resist the urge to stay out and party." Doctor's orders.

OLIVIA NOVAK, FASHION MODEL

Featured Shows: Proenza Schouler

Q: What is your skin type and how does it normally react during Fashion Month?

A: My skin type is on the drier side, so putting on and taking off makeup a lot can irritate it. I always have to compensate with a lot of moisturizer.

Q: Do you have any favorite skin remedies to share?

A: I love putting hydrocolloid patches on any acne I get. It practically goes away overnight.

Q: What is the one beauty product you can't live without?

A: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Sivel Stick Lip Moisturizer. I always have it on me.

Q: What is your go-to beauty treatment, in or out of the salon?

A: Getting a manicure is my favorite. When I was younger I was really into fun nail art and I would always go on my birthday with my mom.

Q: How do you wash your face before bed after walking in a show?

A: I use micellar water to remove my makeup, and then follow with CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser. With my skin still slightly wet, I use Kiehl's Ultra Facial Moisturizer. It's a Korean skin care trick to get really hydrated skin.

"The main focus for models during or after a crazy time like Fashion Week is to make sure the skin is rebalanced, hydrated, and gently exfoliated, and that breakouts and blemishes are dealt with," Czech says. "I often recommend a series of six treatments once or twice per week to get skin back to a healthy, glowing state. Kind of like a ‘skin bootcamp.'"

As for the actives to reach for to help rebalance the skin, it truly depends upon the current state of your skin. "If you're experiencing issues such as skin irritation, it's best to reduce the frequency that you're using active treatments and to focus on hydrating, soothing ingredients to restore balance," Darden emphasizes. "If you're experiencing breakouts, you want to be careful not to [dry out] the skin. Instead, alternate nights with targeted treatments."

As one final takeaway, Dr. King urges everyone, model or not, to prioritize healthy lifestyle choices during times of high stress, and to thoroughly recuperate afterwards. "Try to stay hydrated, get enough sleep, use stress-management techniques, and be sure to wash off all of the makeup after the show [before] bed," she says. "Try to maintain your skin care routine as much as possible throughout Fashion Month. After, a light chemical peel may be helpful to refresh the skin."

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to correct the spelling of Dr. Jeannette Graf’s name.