A change in season calls for a skin care overhaul. The thick creams and oils you might have sworn by in the colder months aren’t exactly what your complexion needs as the temperature rises and humidity fluctuates. This year, however, resetting your lackluster winter complexion in order to achieve that enviable summer skin glow seems a lot trickier. Not only did the pandemic bring a whole new crop of skin care ailments, but it also created fraught living situations. Stress and anxiety have been most people’s constant companions over the past year, which is never beneficial for any parameter of health, including your skin. All together that means that summer’s impending arrival and the world’s emergence from the pandemic fog bring with them a perfect storm of skin issues.
“These concerns are real and mostly from the environment we have been living in for the past year,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified New York-based dermatologist. “For most of my patients, the stress and worry shows up on their faces.” While she explains that some of her patients did care for their skin over the last year or so, many didn’t, or couldn’t, in quarantine. “Now that patients are getting vaccinated, they are feeling more comfortable to come back in and take control with me, as a team, to correct all of their skin issues,” she says.
And while it’s easy to see skin care as a tool to suppress every pore and blemish into submission, it can also be restorative, centering, and a route to self-love, which everyone deserves to be slathered in after 2020, no matter the state of their skin. The goal here is health, for your skin and for yourself, which is why TZR chatted with the pros to learn the best ways to prep your complexion for summer and kiss that dry, dull winter skin goodbye.
Summer Skin Glow: Increase Cell Turnover
As if regular acne, backne, and buttne weren’t bad enough, the pandemic added a dystopian category to the acne canon: maskne, aka acne caused by (rightly) wearing a face mask. Maskne has been one of the biggest skin concerns to result from the pandemic, according to Dr. Howard Sobel, attending dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and founder of Sobel Skin, and considering that warmer temperatures are right around the corner, the number of patients complaining of maskne (thank you face sweat) is only going to increase. “Masks can cause breakouts due to a combination of friction of the mask and sweating and heat from wearing one for prolonged periods,” he says. “Our pores can also get clogged from wearing a mask because the dead skin cells are unable to shed and block our pores.”
He suggests exploring products that contain either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, two gold standard acne ingredients which can dry up excess sebum — too much oil can clog your pores and lead to breakouts. Salicylic acid is also what Renée Rouleau, an Austin-based esthetician and founder of Renée Rouleau skin care, recommends to clients who come in with maskne. “It’s a fabulous ingredient with proven results in helping to clear clogged pores and smooth out visible bumps without causing irritation. It reduces acne-causing bacteria and oil to prevent blemishes, while penetrating the pores to help clear out impurities,” she says.
Both Dr. Sobel and Rouleau also like retinol for its ability to increase cell turnover and clear clogged pores. It’s just about finding the best formula that works for your skin, and using it an appropriate amount so as to not cause undue skin damage — try three nights a week and go from there. A starter product like the Renée Rouleau Advanced Resurfacing Serum is appropriate for beginners, who can then slowly work their way up to prescription retinoids if they so choose.
Clogged pores also tend to stretch out the pore opening, and Rouleau says retinol is the solution for that, too. “Without a doubt, retinol is the best product you can use to shrink the look of large pores. Since it helps stimulate the production of collagen, it makes pores appear smaller,” she says. To note — you can’t actually shrink the size of your pores, but keeping them clear of unnecessary buildup, like excess oil and blackheads, will help them appear smaller.
Dr. Sobel stresses that consistency in your skin care routine is key, especially if you’re dealing with acne. If you’re breaking out in the chin and jaw area, he recommends switching to cotton masks, as the natural, breathable fabric won’t cause as much sweating and irritation. It’s also important to use a clean mask everyday (and wash reusable ones after each use) to eliminate any accumulated dirt, sweat, or bacteria.
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Summer Skin Glow: Exfoliation Is Key
A dull, lackluster complexion lacking vitality and glow is a classic skin lament after a long winter. “Dullness is always on my patients’ minds,” says Dr. Engelman. For Rouleau’s clients, too, dullness is a concern that’s high up on their list because of the several different ways in which it manifests. “As the skin ages, everything tends to slow down,” she says. “This includes cell metabolism, blood circulation, oil production, and the natural exfoliating process. The result is skin that looks and feels dull and sluggish, lacking overall brightness. What’s more, brown spots develop as pigment cells rise to the surface, causing the skin to look uneven in tone.”
Dr. Engelman recommends a medical grade peel in the office before starting her patients on an at-home regimen in order to boost skin’s radiance. Depending on your skin type, she recommends combating dull skin with glycolic acid like this Ambari Beauty PM Active12 Serum with 12% AHA/PHA acids to exfoliate, or the stalwart retinoids. “Retinoids [are great] if skin can tolerate it. Those with sensitive skin should use caution and conduct a patch test before diving into any potentially harsh treatment,” she says. She likes these single use Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules, and for the particularly sensitive, she recommends bakuchiol, a plant-derived ingredient found in the Indeed Labs Bakuchiol Resurface Pads. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and helps boost collagen production. It’s often recommended to people whose skin is too delicate for retinol, as it can achieve similar effects.
Rouleau suggests using lactic or glycolic acid exfoliants as the quickest and easiest way to instantly brighten the skin for the summer months. “By dissolving and removing dry surface cells, you instantly reveal fresher, brighter cells that reflect light and give the skin a smoother look,” she says. Her Triple Berry Smoothing Peel is a celebrity favorite. Just be sure not to double up on exfoliating toners and retinol — pick one or the other and alternate a few days per week.
Summer Skin Glow: Target Dryness & Eczema
“I have been seeing a lot of eczema or dry patches, many of which are stress-induced, or caused by the dry air in patients’ homes,” says Dr. Engelman. For Dr. Sobel’s patients, too, dryness has been a common complaint, which he attributes to a long, cold winter.
For eczema, Dr. Engelman recommends an over-the-counter hydrocortisone product. “It’s a topical steroid that can ease itching and irritation associated with eczema,” she says. To dial down inflammation, she likes full-spectrum CBD for its powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, especially Melach 33’s rich, soothing Luxe CBD Body Butter. “I also recommend adding a humidifier to your nightly routine to keep skin hydrated and prevent transdermal water loss while you sleep,” she says.
Rouleau says dry skin often equals a damaged moisture barrier. “When this happens, your skin develops tiny, invisible cracks that allow moisture to escape,” she explains. “Aside from using only gentle cleansers, you have to take steps to repair your skin’s moisture barrier and close up these cracks.” The best way to do this is by using the right type of moisturizer with emollient, barrier-repair ingredients such as ceramides, squalane, and oils from evening primrose, jojoba, canola, sunflower, or sweet almond, among others.
While layering a cream and oil can help keep your skin thoroughly moisturized in the winter, it’s wise to use only one or the other in the warmer months, and potentially swap for a lightweight lotion or gel formula come summer. Paired with a hydrating serum, like a hyaluronic acid or glycerin, plenty of antioxidants to prevent free radical damage, and an SPF 30, and your skin will be prepped and ready to face summer’s arrival.