Masked moisture management… It’s what your winter skin needs
By Adriana Ermter
“Just wanted to come on here to lose some Instagram followers by telling you all to continue to wear masks,” said Dan Levy. “Science is real. So…”
Shared on Instagram, captured in a tiny square all the way from Los Angeles, the Schitt’s Creek creator and star, Canadian and all-round good guy was crystal clear with this universal appeal about the importance of wearing a face mask. And he’s even got one with rainbow-coloured letters spelling “Ready” superimposed on it to prove it. Because, as Levy reiterated recently (as well as explained last May), while sporting a mask and being told what to do can be frustrating, it is also “one of the simplest acts of kindness you can do for others.”
We couldn’t agree more – which is why we’re giving back to all mask wearers. Not with cash, flowers or even a socially distanced elbow bump, but with expert-approved insight on how to give the skin behind the mask some much-needed TLC.
The hydration facts
When the world’s health leaders – including Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer and the person behind the federal government’s COVID-19 containment strategy – advised us to start wearing the now-must-have clothing accessory, no one was prepared for the havoc it would play on our face (never mind the political hoopla!). Trapped behind a mix of polyester and/or cotton and subject to the heat and humidity created by warm breath and body temperature, your nose, cheeks and chin are now the perfect breeding ground for sweat, bacteria and acne. Factor in winter’s icy cold outdoors and overheated indoors and, well, your mask-trapped skin is playing a game of eeny-meeny-miny-mo between oily skin with a dehydrated surface, dry skin and dehydrated skin.
“It’s all about moisture loss,” explains Deanne Zirker, a natural beauty expert and skincare advisor for Weleda in New York City. “The skin can be affected by humidity in the air, the temperature and your skin barrier’s function. Winter’s colder temperatures and lower humidity levels can also cause moisture in the skin to evaporate more quickly, leading to skin that can feel tight and dry and in need of extra moisture.”
So while exposure to both hot and cold elements often causes water to evaporate from your skin – leaving it feeling dry, tight and itchy – mask wearing only adds fuel to this skincare conundrum. And none of it’s pretty. Skin irritations like bumps, flaky skin, rashes, excess natural sebum (a.k.a. oil) and inappropriate skin care can all escalate moisture depletion, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles, redness, rosacea, eczema, acne, and a tight and dry surface.
“The epidermis can react to small changes too, compensating for fluctuations in your skin’s lipid level,” adds Zirker. “However, during more harsh weather and extreme temperature changes, your skin can’t adjust as easily. Therefore, extra care is important to keep skin in balance.”
Yet, different skin types have different needs, not to mention your skin type and needs can change over time, oscillating from one day, one month or one season to the next. So regardless of what your skin is going through, it demands and benefits from proper hydration with the appropriate formulation – all to keep it looking and feeling balanced once the mask comes off. Here’s how to better understand your skin’s moisture loss and what you can use to hydrate it properly.
Oily skin with a dehydrated surface
While oily skin is caused by an overproduction of sebum and is most typically associated with teens, acne and puberty, adults can have oily skin too and are particularly prone to oily skin with a dry surface. “Oily skin can easily become dehydrated during winter, which simply means your skin is lacking in water,” says Maxine Ryan, a senior trainer for Eau Thermale Avène in Ontario. “When your skin is dehydrated, it triggers a higher production of oil to compensate for the water loss. So you can experience oily areas, dry patches and breakouts all at the same time. Plus, your skin looks dull, is rough to the touch, and fine lines and wrinkles look more pronounced.”
Take action: with skincare products featuring formulations with a lower lipid content, containing astringents that sweep away excess oil without disturbing the skin’s natural barrier. But make sure to steer clear of heavy creams; opt for lightweight, water-based lotions instead. “Your skin already produces too much oil, so adding more will cause a greasy film on your skin that may lead to more breakouts or little white bumps called milia,” explains Ryan. “As a bonus, products designed for oily, dehydrated skin usually have oil-regulating and antibacterial agents to rebalance your skin, prevent breakouts and add lots of moisture.”
Try: the Weleda Clarifying collection containing plant willow bark and witch hazel to keep skin looking clear and balanced, especially the Weleda Sheer Hydration Daily Dew Lotion (all from $15 and available online at www.weleda.com) for weightless, breathable moisture; and the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask in Berry ($26, available online at www.sephora.com) for its overnight dose of hydrating hyaluronic acid and antioxidants.
“The way I describe dry skin is like a brick wall that is lacking in cement,” says Ryan. “When the temperature drops, the surface of this skin type is compromised, the brick wall (a.k.a. your epidermis) is exposed and the lipids between your cells are depleted.” This can make your skin look dull, lack radiance, feel tight and itchy, and present with fine flakes around the creases of your nose and mouth. “If you already suffer from dry skin conditions like eczema, then your skin is naturally deficient in lipids already so the colder/drier air will cause micro-fissures and cracks, so flare-ups can occur quickly,” she adds. The best way to avoid it, prevent dryness and protect your skin from drying elements (such as hot forced air indoors, the humid conditions beneath a face mask and freezing cold outdoors) is to use a daily moisturizer.
Take action: Your first step is to make sure your cleanser is gentle, soap-free, PH-balanced and designed for dry skin. And, just an FYI, the foamier your cleanser is, the more it can strip your skin of its essential sebum, causing it to go into sebum production overdrive. On top of that, “your skin loses more than 25 per cent of its ability to hold moisture in the winter, whether it’s behind a mask or not,” adds Zirker. “Without proper care, you may find yourself suffering from dry, chapped and flaky skin.” So, your next step will be to hydrate.
Try: the AvèneGentle Milk Cleanserand Gentle Toner ($23 each, available at Shoppers Drug Mart), as they both contain high concentrations of skin-softening silicates and hyaluronic acid and have a neutral pH; Olay Deep Hydration Serum (from $40, available at Shoppers Drug Mart) with vitamin B3 and hyaluronic acid to penetrate the skin’s surface for optimum moisture and glow; and Burt’s Bees Honey Lip Balm ($6, available at Shoppers Drug Mart) with nourishing oils, butters and beeswax to moisturize and soften your lips.
Considering that your skin is made up of 70 per cent water, dehydrated skin is not a skin type, but rather a state of being that is not only temporary but reversible. “Dehydrated skin can affect all skin types and all ages,” says Ryan. “It can be caused by internal factors such as our diets, our lifestyle [smoking, alcohol consumption], certain medications and illness. It can also be caused by external factors such as cold weather, wind, sun exposure, pollution and mask wearing. The skin will look dull, feel rough to the touch and even appear aged. Drinking lots of water is key for maintaining plump skin, but skin care plays a role by replenishing its water levels instantly and preventing water loss through the skin.”
Take action: Dehydrated skin is craving moisture, so “take the time to carefully assess your skin and the environment or conditions it is currently experiencing dehydration from,” recommends Zirker. “You will want to switch up your routine and products as seasons change. If you’re not sure what to do, book an appointment with a dermatologist or professional aesthetician for advice.”
Try: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration ($55, available online at www.sephora.com), containing shea butter, allantoin, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids to hydrate, protect, calm and soothe your skin; Doll 10 Smooth Assist Skin Energy Daily Renewing Souffle ($63, available online at www.doll10.com) with its oil-free formula of green tea and ceramides to replenish skin’s moisture; and Fresh Sugar Advanced Therapy Treatment Lip Balm in Translucent, ($34, available online at www.sephora.com) with sugar, sea fennel and orange extract to protect your lips and provide 24-hour moisture.
ADRIANA ERMTER is a Toronto-based, lifestyle-magazine pro who has travelled the globe writing about must-spritz fragrances, child poverty, beauty and grooming.