Caring for your skin during the fall and winter weather is no joke. Cold outdoor temperatures, dry indoor heat, and the thick harsher fabrics we wear during the colder months such as scarves and turtlenecks can wreak havoc on the skin.
For many who have well-defined skincare regimens, the need to wear face masks regularly to combat COVID-19 complicates matters. Even dermatologists are not quite sure what to expect as we approach the fall and winter seasons in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I sort of like the idea of the mask being protective against the elements in the winter,” said Shari Marchbein, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at NYU School of Medicine. “Maybe it’ll be better to have some protection from the cold air but I’m not sure ultimately what’s going to happen with mask acne. I have a feeling we might see more eczema under the masks as opposed to breakouts. But I think that breakouts are here to stay because of the nature of the masks.”
Initially, there was a lot of debate over which masks provided the best defense against coronavirus and for whom. As of August, the CDC recommends civilians choose masks that have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric, avoiding N95 respirators and surgical masks meant for healthcare workers.
“I usually recommend cotton masks, silk masks, and satin masks,” said Sheila Farhang, MD, Founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics. “There are lots of cute ones now that are better [for the skin] than the really rough ones.”
Still, no matter what material you use, mascne and other skin issues that have increased during the pandemic are a result of masks rubbing against compromised skin. “There is less humidity than during the summer so our skin barrier gets compromised,” explained Board-certified dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD. “Whenever our skin barrier is compromised and we don’t have a sufficient barrier between the mask and our skin, we are more likely to get acne from that friction. So what we need to do as it gets colder is make sure that we have a sufficient skin barrier, using creams with ingredients like Ceramide, Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin—all those ingredients that we know fortify our skin and really provide a barrier between our skin and the mask.”
Echoing Dr. Henry’s words, Dr. Marchbein further explained, “Acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis — these are all skin conditions where there’s actually damage or a deficiency in the skin barrier. What we do when we’re treating this type of skin, even though they’re very different conditions, is to help repair the skin barrier.”
So which products actually do that? Read on for recommendations from four dermatologists.
1. Simple Micellar Cleansing WaterSource:Unilever
“Simple Micellar Water is one of my all-time favorite things,” Dr. Marchbein said. “Micellar water is an awesome way of taking off your makeup in one of the most gentle ways possible so I love that. I’m so obsessed with it.”
Simple’s micellar water is formulated with triple purified water, Vitamin B3, Vitamin C, Hexylene, and Glycol to boost skin’s hydration as it removes contaminants known to irritate skin. It’s also free of artificial perfumes, colors, dyes, and harsh chemicals, making it particularly good for sensitive skin.Shop Now
2. Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating CleanserSource:Johnson & Johnson
When it comes to face washes this time of year, “you want to look for ingredients like glycerin and ceramides and hyaluronic acid,” Dr. Marchbein said, and use “the very hydrating, soap-free gentle cleansers that are creamy and hydrating as opposed to foaming cleansers.”
Neutrogena’s Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser is another one of her favorites because it’s extra mild and contains glycerin, making it effective at stripping away dirt and bacteria from dry, sensitive skin without causing irritation or additional dryness.
“Stay away from anything harsh or anything that would strip the skin of its natural oils,” Dr. Marchbein added. “You don’t want the skin to feel bone dry or squeaky clean. You want your skin to feel soft and supple.”Shop Now
3. CeraVe Moisturizing CreamSource:CeraVe
Both Dr. Henry and Dr. Marchbein are fans of CeraVe Moisturizing Cream because it’s packed with ceramides –three essential kinds to be exact — and hyaluronic acid. The “Barrier-reinforcing moisturizing cream” is a go-to for many patients with eczema and psoriasis because it hydrates as it helps restore the skin barrier and it can be used on the face or body.
In addition to choosing the right hydrating product, it’s also important that you’re “not taking super long baths, especially with eczema,” Dr. Henry said. “During winter months a nice hot bath can feel really good, but really what it’s doing is stripping your skin of moisture and compromising your skin barrier.”Shop Now
4. SPF 30 BRIGHTENING MOISTURIZERSource:CeraVe
In case you haven’t been hit over the head with this message enough, yes, you still need to wear sunscreen in the winter — even with a mask.
“I always recommend not wearing makeup under a mask, just wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 30,” Dr. Marchbein said.
Bolden’s SPF 30 Brightening Moisturizer hits a couple of key points on the fall skincare list. Number one, it has an SPF of 30 so it will protect against UV damage. It also contains Vitamin C to not only correct hyperpigmentation but also counteract daily oxidative damage that causes skin discoloration. Plus Squalane and Safflower oil help repair the skin barrier, ease dryness, and reduce inflammation, roughness, flaking, and fine lines.Shop Now
5. Olay Cleansing and Brightening Body washSource:Procter & Gamble
Vitamin C isn’t just for the face anymore, as Olay’s new premium Cleansing and Brightening Body Wash has shown us, and Dr. Farhang is a fan.
“Vitamin C is an antioxidant so I love it in the mornings. When I go outside, it’s the first thing to help defend all those free radicals from the sun.”
Noting that you still need to wear sunscreen when using the new body wash, Dr. Farhang pointed out an additional benefit of the cleanser. “It’s also a brightener so little acne scars, things that our skin tone gets exposed to, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation from any scars, this helps to brighten that and now we can use it for our body to have this glow effect.”
There’s a second ingredient in the body wash that makes it particularly good for the cool months as well. “Vitamin B3, which is niacinamide, actually helps with moisturization and the skin barrier with adding replenishing moisture.”Shop Now
6. Dove Advanced Care Dry Spray Antiperspirant Deodorant Rose PetalsSource:Unilever
Our underarms are arguably one of the most neglected skin areas of our bodies until we have to remove the hair there or deal with dryness and irritation from said removal.
The skin there is under constant friction, however, which makes it prone to irritation, explained board-certified dermatologist Alicia Barba, MD. To address this, Dove recently reformulated their deodorant sticks and dry sprays to be more moisturizing than ever.
“Sunflower oil is the hero product in Dove antiperspirants, whether it be a stick or a dry spray,” Dr. Barba said. “In fact, the dry spray has 12% more sunflower seed oil, and it continues to be alcohol-free and goes on without white stains on your clothing.”
Why Sunflower oil? Because it’s soothing, Dr. Barba added. “It’s going to provide a better experience when you’re putting it on, leaving skin silky and smooth, while also giving that 48-hour protection against wetness and odor.”Shop Now
7. JAPANFUSION™ BIO-CERAMIDE MOISTURE MASKSource:Beauty Pie
When it comes to specialty products, Dr. Henry cautioned, “Anything that we are using to treat our skin- for any conditions- should be things that are highly tolerable because we don’t want anything that is going to compromise our skin further, especially as it gets drier during the winter months.”
Beauty Pie’s Japanfusion Bio-Ceramide Moisture Mask is formulated with Yuzu Ceramides to improve skin’s barrier; Jabara Extract, which is rich in vitamin C and Polyphenols; NM Fission, a moisturizing yeast derivative; Vegetable Squalane, an antioxidant emollient moisturizer; and Delamyth DNA+ which counteracts UV-related free radical damage and soothes skin. The hydrating treatment can be used as a mask or massaged into skin as an overnight moisturizer.Shop Now
8. Avène Tolérance Extrême CreamSource:Avène
Described as a “beautiful moisturizer” by Dr. Marchbein, Avène’s Tolérance Extrême Cream promises six hours of hydration in only seven essential ingredients. Three of those key ingredients are Safflower oil, Glycerin moisturizers, and Avène Thermal Spring Water which soothes, softens, and calms skin. A major bonus of the product is it’s safe for use after dermatological procedures such as peels and laser treatments.Shop Now
9. Tatcha The Dewy Skin CreamSource:Tatcha
On the pricier end of the spectrum, Dr. Henry approves of The Dewy Skin Cream from Tatcha. The rich non-comedogenic, non-irritating moisturizer features Tatcha’s signature blend of fermented Japanese anti-aging superfoods: green tea, rice, and algae.
Purple rice helps protect against stress, pollution, and UV damage while a special blend of Okinawa algae and hyaluronic acid in the cream replenishes skin’s natural moisture and helps restore ceramides to promote optimum skin barrier function.
“When the skin is damaged your body gets rid of more water in a way,” Dr. Farhang explained. “That’s why you get dry, irritated skin. When we talk about a better skin barrier, a lot of it is decreasing the transepidermal water loss.”Shop Now
10. BLOOM CREAM DAILY PROBIOTIC MOISTURIZERSource:Beekman 1802
While goat milk struck me as a surprising ingredient base for Beekman 1802’s line of skincare and bodycare products, Dr. Henry informed me “Goats milk has been around for a while. Because goat milk is kind of fatty, it’s good for moisture.”
That must be why the Bloom Cream Daily Probiotic Moisturizer is the brand’s hero product. Formulated to mimic skin’s natural barrier, the daily moisturizer helps boost skin’s health by restoring microflora, reviving the skin’s microbiome to keep it in balance (reducing redness, aging, and breakouts), and delivering hydration to literally allow your complexion to “bloom.”Shop Now
11. SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid IntensifierSource:SkinCeuticals
SkinCeuticals is another brand Dr. Henry and Dr. Marchbein both agree on.
“SkinCeuticals has an HA Intensifier that is thick and so good,” Dr. Marchbein shared. Now known as the Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier Serum, this “hydrating booster,” as she called it, is a corrective serum that increases skin’s hyaluronic acid levels. The product also has anti-aging benefits such as improving skin’s plumpness and reducing the appearance of lines and crow’s fee. It can also be used safely after in-office dermatological procedures.Shop Now
12. SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid RestoreSource:SkinCeuticals
SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore is the standout product for Dr. Henry. The cream specifically targets age-related lipid loss with a formula made up of a concentration of lipids (2% pure ceramides, 4% natural cholesterol and 2% fatty acids). Together, the ingredients support natural skin repair and help restore the skin’s barrier. Vitamin E and Essential oils also help protect against environmental damage.Shop Now
13. Epiduo Forte GelSource:Galderma
Though we all like to see results overnight when we use products, we know that’s not realistic. Still, if you’re following best practices and still dealing with breakouts or dry skin after several weeks it may be time to see a dermatologist.
“I say if you’re doing treatments, and in about six to eight weeks you’re just not getting better, or you’re getting worse, then we definitely want to see you in the office because acne can cause scarring. Acne can cause hyperpigmentation, and all of those things can last far longer than your breakout,” Dr. Henry said.
Of course, you likely won’t be as familiar with the prescription medications a doctor may recommend as you are over-the-counter treatments, so it’s a good idea to do some research before your appointment.
“I like Epiduo Forte Gel which has a low concentration of adapalene and a lower concentration of benzoyl peroxide. The combination makes it really efficacious but makes it more tolerable than using higher concentrations of both.
“Once we have acne we really want it gone. So the consumer’s tendency is to get something strong to try to knock it out, but during this season, especially during the winter and with mascne, we want things that are efficacious but still tolerable.”Shop Now