Most of us have felt pretty cooped up during the pandemic, but our skin has certainly been living its best life. Think about it: aside from the occasional bout of maskne, our complexions have gotten a pretty sweet break over the past year since we've been wearing way less makeup and spending more time focusing on creating a solid skin care routine.
Now that we're all returning to "normal" life once again (back to the office, commuting, socializing in normal environments), our skin is about to leave its safety bubble and we can't help but wonder: How's it going to react? And can we do anything now to prepare it for harsher conditions? So the Shop TODAY team called up a few of our dermatologist friends to get some tips and product recommendations to help ease our skin back into its old routine.
What changes can we expect in our skin as we return to our normal routines?
Over the past year, our skin has become familiar with a few controlled environments while spending so much time at home. Now that many of us are heading back to the office and commuting to work once again, we can expect one or more of the following skin care changes.
Breakouts from makeup
If you gave your skin a yearlong vacation from foundation, it'll likely rebel a bit when you start wearing makeup on a regular basis again. But you don't have to sit back and accept acne and irritation as inevitable.
"Start reintroducing makeup one product at a time starting two to four weeks prior to returning to work or social events," Dr. David Bank, a board-certified dermatologist in Mount Kisco, New York, told Shop TODAY.
The return of maskne
There's been no need to wear a mask while working from home, but with some employers requiring face coverings when their employees return to the office this fall, that spells the return of maskne. This time around, though, we'll be prepared!
"If you are masking again, consider swapping out your cleanser for one with something like salicylic acid to help with breakouts," Boston-based dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch suggested.
Dry and sensitive skin
A sudden shift in your environment can make your skin feel all kinds of confused, leaving it dry and sensitive. "If you are going from working at home where you can open windows and suddenly head back to an office building and the incredibly dry air, that can do a number on upping sensitivity," Hirsch said.
To help counteract the dry air, the derm recommends adding a humidifier to your workspace.
Many people have eagerly awaited the day when they'd no longer have to don a face mask in public. But Dr. Robert Anolik, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology,says it could actually cause dryness.
"If we don’t change our skin care routine and add more moisture in the absence of the mask, many of us will notice flaking and redness because of skin barrier issues from re-exposure to cooler, dry air. As fall and winter approach, the problem will be compounded by even colder and drier air — drier outside and inside because of indoor heating," Anolik said.
Dullness/irritation from pollution
While we've been hanging out at home, our skin hasn't really been exposed to the pollution it was used to on a daily basis when we were commuting to work. But now that we're heading out and about more often, things are about to change, and it doesn't hurt to add an antioxidant into the mix to help shield your skin.
"Pollution is not only the new scrooge for skin aging; it can also irritate the skin. If you walk to work and live in a city with a lot of pollution, this can definitely be a sudden change your skin is not used to," dermatologist and author of "Beyond Soap" Dr. Sandy Skotnicki said.
Products to help your skin, according to dermatologists
Your skin could be irritated by a number of factors as you slowly return to your normal life, and you might be tempted to reach for a cream or spot treatment to lend a helping hand. But Skotnicki said that cleansing can help prevent irritation before it shows up and suggests this budget-friendly find from CeraVe that removes dirt and oil without drying out skin.
"Harsh cleansers set you up for more irritation no matter what the situation is. This is because they disturb the skin barrier and this lets in more irritation like pollution, smoke, cumulative makeup etc.," she said.
Skotnicki also loves this alcohol-free gel cleanser that's formulated with amino acids to help protect your skin's moisture barrier. "It's great for those who want a 100% natural and sustainable alternative to other cleansers," she said.
Aloe vera is one of the star ingredients in this powerful cleanser and works to hydrate and repair skin as you're getting it squeaky clean.
If you're ready to start rocking foundation again for work but your skin isn't, you can help nip any irritation in the bud by using a gentle cleanser, like this affordable option that Bank swears by. "Prepare the skin by exfoliating and double cleansing to remove makeup and impurities," he said.
The bestselling Cetaphil cleanser has a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free formula that works on all skin types and it's gentle enough to use daily.
Maskne has been the bane of our existence for well over a year and even if you've stopped wearing your mask, it could take some time for your breakouts to clear out. To help speed up the process, Anolik says one of the key ingredients you should be seeking out is benzoyl peroxide. "It will kill the bacteria that trigger acne," he said.
The derm recommends this paraben-free acne treatment that includes 5.5% benzoyl peroxide and works on blemishes, blackheads and whiteheads.
"Acne takes a few months of treatment to improve. For that reason, starting a regimen with retinol at night will be so important for many since it helps prevent clogged pores," Anolik said.
The derm suggests trying this popular Differin acne treatment that has a prescription strength retinoid at a drugstore price. It helps regulate skin cell turnover and reduces inflammation, helping banish and prevent pimples.
When your skin is cranky, its natural reaction is to turn red. Since we're exposing it to so many new environments it hasn't been used to in over a year, you might experience some irritation at first. But you can still fake it 'til you make it. "To mask redness, it’s possible to utilize green-tinted skin products," he said.
Anolik recommends this lightweight color-correcting product that calms skin as it neutralizes redness. Even better, it's smooth enough to layer under your sunscreen or foundation!
Love multitasking products? Anolik told us that this versatile product is great for tackling redness and we also dig the fact that it can be used as a daily moisturizer. The hydrating wonder works its magic with the help of aloe, colloidal oatmeal, cucumber and chamomile extract and can help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Office air conditioning and heating can do a number on your skin, so it helps to baby your complexion a bit with a humidifier on top of your desk. Hirsch likes this one that's compatible with Alexa, but says there are plenty of great options for every budget.
"Buy one based on your individual needs: how good you are about cleaning, how large a room it can work in, how easy it is to clean, etc. This one is a nice compromise of features in a reliable machine," she said. "Adding that bit of humidity into the air will go a long way to soothe and limit sensitivity.
Oddly enough, we didn't have to worry about keeping skin as hydrated when we were constantly wearing masks because they created a generally humid, warm environment. "This is actually quite helpful for your skin barrier health. Warm moist air helps to preserve the barrier while colder and drier air breaks it down. In the masked environment, less moisturizer has been needed," Anolik said.
If you notice your skin drying out a bit in the coming weeks, the derm suggests looking for a moisturizer with soothing properties, like this oil-free one from Neutrogena that's loaded with hyaluronic acid.
Ceramides are another moisturizing ingredient that Anolik says can help your skin stay hydrated as it adjusts to its once-normal routine. CeraVe's bestselling cream is one of his go-to products and it's also gained quite a loyal following on Amazon, with 52,000+ five-star ratings.
A combination of ceramides and hyaluronic acid join forces to keep skin hydrated for up to 24 hours and the velvety cream absorbs easily into skin without leaving it greasy.
If it's been a while since you commuted into the city for work, your skin has had a nice break from pollution. But now that you're getting into the swing of things again, Hirsch recommends incorporating an antioxidant into your routine to fend off aging and skin damage.
The derm likes this vitamin C and AHA serum that's chock-full of smoothing pineapple juice and brightening hyaluronic acid. "It's great for someone who might not do as well with a harsher vitamin C, and it also has soothing effects from chamomile," she said.
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