Dry Skin Solutions: How Not To Be An Iguana

Welcome to December in greater Chicagoland. The skies are blue, Lake Michigan is looking peaceful, and the wind feels like daggers. And that’s just today! It’s one of those days when it’s literally too cold to snow. All this affects you in more whiney ways than one. Never before have I known such a need for deep, abiding moisture than I have here in the MidWest.

And all this comes after the previous October and November have already done a number on your skin. During those autumn months, allergies abound and the temperature forecast reads like a rollercoaster. I get little breakouts every autumn here, in the hollows of my cheeks and around my hairline. And with every sneeze and cough you can feel your skin’s moisture and vitality slowly going into hibernation with the bears (who apparently have already been in hibernation out here in Chicago with no plans of ever coming out … ahem).

Unbelievably, I have made a football reference in one of my posts and I really hope you caught that. Because this is a rare and unique occurrence.

So what do you use during these months to keep your skin surviving, if not thriving, especially during party season when you really want your skin primed and ready for good makeup? I’ve got a couple products that I rely on, and a couple that I’m giving a first go this season. Keep in mind that this is basically a night routine; my day routine always involves sunscreen moisture not mentioned here.

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CLEANSER – Glossier Milky Jelly

I don’t touch any other facial cleansers year-round besides Milky Jelly, but I get that everyone’s skin is different and one product might not be a perennial go-to for all people. However, if you’re considering a winter cleanser to help with dryness, this stuff is the business. It doesn’t froth or foam, and you can put it on dry skin to remove makeup. It leaves your skin feeling soft and hydrated, with not a trace of that squeaky-stripped sensation. I wash my face more because of this creamy cleanser. It’s truly a delightful experience each time I use it.

TONER/ESSENCE – Origins Original Skin Essence Lotion with Dual Ferment Complex

I’ve historically used spray toners from Lush Cosmetics as my next step right after cleansing, but I was never sure if they were actually doing anything. I recalled a K-brand product called May Coop Raw Sauce that I once tried in place of toner that left my skin glowing, and I figured I’d look for something similar and more reasonably priced.

An essence, if you’re wondering, is basically another way to add more nutrients and moisture into your skincare routine. They are hydrating and usually designed with mild exfoliants that prime the skin and allow for other products – such as serums, which we’ll get to next – to penetrate more effectively. I particularly love them for their makeup-prep qualities- essences are excellent under makeup! This particular one from Origins is very brightening and helpful for improving texture and tone.

SERUM – Simple Water Boost Hydrating Booster & Glossier Super Bounce

Serums are meant to deliver an intense concentration of powerful ingredients into your skin. There are serums to address a multitude of skin concerns- acne, anti-aging, dullness, and in my case, dryness. I’ve been particularly faithful to Glossier’s Super Bounce for its supply of hyaluronic acid and glycerin- this stuff really made a difference last fall/winter when I first gave it a try. I’m using Simple Skincare’s Hydrating Booster this season to compare something cheaper.

While the Booster does leave my skin feeling soft and looking supple, I have to say the ingredients list and effects are not as impressive as the Super Bounce. Its effects are much more temporary and its ingredient list is a bit too long (not necessarily a sign of quality, in my opinion). And, for all the length of that list, it is lacking in powerhouse ingredients like hyaluronic acid or vitamin B5. I look forward to going back to the Super Bounce once I’m finished with this. Another recommendation I could make in this category is Caudalie’s VinoSource SOS Thirst Quenching Facial Serum- plenty of hyaluronic acid AND polyphenols!

MOISTURIZER – Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich

Consider this the Big Kahuna of winter moisturizers. I will find myself using this dense, luxurious cream in the dead of winter (you know it’s not even winter yet, right?) when the heater has been blasting in our apartment all day and I’ve just finished a shower with temperatures that should by all accounts melt my skin off. Things like murumuru butter, fatty acids, ceramides 3 and 6, and lavender oil pack a wollop of intense moisture before bedtime, so I can feel like a true granny with my chamomile tea and super-thick night cream.

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SUPPLEMENT – Olly Vibrant Skin

Besides the joy of eating berry-flavored gummies everyday, these vitamins are brimming with … well whaddya know … hyaluronic acid (hope you’re seeing a trend here), sea buckthorn, and collagen to help stimulate cellular turnover. My first fall/winter season out here consisted of frantically trying to find solutions for how dry my skin was (unanticipatedly) feeling. My second fall/winter season out here was a complete 180 having discovered the combination of Milky Jelly, Super Bounce, and these gummies. And who knew you could ingest hyaluronic acid?!

BODY – Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair

But of course, as we all know, the absolute driest parts of our bodies usually lie nowhere near the face. Personally, the areas that drive me nearly insane are my shins of all things. There are some evenings when I will come out of the shower and a couple minutes later, my shins will seriously be on fire and I have no idea what I did to my shins to cause such trouble (and no- shaving is not the culprit). Just now, I’m staring at my right forearm that is actually flaking and slightly pink, and I’m wondering where on Earth this is coming from!

Now, I’m not one for slathering myself in lotion everyday, especially those with petro ingredients. I believe such routines can actually have adverse affects on our skin’s ability to replenish its own moisture along with subtle harm to our endocrine system over time, but when my poor shins are itching mercilessly and resemble something closer to iguana skin than lady legs, I promise I have found the best drugstore lotion to remedy the situation. This stuff works, and fast. And there’s no headache-inducing scent that lingers because it’s fragrance-free. And it’s been awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance. So there’s that marketing trick going for it.

What skin concerns do you encounter with the change of seasons? What do you use to keep your complexion in good shape? Let me know in the comments! xo, MR

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My Chemical Romance- Serums, Acids, and the Frontier of Antiaging

About a year ago, I decided to get a little more serious about skincare.  And by that I mean I detected a couple thin creases on my forehead, glared at myself in the mirror, and calmly, resolutely stated, “Negotiation’s over. Sentence is death.”

Okay, not really.  I mean, I haven’t exactly unleashed the wrath of Valhalla on my face since then, but I have done the following within this past year: purchased (and finished!) my first vitamin C serum, purchased my first chemical exfoliant, purchased my first night moisturizer specifically for its antiaging and brightening properties, and purchased my first retinol serum.

Now, you may think this all sounds like ten levels of Joan Crawford insanity but trust me- it’s not.  You should see the skincare routines people have out there.  I’ve seen bathroom shelves that look like a Pfizer lab, with upwards of ten products used both morning and night.  And I know comparing our own shortcomings to those of others is no way to properly gauge where we stand morally, but believe me when I say that this foray of mine into antiaging is really no big deal.  My main motivation for all this is the hope for beautiful skin when I’m 60+, so I’m playing a long game here.  I’m not toiling over today’s skin problems as much as looking to prevent the next decade’s.

So what exactly have I done and what exactly have I used?  And how do I use it?  Peek away, and learn a thing or two about acids while you’re at it:

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Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment – Remember this time last year when I wrote a post on dipping my toes in the antiaging pool and I mentioned receiving ExfoliKate as a gift?  And how I was scared to use it?  Well let me tell ya, I tried it, and that stuff is a game changer.  I’ve never seen such instant results from a single product.  The full size costs $175 for a reason (and I’ll probably continue purchasing the mini for $24 and just use it sparingly).

This is a physical exfoliant in that it has tiny granules that physically rub off dirt and dead skin cells from your face, but it is also a chemical exfoliant.  ExfoliKate contains lactic acid and fruit enzymes (pumpkin, in this case).  These are acids – also known as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) – that naturally, chemically exfoliate your face, revealing a brighter, smoother complexion with improved dark spots and skin tone.  One site described such acid exfoliants as capable of “removing the glue that holds dead skin cells together.”  Most exfoliants either are just physical (think St. Ives scrub) or just chemical/acid (think peel pads).  ExfoliKate is both physical and chemical in its exfoliating properties, and it’s incredible.  My face glows after using this stuff.

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster – This is the first vitamin C serum that I’ve purchased.  It’s known for its great reviews and a yummy citrus scent.  Truth Serum is marketed as being able to brighten, help restore elasticity and firmness, and improve skin’s texture against hyperpigmentation and sun damage.

However, I have to admit that I didn’t really see noticeable results.  The serum hydrated my skin well, but I didn’t notice much of a reduction in small scars or dark spots on my face.  This may be partly my fault, however.  Vitamin C in skincare is sensitive to light and basically loses its effectiveness upon exposure, and I left my bottle of it in the car on a sunny day last summer.  There are a lot of biochemical factors that go into making an effective vitamin C serum, from the pH balance to environmental exposure to the serum’s ability to actually “deliver” the vitamin C into the skin.  Science, people!  It’s important to do your research and take proper care of your skincare products.  I have another vitamin C serum I’m using now so we’ll see how that goes.  It definitely hasn’t seen the light of day, you can be sure of that.

Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial – Wow.  Wowowowowowowow.  This, by far, was my favorite skincare purchase of last year.  This night cream has a variety of rose extracts and oils in it so it may not be for everyone (some are sensitive to rose), but this cream has been like a big whoosh for my skin.  I love seeing my complexion in the morning after having worn it to bed; my skin always looks fantastic!  Everything from dullness, dryness, dark spots, and even fine lines seems to improve after wearing this overnight.  Of course, I believe the effects of most skincare routines are rather temporary so you have to keep using it, but this is one product I’ll probably continue to repurchase.

I’m not sure about the vitamin C in it though because as I mentioned earlier vitamin C has to remain fully shut away from air and, ideally, light.  This cream is in a jar so it’s constantly being exposed to air.  I’ve learned to be skeptical of vitamin C creams in jars because they just can’t be that effective with so much air exposure.  But aside from that, everything else in this cream has been doing wonders for me.

Glossier The Supers – I was gifted these three serums last September by Glossier and they have been lovely additions to my routine.  How timely!  You can read my early, full review of them here.

I have loved Super Bounce (and have since repurchased!) for its healthy dose of hyaluronic acid.  Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance that is excellent at retaining moisture within the skin, giving it that youthful plumpness that we naturally lose with age.  Super Bounce is great before makeup because it smooths and hydrates the skin so well.  I’ve also loved Super Glow as a stable vitamin C serum (using it now after having finished Truth Serum), and Super Pure has been great for any breakouts coupled with a blemish lotion like Mario Badescu’s.  And yes, I still get breakouts and have learned that most of us will continue to throughout adulthood.  The idea that you somehow graduate from them once you turn 21 is absolute crap.

I should also add that I consumed hyaluronic acid in supplements for about a month and had noticeably excellent skin for about 1-2 months thereafter.  No really, I got compliments in the dead of winter!  I took Olly’s Vibrant Skin Plump Berry Gummies with hyaluronic acid, collagen, and sea buckthorn.  My face was plump as a baby’s!

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Pixi Glow Peel Pads – These, sold at Target and much hyped all over social media, are little cotton pads soaked in glycolic acid and rose water.  They’re another example of a chemical exfoliant (or acid peel- the terms can be used interchangeably here), and they’ve been a good, quick solution for tackling dark spots, dullness, pore size, fine lines, and acne.  They are actually great for acne.  I had a breakout last week in a couple spots on my face and used these along with my Super Pure serum; I was zit free about 48 hours later.

Using an acid peel isn’t as intimidating as it sounds.  What I do is wipe my face and jawline with one or two pads and then wait three minutes; I then neutralize the peel with tepid water (as the instructions will tell you) and then continue with a regular facewash.  Your face will tingle a bit from the acid, and that’s normal.  And no, nothing physically peels off your face that you can see.  No Raiders of the Lost Ark reenactments here.

I love that these have been a nice one-step solution for tackling blemishes.  I don’t struggle with acne as much as I struggle with dryness and dullness, but there are millions out there who’ve battled acne as their complexion enemy-number-one.  If you’re looking for a whole systematic routine to combat acne that’s been plaguing you for a while, Reviews.com published an extensive, excellent research study on the best and most effective acne kits with their favorite four out of forty-two contenders.  I wasn’t too surprised at their choice for number one; I’ve yet to try anything from this brand but have heard nothing but rave reviews.

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum – This retinol serum is the newest addition to my lineup, and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to include it in my routine.  Retinol is really just a science-y term for vitamin A, and while it can come in different forms (retinyl palmitate, etc), pure retinol is a powerhouse for minimizing wrinkles and fine lines, reducing the size of pores, and rebuilding firmness that has been lost.  Like vitamin C, retinol is also sensitive to air and light, so be skeptical of any clear packaging or jars that you have to open up.  Now, many with sensitive skin will find that they may peel a bit when using a retinol and that’s normal.  There are retinols of varying strengths out there so it’s important to gauge what’s right for your skin and start slowly and modestly.

Things get really tricky, however, when you try and determine where exactly to fit a retinol into your routine.  Can you pair it with a vitamin C serum?  Is it safe to use an AHA exfoliant with a retinol, too?  You always think of mixing chemicals and making things go boom, and your face isn’t the ideal place for that.  You want to use things the right way!  However, I’ve found that wading into the deep waters of advanced skincare is not unlike mathematics and the interpretation of the law- the theories are endless.  I washed my face in the evening and applied this retinol serum on top of my vitamin C serum for a few nights.  I noticed no results, and actually developed red blemishes in the exact spots where I’d applied the retinol.  One authority I consulted advised not using the two together, though paulaschoice.com states that you can for extra benefits.  I’m going to try alternating my vitamin C serum and retinol now and see how that works and if the blemishes continue.  Most sources I consulted did say that you need to be patient and consistent with retinol.  I’ll also add that most quality retinols are expensive- $100+.  Mine cost eighteen bucks.  Only time will tell if these fine lines on my forehead demand a greater investment.

Now that we’re days away from the beginning of spring, at least I can say that I powered through winter with good skincare.  I didn’t feel nearly as dry this winter as I did the last!  Well, that may have something to do with the weirdly and freakishly warm winter we’ve had here and of course that may ultimately have to do with global warming and the possibility that the world is dying.  But for now, I’ll keep my anxiety at bay and just focus on that little wrinkle.  xo, MR