During the dog days of summer and moving into fall, it’s easy to fall short on safe sun practices—even when you know better. But the reality is that no body part is safe from the sun’s wrath, and one of the most important and overlooked areas for protection from harmful UV rays is the lips. Yes, even under a mask. That’s why a lip balm with SPF is a must-have for any makeup bag, says New York dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross.
“Lips have no ability to produce a protective suntan, unlike other skin areas, so they’re prone to burning,” he explains, adding that oily balms and glosses attract more sun to the skin and increase radiation to boot. Over time, exposure can lead to a loss in volume, discoloration, the formation of fine lines—and worse. “Skin cancers on the lower lip are particularly dangerous because they can spread internally into the chest via the lymphatics vessels,” says Dr. Gross.
To safeguard your mouth during the sun-drenched months and beyond, there are a crop of shielding lip treatments that are impressively lightweight, free of chalky white residue, and don’t taste, well, icky. Tried-and-true favorites include Context’s soothing Lip Repair SPF, which nourishes thanks to ingredients such as aloe vera and rosemary extract, and Shiseido’s Sun Protection Lip Treatment, which contains 5% titanium dioxide sunscreen, yet smooths on easily and injects the lips with hydration. And whether you’re looking for a popsicle-stain-like wash, or something a little bolder, you don’t have to sacrifice color. Tinted formulas like Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Lip Protectant Stick or Fresh’s Sugar Lip Treatment deposit rich pigment along with a slew of moisturizing butters and antioxidant-packed oils. From the beach to your daily sanity walk, refresh your UV defense with a lip balm with SPF below.
Supergoop! Lip Shield Trio SPF 30
Housed in a trio of mini tubes perfect for stashing wherever it’s most convenient, this water-proof SPF 30 lip formula is laced with antioxidant-rich coconut, avocado, and grape seed oil.
As it provides broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection, this luxe treatment moisturizers and restores the mouth with smoothing mango extract, energizing Asian ginseng extract, and soothing scutellaria baicalensis root.
By now you know the drill: Every few months a new wunderkind skin care ingredient is discovered in some remote locale, and pretty soon it’s everywhere—in your masks, serums, foot creams, insert-step-in-your-beauty-routine-here. But at the end of the day, there are only a handful of ingredients that have stood the test of time and truly become essential. “In skin care, they’re the holy grail,” says Cambridge, Massachusetts, dermatologist Ranella Hirsch.
You’ve probably heard of all these by now. (Retinol, hyaluronic acid, AHAs, peptides, and vitamin C all make the list.) But you may still be a little confused on what exactly each one does—and how you should be using them. Here, I break it all down.
Retinol: For Softening Wrinkles and Fighting Acne
If there’s one ingredient lauded more than any other for its wrinkle-fighting, complexion-perfecting abilities, it’s this derivative of vitamin A. “Here’s the deal with retinol,” explains Hirsch. “We were talking about it in 1975, and we’re still talking about it now because it works.” In study after study, retinol has been shown to build collagen, decrease fine lines, improve skin’s texture, and fight acne.
The prescription version (retinoic acid, or Retin-A) acts fastest, but it’s pricey—and it can be drying. Over-the-counter retinols take eight to 10 weeks to show results (compared with six weeks with an Rx), but are normally paired with anti-inflammatories to calm the redness, peeling, or dryness; they can also cost less than a prescription, depending on your insurance, generally starting around $100.
Whichever type you use, you’ll want to ease into your retinol use slowly. “I start patients on the mildest version, one night a week at the onset,” says New York City dermatologist Amy Wechsler. As your skin begins to tolerate a pea-size amount, you can eventually go up to two nights a week. But stay off harsh physical scrubs and peels while you’re using retinol; remember to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize; and use extra sunscreen for the first six months.
This tiny molecule helps lubricate joints and keep skin plump, and is one of the world’s finest humectants (elements that attract and retain water). What does that mean for skin? “Hyaluronic acid is awesome,” says Wechsler. In addition to being a terrific moisturizer, she says, it partners well with other active skin care ingredients (so you can layer it with retinol, for example, and use it daily). “The beauty of hyaluronic acid is that it doesn’t have any fine print,” says Hirsch. “It benefits any skin type, at any age. And the truth is that everyone looks great with hydrated skin.”
Doctors love vitamin C because it’s an incredible antioxidant and it stimulates collagen production—in other words, it increases glow and evens out spots. For best results, look for a high concentration, up to 20% in a serum or cream.
Vitamin C does have a downside, though: It breaks down when exposed to oxygen and light. Seek out truly airtight packaging, watch out for discolored formulas, and know that because vitamin C loses efficacy in the sun, it’s best as a nighttime product, says Montclair, New Jersey, dermatologist Jeanine Downie. But “use it on the nights you’re not applying retinol,” she adds. It’s also great in an eye cream to help soften fine lines and spots.
“Think of peptides as Legos—they’re protein building blocks,” says Hirsch of the skin strengtheners. Studies show certain peptides can boost collagen production and speed wound healing; or they can mimic the effect of Botox when applied topically. That means you’ll likely want to introduce peptides in your 30s, when you notice your skin doesn’t feel quite as firm or bouncy as it did in your 20s. They can also be used on your body to smooth and firm skin, and they may fade old scars and stretch marks. There’s emerging science that some peptides have been found to safely treat eczema.
Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide: For Eradicating Acne
Okay, these are technically two ingredients—but the pair is name-dropped so frequently in the same acne-fighting sentence that it seems a shame to split them up.
“Salicylic acid is a lipid-soluble acid, so it penetrates into oily pores to clean them out, and it’s anti-inflammatory too,” renowned dermatologist Fredric Brandt once told us. “Benzoyl is antibacterial, so together they work synergistically.”
Look for bacteria-zapping benzoyl peroxide in face washes or spot treatments. It’s widely available in drugstores, ranging from 2.5% to 10% concentrations. (To minimize irritation, start with the lowest.) Try salicylic acid in an allover toner or cream to prevent breakouts, or on pimples if you have sensitive skin—it’s gentler than benzoyl, explains Wechsler.
“My patients love, love, love AHAs,” says Downie, who explains that the powerful exfoliators are genius for clearing up sun damage, hyperpigmentation, acne, and fine lines. Multiple AHAs exist, but the most popular (and potent) is glycolic acid, which penetrates damaged skin to spur fresh, new skin cell production. Glycolic acid does its exfoliating work in everything from once-monthly in-office face peels to nightly washes, but it’s best not to use glycolic acid while you’re on retinols. And if your skin is sensitive, try glycolic’s less intense AHA cousin, lactic acid, which also chemically exfoliates but isn’t as drying.
So, you made (or bought) your own face mask and have been diligently wearing it for the past few months. Now, out of the blue, you’re experiencing breakouts in strange new spots.
You’re likely dealing with “maskne“, the latest not-so-fun term to enter the coronavirus lexicon.
While it was primarily healthcare workers experiencing mask-induced breakouts and skin irritation at the beginning of the pandemic, now that masks are becoming a part of everyday life for the rest of us, dermatologists are being bombarded with (virtual) appointments for this skin woe, explains New York City-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. And unfortunately, the warm weather we’ve all been waiting for is only making matters worse.
So you’re not alone in your skincare struggles… but how do you treat these breakouts, and prevent them from happening in the first place? Here, derms break down everything you need to know about maskne.
What exactly is ‘maskne’ — and what causes it?
As the name suggests, “maskne” is acne brought on by wearing a face mask — and its been on derms’ radar long before COVID-19. “We saw similar skin concerns with mask use during the SARS crisis years ago,” says New York City dermatologist Michelle Henry, M.D.
“The clinical term for maskne is acne mechanic and it is caused by friction, rubbing, and occlusion of the skin by outside forces,” she explains. (You may have even experienced this from wearing sunglasses in the sweaty summer months.)
“Any friction and irritation can push bacteria into the skin, creating micro-tears — which allow easier entry for bacteria and dirt — and can lead to inflammation which then drives the acne process,” explains dermatologist Tiffany J. Libby, M.D, assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University.
You’ll notice these breakouts where the mask sits — the bridge of the nose, chin, and cheeks — and they make take the form of whiteheads, blackheads (if oxidized by the air), or even abrasions and cysts, Dr. Engelman says. “Masks can also trigger rosacea, perioral dermatitis, irritant dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and skin breakdown,” Dr. Henry adds.
While masks already trap humidity, dirt, oil, and sweat on a good day, our chin, mouth, and nose area are even more susceptible to breakouts now that summer is here. “Maskne is absolutely worse during the summer months as the increased oil production in our pores creates the ideal environment for cysts,” Dr. Henry says.
How can you prevent and treat maskne?
While any form of acne is frustrating, maskne can be particularly pesky due to the combination of factors that contribute to it — and the fact that you can’t simply eliminate the ‘outside force’ causing it. (Seriously, keep wearing your mask!) Luckily, you can make a few adjustments to your skincare routine to combat mask breakouts, soothe irritation, and stop the vicious maskne cycle.
Wash your face before and after wearing a face mask.
Hopefully, you’re taking the time to diligently wash your hands throughout the day — and avoiding touching your face as much as possible. But you should also be sure to wash your face with a gentle cleanser before applying a mask to prevent trapping bacteria under the mask and pushing it further into your skin, Dr. Engelman says.
“I recommend starting with a benzoyl peroxide cleanser once a day to target bacteria and remove excess oil,” Dr. Libby says. “I love Differin Daily Deep Cleanser which has 5% benzoyl peroxide, which is just as effective as [higher concentrations], and gentler.”
For healthcare workers on the frontline wearing the tightest-fitting masks for many hours of the day, a combination of “maskne” and eczema (which can occur in the forms of irritant or allergic contact dermatitis) is common, and can manifest as dry, itchy skin, Dr. Libby says. If you are experiencing both of these conditions, it’s important to immediately cleanse your skin after removing your mask and to use a cleanser that won’t over-dry or stripping your skin, which can worsen irritation.
Both derms recommend Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which can also be used without water. If you have irritated or sensitive skin, gently swipe a cotton round with the cleanser over your skin, Dr. Libby suggests.
Use a chemical exfoliant.
While benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid spot treatments can help target whiteheads once they are formed, chemical exfoliants, which dissolve dead cells on the skin’s surface, are key for preventing mask breakouts from forming in the first place, Dr. Engelman says.
She suggests opting for one with salicylic acid, like Humane Clarifying Toner, once per week to unclog pores, without irritating sensitive skin. (It’ll also leave skin softer and brighter in the process.)
Apply a skin-soothing moisturizer.
After cleansing, be sure to add moisture back into the skin — but skip your heavy winter creams. “I suggest a gentle, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic moisturizer like Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion,which is formulated with hyaluronic acid to help hydrate, soothe, and restore the skin protective barrier,” Dr. Libby says.
“I recommend moisturizers with ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help strengthen and reinforce the skin barrier,” Dr. Henry adds.
For healthcare workers or those experiencing extra dryness and eczema, applying an OTC cortizone cream on a short-term basis is helpful in alleviating skin irritation and calming down inflammation, Dr. Libby says.
Ditch your foundation.
Dr. Engelman suggests ditching heavy foundations as we head into warmer months, which will only further trap bacteria in your pores under your mask — the perfect storm for acne.
If you’re forgoing makeup altogether, you still need to apply sunscreen. “Even though our faces will be mostly covered by masks, other areas are still exposed, so it’s best to just apply an even layer of SPF as the finishing step to your morning routine,” Dr. Libby says. (And FYI, you need to wear sunscreen indoors, too).
Look for non-comedogenic and oil-free options as they work to decrease excess oil that can clog pores and lead to acne. “I like mineral options, as zinc oxide is an anti-irritant and has antimicrobial properties, both which are suitable for acne-prone and sensitive skin types,” she adds.
Or, swap your moisturizer for one with SPF. Dr. Henry suggests Olay Regenerist Whip SPF 25. “It’s a great non-comedogenic option for your daily moisturizer with sunscreen that won’t clog your pores.”
Add a soothing, occlusive balm.
If you’re already dealing with maskne, creating a physical barrier to protect this chapped skin is key. Layer on a hydrating and occlusive balm, like Glo Skin Beauty Barrier Balm, along the area where the masks sits right before you put it on, Dr. Engelman says. This will not only soothe parched skin, but it will prevent bacteria from spreading, she adds.
Or, opt for pimple patches.
Another physical barrier Dr. Libby suggests is silicone tape or Duoderm ($24; amazon.com), again applied to skin where the mask contacts your face and applies the most friction. “Acne patches, like COSRX, are another dual-functioning solution as they apply acne medication to individual lesions throughout the day, while also serving as a physical barrier to the mask,” she says.
And don’t forget to wash your fabric mask every time you wear it.
If you’re wearing a fabric face mask, you should be washing it after every. single. time. you wear it. This is important for your health: You don’t know what bacteria the mask has come in contact with and don’t want germs making their way into your nose or mouth. But it’s also helpful for keeping breakouts at bay.
Bottom line: “Masks, while important for our safety, can trap in humidity, dirt, oil, and sweat and — if you’re not cleaning them properly or reusing them for prolonged periods of time — this can further exacerbate these symptoms,” Dr. Libby says.
That’s why it’s a smart idea to make or buy a few masks (ideally in a softer fabric, like a silk blend, to reduce friction) so you can easily switch them out and wash them in between uses, Dr. Engelman says. Another option? A mask with the aforementioned zinc oxide embedded in the fabric may be helpful, Dr. Henry adds. “Zinc is anti-inflammatory and soothing to the skin. It will contribute to protecting the skin barrier.”
The rise of the celebrity beauty brand is alive and well in 2020, just in case there were any doubts. The latest example comes courtesy of Selena Gomez, in the form of color cosmetics brand Rare Beauty, which made its official debut on September 3rd. Welcome to Artist Spotlight #17 series on my blog.
Touted as a “mission-driven brand,” Rare Beauty will donate 1% of all sales, “as well as funds raised from partners” to the Rare Impact Fund, which “aims to increase access to mental health resources,” according to a press release from the brand. It has an initial goal of raising $100 million over the next decade to “help address the gaps in mental health services for underserved communities, which will make it one of the largest known funds in support of mental health from a corporate entity.”
In a statement, Gomez said: “These products aren’t about being someone else, it’s about being who you are, whether that’s rocking a full face of bold makeup or barely any makeup at all. Makeup is something to enjoy, it’s not something you need. I want every person to feel beautiful exactly as they are.”
Rare Beauty’s rather robust initial product offering includes a touch-up kit with refillable powder and blotting papers, a matte liquid eyeliner, eight shades of tinted lip balm, 12 shades of matte lip color, eight liquid highlighters, eight liquid blush shades, eight shades of a dual-ended brow pencil and gel, three tools, an illumining primer, a multi-tasking face mist and 48 shades each of both foundation and liquid concealer.
According to the brand, Gomez has had a hands-on approach to developing Rare Beauty, including product testing, design and mission. At launch, it will be available at Sephora in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Sephora inside JC Penney and at RareBeauty.com. There are plans for additional international expansion in place for 2021.
Summer’s last weeks are upon us, and fall fever is just beginning to set in. As you ruminate over what to bring into rotation, consider a supercharged vitamin C serum right up there with a sleek coat or this season’s It boot.
For brightening up a dull complexion and erasing sun spots, vitamin C is the gold standard of ingredients, especially as the years go on. As such, getting familiar with the powerhouse antioxidant is essential for any robust skincare strategy. “Vitamin C is perhaps the most potent topical antioxidant we have,” explains dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., of the natural collagen booster. “It neutralizes free radical damage and protects the skin against UV light and other environmental aggressors, as well as blocking abnormal production of pigmentation to even skin tone and fade dark spots.” And while it’s best known for brightening, it can also be instrumental in skin firming, adds Los Angeles superfacialist Kate Somerville. “I have used vitamin C in my clinic for years to help with elasticity and tighten the skin around the neck and décolletage,” she says.
Here, how best to utilize the hero ingredient for a brighter, smoother, and plumper complexion year-round.
Choose the Right Concentration
Identifying the right concentration for your skin type is essential to how effective your topical vitamin C will be, says New York City dermatologist Dr. Patricia Wexler. “Begin with a low concentration of 10% and increase to 15% or 20% as tolerated,” she instructs. For oily or normal skin, L-ascorbic acid is the most potent form of vitamin C and can be the most beneficial, while for dry and sensitive skin, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, a water-soluble vitamin C, is less irritating.
Absorption of a vitamin C is largely contingent on its pH level. If you have normal skin, look for one with a low pH of approximately 3.5 for optimal absorption. If you have sensitive skin, you should use a formula with a pH of 5 to 6. “This is the skin’s natural pH and will not be as irritating,” says Wexler.
Designed to deliver a high concentration of actives, serums are the most common form of delivery for vitamin C. “They keep that ingredient stable and enhance penetration through the outer skin layer,” says Zeichner. As far as complementary ingredients are concerned, Wexler believes vitamin C works best in combination with vitamin E, ferulic Acid, vitamin B, and hyaluronic acid. “Vitamin C and E are both antioxidants and support each other,” she explains, adding that ferulic acid is another antioxidant which boosts and stabilizes both vitamin C and vitamin E in fighting free radical damage and collagen production. That being said, sensitive skin types might benefit from mixing their serum into a moisturizer, or opting for a vitamin C-infused moisturizer for gentler delivery.
To keep skin happy, take a gradual approach when adding vitamin C to your regimen. “With any active, it’s important to start slowly when incorporating ingredients into your routine,” says Somerville. “I’ve seen some amazing results with clients who’ve added vitamin C into their regimen at three times a week and worked up to daily use.” To that end, don’t expect instant gratification. “It takes several weeks of continuous use to start to see improvement in skin tone,” says Zeichner, adding that because it’s a key ingredient for prevention, some benefits will be imperceptible.
Vitamin C serums come in two broad categories: Water-based and anhydrous (which literally means “without water”). The former is more unstable and light sensitive, and is typically held in opaque or amber colored bottles for that reason, while the latter tends to be more stable, even in the presence of sunlight. No matter what kind you opt for, ensuring your vitamin C is stabilized and kept airtight in a dark, cool space is essential. “If the color becomes dark or cloudy it has already oxidized,” cautions Wexler, adding that the same is true if you detect a rancid odor.
Unlike hydroxyacids or retinol, vitamin C does not make the skin more vulnerable to sunburn. That being said, the most potent forms of vitamin C are vulnerable to light exposure, and therefore the use of vitamin C must be in conjunction with broad-spectrum UVA/UVB coverage. The good news is that, when layered underneath sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30, vitamin C protects the skin even further. “Think of it as a safety net to help neutralize free radical damage that can occur from UV light penetration despite our best protection efforts with sunscreen,” says Zeichner.
Sephora became the first brand to join the 15 Percent Pledge. The initiative, created by Brother Vellies designer Aurora James, asks major retailers to pledge at least 15% of their shelf space to black-owned businesses. “So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power. So many of your stores are set up in Black communities. So many of your sponsored posts are seen on Black feeds. This is the least you can do for us. We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space,” James wrote in the post that launched the pledge.
“We recognize how important it is to represent Black businesses and communities, and we must do better. So, we’re starting now,” Sephora wrote in an Instagram post, announcing their participation. This is hopefully only the beginning of real change to come within Sephora, and other major brands like it.
If you’re looking for what brands to support even before the 15% pledge kicks into full gear, here are 7 Black-owned beauty brands you can shop on Sephora to continue to support the Black community.
Fenty Beautyby Rihanna
Rihanna was inspired to create Fenty Beauty after years of experimenting with the best-of-the-best in beauty—and still seeing a void in the industry for products that performed across all skin types and tones. She launched a makeup line “so that people everywhere would be included,” focusing on a wide range of traditionally hard-to-match skin tones, creating formulas that work for all skin types, and pinpointing universal shades.
“This is the golden age of makeup. PAT McGRATH LABS is my Golden Revolution. The entire planet is just as cosmetics obsessed as I’ve always been. Makeup is a movement. Makeup is mesmerizing. Makeup is major. Mantra-esque, three words have repeated over and over in my mind ever since I was young. Obsession. Inspiration. Addiction. Those words became my guiding principles, my manifesto as I brought this brand to life . I wanted to capture, in a quartet of exquisite palettes, 50 legendary lipsticks, a divine dozen eyeliners and five fetish-worthy lip pencils, The Power of Transformation, The Power of Beauty; The Power of Makeup.” – Pat McGrath, CEO & Founder of PAT McGRATH LABS
After an early-twenties move to New York City forced Nancy to trade out her homemade essentials for the store-bought variety, she quickly realized that the natural hair care on the market simply did not live up to its performance claims. Armed with a tiny East Village studio apartment, her grandmother’s coveted beauty recipes and a rockstar natural chemist team, Nancy Twine founded Briogeo Hair Care.
“Adwoa beauty is a modern, non toxic, gender neutral beauty brand catering to multi-cultural hair textures. buying hair products is a choice, not a command. we empathize with your experience in using tons of products that failed to deliver the results. we’ve created a highly effective collection of products with ingredients that are concentrated, working with nature and science to bring you immediate results. we are committed to being transparent with our ingredients.”
“Our products are daily essentials for inner and outer radiance, because beauty and balance start from within. Golde was founded by Trinity Mouzon in 2016 with the vision of making self-care more inclusive, engaging, and fun. Our products are infused with single-origin turmeric, a potent super-herb recognized for its beautifying, healing, and mood-boosting properties.”
“Whether it’s with an eye mask, a lip mask, or a lip scrub, we’re all about keeping you naturally cute and effortlessly fresh. We think you’re dope just the way you are, but we’re here to give you that little bit of extra. Chill with us for 15-20 minutes, and we’ll put stars in your eyes and kisses on your lips.”
Considered the secret behind Hollywood’s most flawless faces, expert esthetician Shani Darden sets herself apart with her results-oriented approach to skin care. Her passion for simple, yet effective solutions has earned her clients’ trust and respect in a town where beauty, health, and wellness standards are high.
Lipstick is hands down my favorite makeup product. But with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing us all to wear masks to protect ourselves and others from the virus, my lippies have been spending more time in my makeup bag than on my actual lips.
However, while during the beginning of the world, you know, falling apart, I was spending most of my time safely locked inside my home, in recent weeks, I finally found the courage to bravely venture to a Starbucks and other outdoor spaces to see my friends.
And if you think I’m going to add a little color to my lips for these special occasions, then you’re damn right!
In celebration of National Lipstick Day, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite lipsticks that will look just as good once you’ve taken off your mask as when you first swiped them on.
So if you think lipstick is canceled just because of the coronavirus, think again. Because these lip colors aren’t going anywhere — literally.
Black Radiance Metalicious Lip Sculptor
If a metallic lip is your thing, make sure to reach for this product before you head out. For a matte finish, blot with a tissue after application. If you’re more of a glossy girl, layer on a coat of clear gloss or Vaseline after it’s safe to take off your mask.
This matte stain is a fan favorite simply because it gives you highly pigmented color that doesn’t transfer. But hey, don’t just take my word for it. “[This shade] stands the test of time and won’t be around your cheeks or chin when you take off your mask,” says L’Oreal ambassador Sir John. “This ‘peek-a-boo’ color is your much needed emotional pick-me-up. Even if you have no makeup on anywhere else, doing a lip will make you feel alive and well.”
Aside from the brilliant color and little transfer, what I love most about this product is that the applicator makes it easy to put on with zero fuss. It’s also ultra-lightweight and never drying, meaning it’s a color you can comfortably wear all day long.
Much like the don dada Pat McGrath, The Lip Bar founder Melissa Butler knew exactly what she was doing when she created her line. These matte liquid lipsticks come in a variety of colors that suit every skin tone, give you a show-stopping finish, and know how to stay put.
Thought you couldn’t find a lipstick for under $10 that would last all day and offer (literally) zero transfer? NYX said, girl, you better think again. I first tried this product years ago when I picked it up at a drugstore, and to this day I can confidently say that it was one of the best discoveries of my makeup life.
Listen, Gucci did that when crafting this gorgeous lipstick. Offering a variety of shades, this light, smooth, creamy, and non-drying matte stays in place for as long as you want it to. But, it’s also super easy to remove at the end of the day. Another plus? It’s super lightweight, so you’ll probably forget you’re even wearing it.
What does it mean to be beautiful on planet Earth in 2020? In search of clear skin, a mellow demeanor, the perfect eyebrows, and a high vibe, what are we reckoning with? From sheet masks to disposable salon sandals to plastic lining in the shipping of even eco-friendly materials, waste permeates the beauty industry in ways that can no longer be overlooked. According to the United Nations, half of all plastic is designed to be used only once, and environmental scientists are suggesting that plastics will serve as a geological indicator of the Anthropocene era, despite becoming ubiquitous only within the past hundred years. It’s not cute that Styrofoam takes up an estimated 30% of space in landfills and lingers for about 500 years, that trash floats in the oceans, and that microplastics exist in our food supply. With packaging accounting for 40% of plastic usage, beauty brands are turning to a natural solution: mushroom mycelium.
“Mycelium is the root structure of mushrooms,” explains Loney Abrams, florist, artist, and co-owner of Wretched Flowers. “Mycelium networks can take on any form and once they colonize a form, it’s incredibly durable, insulating, and flame resistant”—properties which make mushrooms an ideal substitute for Styrofoam and plastic. Abrams and her partner, Johnny Stanish, have considered mycelium in a variety of settings. It was the material that made up their Bondage vases (also designed in special colors for a collaboration with the sustainable clothing brand Eden), which function conjunctly as vessels and shipping containers. Stanish and Abrams dream of a day when mycelium can replace Styrofoam in the shipping of large pieces of art, and make the case that mycelium could benefit myriad industries, from art and flowers to beauty. Wretched Flowers sources from and is inspired by Ecovative Design, the company that has been growing mycelium in the U.S., Europe, and New Zealand to combat single-use plastics since 2007.
“Mushrooms are nature’s recycling system,” explains Gavin McIntyre, cofounder of Ecovative Design. “They’re decomposers. Mycelium grows really quickly, and for the industrial process, [we’re able to grow it] in days.” Many compostable products, such as the compostable cups that you see at coffee shops, are made from polylactic acid (PLA), a corn sugar fermented by bacteria, and are only industrially compostable. Mycelium products biodegrade within a month in a home compost, meaning they don’t need to be sent out to a facility. I asked McIntyre about composting in New York City, where the mayor has recently suspended the composting program, and he pointed out that you could technically cut up the packaging and put it out next to a tree or—though he doesn’t recommend this—a local body of water, as the product is safely marine compostable and used to protect scientific buoys in oceans around the world by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mycelium acts like a glue and is grown into molds (no pun intended) fitting any shape, from packaging inserts to sculpture to beauty applicators. Ecovative Design grows mycelium beauty and skin-care products, including eye masks, sheet masks, and makeup wedges. They are also partnering with beauty, fashion, art, and technology brands to customize packaging.
One such brand is Hudson Hemp, a farm and CBD company built on land owned by Abby Rockefeller and her family in the Catskill mountains. I spoke with cofounder Melany Dobson about how and why she decided to integrate mycelium packaging into Hudson Hemp’s CBD line, Treaty. Dobson’s team grows hemp as part of a dynamic crop rotation alongside grains that supply flour to local bakeries, livestock feed for dairy farms, and rye and hops for brewers and distillers. Part of the mission of Hudson Hemp is to develop soil that relies on nutrients that come from the farm itself; since mycelium goes hand in hand with soil health, it was already in mind. “I learned about Ecovative through Seed—a probiotic brand that has used Ecovative since 2018 in their original packaging—and decided to go for it,” Dobson says. This ethos of open-source sharing when it comes to sustainability is one that is inevitably moving the industry forward. Since its launch, all Hudson Hemp CBD has been shipped in custom Ecovative packaging.
How does change happen in the beauty industry? I think about my own brand, Masha Tea, and how the transition to more thoughtful packaging finally happened when I saw an Instagram post by Nu Swim (which, incidentally, fills my bathing suit collection with perfect fits made from regenerated ocean waste) about the biodegradable packaging company Ecoenclose. The fact of the matter is, companies are always looking to one another to see how they can improve. On a larger scale, as Dobson notes, “Multinational companies [look to] small brands once they get attention. It helps set trends. If Treaty uses Ecovative, L’Oréal starts thinking about it too.”
This idea was at the heart of my conversation with Rodrigo Garcia Alvarez, founder of Amen, a vegan line of candles produced in the historic fragrance capital of Grasse, France. “The new luxury is when things are done by ethical and sustainability standards and not just by how things look,” he says. Amen candles, which are sold at Dover Street Market, 10 Corso Como, and The Conservatory, are all shipped in mycelium grown in Amsterdam. In fact, Garcia Alvarez sees mycelium as the future of luxury, with the goal of inspiring 10 major brands to incorporate mushroom materials, then 100, and eventually a world in which mycelium can “reach the economics of scale and efficient cost,” making mushrooms more accessible in the way that plastics are today.
Eyes are on mushrooms as the future of our reckoning with waste. “Why is CBD a beauty product?” I asked Dobson toward the end of our conversation about Hudson Hemp. “Because it brings the inner-outer beauty conversation full circle,” she answered. “If you’re feeling how you need to feel in the moment you’re in, that is beautiful.” As beauty brands consider how best to meet the needs of the earth alongside those of their consumers, mycelium reminds us that there are exciting alternatives to a wasteful existence.
Want long, lush lashes? While a good mascara does the trick for instant results, you might consider enlisting the help of a lash growth serum for an even bigger boost.
Experts point out that the prescription eyelash growth gel Latisse is the only FDA-approved treatment for hypotrichosis (inadequate lashes). “The active ingredient is a prostaglandin called bimatoprost,” says William Kwan, MD, a San Francisco-based dermatologist, adding that the formula is safe for all skin types. “It lengthens the growth cycle of eyelashes leading to longer, darker, and fuller lashes.”
That said, more and more brands are releasing over-the-counter formulations that claim to help lengthen lashes. Although you might not necessarily see dramatic results from these OTC serums, they contain nourishing ingredients that strengthen eyelash hairs over time, so they’re stronger and more resilient against breakage.
For best results, Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, recommends looking for a formula that contains biotin, peptides, or lipids. “Biotin is a B vitamin and helps lashes grow longer and thicker and stimulates the growth of additional eyelash follicles,” she explains. “Lipids condition and moisturize the lashes, and peptides specifically act on the skin cells of lashes to create a healthier foundation and boost volume.”
Important to note: For some people, these formulas may cause sensitivity or an adverse reaction—itchiness along the eyelash line is one common side effect, says Dr. Jaliman. “Some might only be able to use an eyelash growth serum a couple times a week instead of every day.”
Here, seven eyelash growth serums to try for fuller, longer lashes.
RevitaLash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner
Dr. Jaliman recommends RevitaLash, one of the most popular eyelash serums on the market. “People usually see results,” she says. The formula contains peptides, botanicals, and a proprietary BioPeptide Complex. The .067 fluid oz. tube usually lasts about three months, although there’s a smaller .034 fluid oz. size available, too, if you’d like to test it out before committing to the larger version.
Ingredients like biotin, peptides, hyaluronic acid, and panthenol (a provitamin of B5) come together in this formula from neuLash, which also contains pumpkin seed extract for lashes that look thicker and fuller.
With lavender water, soy and rice proteins, peony root complex, and the brand’s Phyto-Medic Complex, this vegan and Ecocert-certified formula helps strengthen frail lashes. Also good: In a consumer study, no testers noticed any irritation, so this might be a good choice for those with sensitive skin.
Crave a more streamlined routine? Opt for a multitasking formula like this one from Vichy. It can be used both on the delicate skin around eyes and on lashes to fight signs of aging and subtly boost lash volume over time.
This top-rated eyelash and eyebrow growth enhancer is Amazon’s number one best-selling lash serum, and for good reason. The hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested serum uses a gentle formula of hyaluronic acid, biotin, and other botanically-derived ingredients to noticeably thicken and strengthen the follicles on your lashes and brows. More than 8,000 Amazon customers gave the product a perfect 5-star rating, with tons of reviews raving that it made a noticeable difference in their lash length and thickness.