For decades, South Korea has been famous for innovative beauty exports like cushion-compact foundation, BB cream, and sheet masks. Known for their “skin first” approach, K-beauty brands like Belif, Peach & Lily, and Glow Recipe have become staples for skincare obsessives who want quality ingredients and packaging at an affordable price point.
From cleansing micellar water to hydrating essence, here are the best K-beauty products to try now.
Everyday Essence Face Serum
Packed with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and minerals, this gel-like essence quickly absorbs into skin to deliver deep hydration.
What’s better than a little sticker that helps heal your zit while you sleep? (Nothing, that’s what.)
Now that everyone and their grandmother is obsessed with sheet masks, another K-beauty innovation is popping up everywhere: acne patches. Instead of popping and picking your blemishes, slap a pimple patch on top of it.
Unlike some spot treatments, the sticker won’t leave your skin dry and flaky. Most are small, circular hydrocolloid bandages, meaning they absorb fluid from the pimple, explains Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. You’ll know it’s working because you can see the process happening: The clear patch turns white and expands, and the skin (where your zit once was) flattens out and becomes redness-free. After a couple of hours (or a good night’s sleep), peel it off to see your results.
Acne stickers also have the added benefit of blocking you from aggravating skin by picking at pimples, says Elizabeth Tanzi, the founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and associate clinical professor in the department of dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center. This is key as “picking a pimple increases the inflammation and can slow the healing process down,” Tanzi adds. The chances of scarring and getting an infection rise, too. With all this in mind, I rounded up some of my favorite tried-and-true acne patches.
ZitSticka Killa Pimple Patch
New to the states, Australian-based skin-care brand ZitSticka’s first product is a pimple patch covered with dissolving microneedles filled with blemish-busting ingredients, like salicylic acid, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid.
To use, first wipe the inflamed area with the accompanying cleansing cloth to clean it, then gently place the patch on your skin. Leave it on for at least two hours (or overnight) to bring down blemish swelling, redness, and size. Need proof? One commerce editor Lauren Swanson swears by them: “The cleansing swabs helped get rid of whiteheads for me almost immediately,” she says. “With the one-two punch of the patch, my enormous zits were gone in just one day.”
This K-beauty favorite has become one of the most popular acne patch picks, and its acclaim is rightly deserved. The hydrocolloid circles cling to skin no matter where you end up wearing them. Despite their staying power, they’re still easy and pain-free to peel off. They also come in three different sizes depending on what kind of coverage you need.
Although most acne patches themselves provide the mechanism that helps draw out the icky stuff in zits, some — like Peter Thomas Roth’s Acne-Clear Invisible Dots — are also infused with additional blemish-busting ingredients. In these, you’ll find salicylic acid and tea tree oil, both of which are known to help clear acne, so you’re getting multiple layers of benefits.
Because the Skyn Iceland Blemish Dots aren’t made with hydrocolloid technology, they won’t puff up or change colors. Instead, the paper-thin, transparent stickers adhere to skin with gel that’s infused with blemish-banishing tea tree oil and salicylic acid. They’re like a spot treatment that won’t rub away onto your pillow as you toss and turn at night.
Some of us want pimple patches that are indetectable; some of us want pimple patches that are adorably obvious. These are the latter. And not only are they super-cute, they’re also ideal for sensitive skin because, under their flowery facade, they provide a non-irritating way to help clear up the zits that you may not find quite as cute.
It’s a little tongue-in-cheek to camouflage your zit with a literal camouflage pattern. Should you want to save the colorful patches for private time, the package includes invisible patches as well. That way, you can wear these gunk-sucking hydrocolloid wonders any time you’d like.
Salicylic acid isn’t the only ingredient you might find in acne patches. It’s in these Truly patches, yes, but so is hemp seed oil. So while the patch helps draw out fluid and the salicylic acid helps exfoliate away the blemish, the cannabis helps fight the inflammation that’s making your zit redder and angrier.
These are truly some of the most advanced, ambitious acne patches on the market. More than just a little zit cover, the Focuspot Blemish Micro Tip Patch is made with 65-percent hyaluronic acid “micro tips” that are infused with vitamin B3 and peptides to not only speed up the acne cycle but also help prevent scarring.
My intro into acne patches came in the form of the Nexcare Acne Absorbing Covers. Because they are made by a bandage brand, they’re as heavy duty and clinical as they come. If you want to cover a lot of surface area, this pack comes with the biggest circular stickers I’ve ever used.
Popular K-beauty retailer Peach & Lily has its very own acne patch product, called Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots. I believe they provide the fastest results by helping to flatten even the most bulbous of spots. The dots are also on thinner side for a hydrocolloid bandage, so you can wear them all day undetected. You can choose from a trio of sizes, including one of the smallest selections on this list.
If size doesn’t matter to you — for acne stickers, that is — the Mighty Patch effectively keeps you from picking at your face and helps absorb oils and pus with 36 stickers that are all the same circumference. They have a matte finish, too, so they look less obvious if you wear them with matte foundation.
Unlike the rest of the hydrocolloid bandages on this list, the Peace Out Acne Healing Dots are flecked with salicylic acid, for a one-two punch. While they treat skin with the classic acne-fighting ingredient, they also protect the blemish from bacteria and irritation.
These little patches powerfully draw out fluids and oils from stubborn zits, not only helping to expedite the healing process by keeping skin moist but by also keeping out bacteria — including the kind on your fingers from when you’re tempted to pick.
Fans of the classic Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patches will love the Cosrx Clear Fit Master Patch as an alternative. The South Korean brand created a slimmer, clearer option for wear during daylight hours. They are also easy to cover up with makeup, if needed.
Sometimes, a patch just doesn’t quite cut it. That’s why Hero Cosmetics crafted a larger version of its hydrocolloid-based Mighty Patch. Dubbed the Surface strip, this new treatment covers entire sections of your face (i.e. cheek, forehead, chin, etc.) to speed up the lifespan of your breakout(s).
Dermatologists explain why you should be adding this skin barrier-boosting ingredient to your skincare routine.
As far as skincare ingredients are concerned, ceramides are among the most worthy of opponents when it comes to battling dry skin — which, with winter rearing its head, may be something that you’re all too familiar with. Thankfully, ceramide-based products are not only a favorite among dermatologists, but are widely available at every price point.
“Ceramides are fatty acids in the skin that help to maintain the skin barrier and retain moisture and hydration,” Shereene Idriss, dermatologist of Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, tells Allure. “Extreme cold-weather temperatures, exposure to hot water, and dry heat can all deplete the ceramide stored in your skin,” Idriss explains. “Using products that are fortified with ceramides help to restore your skin’s barrier function and lock in moisture.”
It helps to think of ceramides as the building blocks in your skin; in addition to possessing hydration-boosting properties, they’re especially key for maintaining long-term hydration and strengthening the skin’s surface against environmental stressors. “Ceramides are found in high concentrations within cell membranes,” New York City-based dermatologist Ellen Marmur says. “They hold skin cells together on the top layer of the skin, forming a protective layer that plumps the skin and retains moisture.” With that being said, here are 13 ceramide-infused skincare products — rich moisturizers, whipped body creams, and even a hydrating toner — to treat your skin this season.
Cosrx Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream
A one-two punch of manuka honey and ceramides make Cosrx Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream a game-changer for boosting skin elasticity and protecting against irritation.
Slather the emollient, rich Ceramedx Ultra Moisturizing Cream all over your body if you deal with chronic dryness. The plant-based ceramides, essential fatty acids, and hyaluronic acid instantly soothe and relieve everything from chapped elbows to cracked heels.
A moisturizing toner? It almost sounds too good to be true — but leave it to Dr. Jart to gift us with this lightweight, fast-absorbing fluid that balances skin and leaves your complexion feeling supple and hydrated.
Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum
Reduce the appearance of fine lines while treating your skin to ultimate moisture, courtesy of Elizabeth Arden’s Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum. Each ampoule features retinol and ceramides as the two hero ingredients.
“[Ideal] for those with sensitive skin, as well as dry skin, ceramides keep the skin hydrated and supple for the cold winter months,” says Marmur, who recommends Mario Badescu’s A.H.A. & Ceramide Moisturizer to patients. Its nourishing formula won’t leave you feeling greasy and doesn’t clog pores, making it ideal for those prone to breakouts, too.
Looking to brighten and revitalize a tired-looking undereye area? Try a ceramide-infused eye cream, like Orveda’s über-luxe Eye Unveiler 422, which contains a potent blend of bio-identical lipids, marine enzymes, and prebiotics to rejuvenate skin.
Vitamin C, retinol, and ceramides team up to turn up the glow in your complexion, in addition to providing long-lasting hydrating and firming benefits, with the Paula’s Choice Clinical Ceramide-Enriched Firming Moisturizer.
SkinCeuticals’ Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 won a coveted Breakthrough Award back in 2016, and it’s easy to see why: The nourishing cream moisturizes, repairs skin, and gives a plumping effect thanks to its formula, which includes 2 percent ceramides, 4 percent cholesterol, and 2 percent fatty acids. (2:4:2.)
The classic white tub (which took home a 2018 Best of Beauty award) is many a derm’s forever favorite for good reason. When it comes to offering lasting hydration to even the driest of skin, nothing beats the thick, hyaluronic acid-, ceramide-, and glycerin-laced cream.
“MDNA Skin’s The Finishing Cream can be used alone or under makeup to nourish, hydrate, and impart a look of flawless illumination,” says New York City dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank. “It moisturizes, firms, and tones skin.”
As fall approaches and temperatures drop, skin tends to become dryer. On top of richer moisturizers, face oils, and serums, a hydrating face mask every now and then can help the skin retain moisture. “Hydrating masks are so important because they replenish the skin with moisture that was lost through time,” says Samantha Mims, in-house esthetician at Brooklyn Face & Eye. “With weather getting colder, now is a great time to start incorporating those H20 masks in your routine.”
Here, 14 hydrating face masks to add into your skin-care routine this fall (and beyond!), to give your skin the nourishing boost it deserves.
Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask with Vitamin C
Esthetician and Fenty Skin ambassador Sean Garrette considers this overnight concoction one of the best face masks because “it plumps, hydrates, and soothes stressed and dehydrated skin.” It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid, squalane, and antioxidants like vitamin C, prickly pear, goji, açaí, and vitamin E.
Breakouts on the rise? This mask is soothing, hydrating, and purifying. Created by Temi Shobowale, the Botanical Masque is perfect for reducing inflammation thanks to chamomile flower extract. Kaolin clay, which is detoxifying, helps to remove impurities from the skin. It’s also brightening and energizing due to the vitamin C within the maca root.
While nourishing the skin, this face mask helps to fight against damage with vitamins B12 and E. CBD helps to soothe and smooth the skin’s texture, reducing redness and inflammation. If you’re looking to combat hyperpigmentation, this mask’s shiitake mushroom extract will lend a hand.
This gentle exfoliating mask is an all-in-one facial treatment in a tube. It offers a great hydrating reset for skin in need. Standout ingredients include chestnut extract, which offers a natural exfoliating experience; vitamin C for a brightening boost and skin-barrier nourishment; and anti-aging niacinamide, which also helps with pore reduction, smoothing fine lines, and wrinkles.
This mask is great for sensitive skin. It’s a favorite of Mims, who recommends it for its “hydrating components like hyaluronic acid, in addition to its botanical extracts like geranium and rose to help fight bacteria and inflammation.”
Filled with aloe vera and rose water, this facial mask is equally soothing and hydrating. It’s part cleanser and part exfoliant, helping to keep hyperpigmentation, enlarged pores, and overall skin dullness at bay.
Jacq’s Clarifying Green Smoothie Face Masque and Scrub
This mask’s bentonite clay removes impurities from the skin’s surface, while ginger essential oil hydrates and shields skin—call it the perfect ingredient for a self-care Sunday. Bamboo charcoal, Dead Sea salt, and tamanu oil offer an extra-clarifying boost.
Speaking of green, this powder-turns-gel mask is filled with superfoods you’d want in your smoothie, like spirulina, mango juice, chlorophyll, and chlorella. The results? Clearer, healthier, dewier skin.
Thankfully, toners, like the rest of your skincare routine, have evolved over the years. Today, many toners are alcohol-free, and instead, are used to refresh and treat the skin before you apply the rest of your serums and creams — without making you extra dry.
One such example is exfoliating toners, which are infused with chemical exfoliants such as AHA and BHA acids, which help to loosen and break up the dead skin cells clogging your pores, while also minimizing dark spots, and improving overall skin texture and tone. These formulas often include soothing and hydrating ingredients to balance out the exfoliation.
“The use of a toner can have the added benefit of mechanical removal of skin debris,” says Dr. Melanie Palm, board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in San Diego, Calif. “Simple application of a skincare product such as a serum does not lift off dull skin cells.”
Dr. Palm also notes that a toner can help balance pH level for the skin microenvironment.
When choosing an exfoliating toner, it’s important to consider your skin type and its needs. Dr. Palm says that those concerned with aging can benefit from using a formula with AHAs such as lactic or glycolic acids.
Acne-prone skin can see an improvement with BHAs such as salicylic acid, or a combination of both AHAs and BHAs. As for sensitive skin types, they may fair well with PHA acids, which are larger in molecular size and more gentle on the skin. The same goes for mandelic acid, an ingredient that is great for rosacea or redness.
While an exfoliating toner can be used daily, it’s best to introduce it slowly into your routine to prevent irritation. And if you have sensitive skin, Dr. Palm recommends using a liquid exfoliant once or twice a week at first to gauge how your skin handles it. She adds that if you are using anti-aging products such as retinoids or retinol, gradually start to use the toner over a period of days to weeks. But when in doubt, follow the usage instructions on the back of the bottle.
Finally, don’t expect clear, brighter skin over night.
While you may see some instant improvement, like a bit of a glow, it can take much longer to experience the full benefits of incorporating an exfoliating toner into your skincare routine.
“It takes 30 full days for the epidermal layer of the skin to turn over,” says Dr. Palm. “Therefore, I tell most patients to use a new topical product for two to three months (two to three cycles of epidermal turnover) to gauge response by the skin to active ingredients. However, many patients may notice changes prior to the three month mark.”
The wonderful world of Korean beauty (or K-beauty as it’s known by beauty aficionados) has inspired countless beauty products in the UK and is responsible for improving how many of us approach our skincare routines. While once upon a time we simply cleansed, toned and moisturised, now we have serums, essences and a duo of cleansers to ensure our skin is spick and span – and that’s thanks to K-beauty. So what are the latest trends, tips and ingredients from our Korean counterparts that we can deploy for better skin? British Vogue spoke to Alicia Yoon, the founder of online K-beauty emporium Peach & Lily, to find out.
You may already have heard about glass skin, one of the biggest skincare trends from the past year. The term describes skin that is glossy, glassy, luminous and translucent, explains Yoon, who launched the first-to-market Glass Skin Serum on Peach & Lily. In Korea, glass skin is more about a general attitude to skin: “It’s an awareness that the skin is your largest organ and that you need to care for it from within. Through that you achieve skin that’s so healthy that ultimately it looks like glass skin,” she says.
“In Korea, people go to a dermatologist or aesthetician for facials once or twice a week – it’s like going to the gym – and now they want that facial experience from home for the days they aren’t in there,” says Yoon. For that, they rely on “home care”, which is created for them by their dermatologist and offers in-clinic results from home: cue post-facial skin literally every day of the week.
Referencing the Miwaji Hyalu Serum Veil (contains everything from copper tripeptide to brightening arbutin) as a go-to home care product, Yoon says that super-products like these offer results akin to the facials themselves: “This product in particular imparts a thin, glue-like veil over skin that feels super comfortable. It’s the result of a dermatologist trying to recreate a hydrafacial for home use so it leaves skin plumped with hydration. I love it,” she says.
We’re more than au fait with keeping our immune system in check – thank you, vitamin C – but the Koreans are also concerned with their skin’s immunity: “Our skin plays an immune function role in keeping out bad bacteria,” says Yoon. “There’s an awareness in Korea about what you need to do to keep your skin immunity up and that’s keeping your skin barrier really strong.” Look to ingredients, such as fatty acids and ceramides, to help reinforce your skin barrier, keeping the good stuff in and the bad out. Sunday Riley’s ICE Ceramide Moisturising Cream is an excellent product to consider in your routine and deeply nourishes while keeping the skin barrier healthy and strong.
Is your skin dry… on the inside? That’s one thing that our Korean counterparts make it their mission to avoid: “We know that when our skin is dehydrated, it’s not caused by our lipid levels on the skin’s surface, but rather the moisture levels inside that are lacking,” says Yoon. It doesn’t matter what your skin type is – oily, dry, or sensitive – but if it’s dry on the inside, it won’t function at its best. Yoon explains: “When you’re dehydrated your melanocytes stay more activated and thus brightening ingredients may not work as well to reduce dark spots; it can also trigger an inflammatory response during which the hormone CRH is released, triggering more sebum production and breakouts; and your fibroblasts that produce collagen and elastin may not work as well. Hydration is the foundational to skin health.”
To ensure skin is hydrated from the inside out, incorporate plenty of humectants in your skincare regime as these absorb into skin and help bind moisture in. Yoon recommends her brand’s Wild Dew Treatment Essence, which contains niacinamide, a cocktail of antioxidants, firming adenosine and three different sizes of hyaluronic acid to bind moisture into skin and give you your most hydrated and dewy-looking skin yet. Alternatively, try Tonymoly Ferment Snail Essence.
The one-minute rule
The Korean one-minute rule refers to your skincare regime and the way in which you apply your product. The idea is to take one minute to massage your oil-based cleanser into skin (we love Sisley Triple Oil Balm Make-up Remover & Cleanser), spending time on getting the surface grime and day’s make-up to dissolve, and then to remove it and spend the next minute applying a hydrating formula. “If you don’t apply the subsequent hydrating formula within that minute, your skin becomes bone dry and formulas don’t absorb as much. It’s a great tip,” says Yoon.
Troxerutin, the new ingredient to know, might be difficult to pronounce but it has sure made its mark in Korean skincare regimes. A super-antioxidant that is lauded for its ability to soothe irritation, reduce inflammation and hydrate, you can find it in Troxederm’s Repair Essence Mist where it’s blended with cica and niacinamide for an ultra calming effect. Yoon says it has gone totally viral in Korea: “All the celebrities started talking about it and Korea’s George Clooney bought $15,000 worth of this product for his fans – that’s how much he loves it.”
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.”
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.
If your aim each day is to drench your skin with hydration, there is a product that can help you out. No longer solely known to the “skintelligent” (those who know their way around a multi-step skincare routine), the essence is fast becoming a formula that many of us rely on for a healthy, luminous complexion. However, it’s frequently misunderstood. Hailing from Korea, as many useful skin trends do, the liquid is often confused with a toner, but is actually an entirely separate product designed to be used after cleansing and toning, and before serum.
“An essence is predominantly used to assist all the other products in your routine,” says Julia Marinkovich, UK representative for the Korean brand COSRX, who describes them as a skincare staple. “They are multi-functional miracle workers that hydrate and rebalance the skin, housing many active ingredients that work to penetrate the skin much deeper, further enhancing subsequent skincare products and boosting the effectiveness of your whole beauty regime.” Marcia Kilgore of Beauty Pie is a fan too: she told Vogue recently that an essence is “the perfect power-magnet prep to heighten the performance of whatever you apply next”, highlighting its ability to nourish, smooth and pH balance the skin, softening the epidermal layers to allow faster penetration of actives – Beauty Pie’s Japanfusion Hydra Prep Essence Lotion is an unsung hero in the brand’s offering.
While essences are nothing new and have long been available via more niche brands, over the past year the beauty mainstream has cottoned on to their efficacy, thrusting them into the spotlight and making them more accessible to consumers. Take Elizabeth Arden’s Ceramide Micro Capsule Skin Replenishing Essence, which is packed with antioxidants to protect skin from external aggressors, and offers minerals to boost skin’s hydration levels, as well as lipids to bolster the skin barrier. It’s a multitasking product that really does work, particularly for older skins: “Ceramide levels drop precipitously as we age, and this formula contains skin identical ceramides that support the skin barrier and help improve texture,” says Dr Dendy Engelman, the brand’s consulting dermatologist.
Meanwhile, when Vintner’s Daughter – a brand that shot to fame by offering a single product – introduced a second, founder April Gargulio didn’t unveil a cleanser or a moisturiser, but an essence. “The Active Treatment Essence was created to be the perfect hydrating complement to [the original product] Active Botanical Serum’s multi-correctional moisture,” Gargulio tells Vogue. “In one perfectly calibrated formula Active Treatment Essence delivers many products in one – deep hydration, collagen-building vitamin C, two sizes of plumping hyaluronic acid, brightening plant stem cells, revitalising microalgae and B vitamins, pre and probiotics, 60 plus nourishing nutrients and micro-exfoliators for cellular regeneration.” An exhaustive list of skincare benefits, and yet more reasons to consider incorporating one of these multi-taskers into your routine.
Other notable essences to try are Skin Regimen’s Microalgae Essence, a near all-natural product which helps recharge and hydrate the skin thanks to energising unicellular microalgae; COSRX’s Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, which is loved by Emily Ratajkowski and, yes, really does contain snail secretion filtrate to repair damaged skin; and SKII’s Facial Treatment Essence, which is forever sold out, and for good reason. It’s achieved cult status thanks to its ability to lift, firm, hydrate, smooth, and generally make skin glowy as can be.
Unlike a toner or micellar water, your essence should be applied like a serum: “Instead of using a cotton wool pad, apply four to five pumps of essence into the palms of your hands and then press the product into your skin, avoiding dragging it,” says Marinkovich. Use it morning and night, post-toner and pre-serum, and enjoy. For the sake of an additional 20 seconds, it’s a no brainer – isn’t it?