My skin is the first place to show signs of stress. I get it all - from dry, flaky patches, eczema, oiliness, blemishes, chapped lips, redness, irritation, you name it. Today I'm sharing some of my go-to tips and favourite products for reviving my unhappy skin back to health.
When my skin has gone awol, I always turn to cleansing waters. Whether my symptoms are dry patches or excess oiliness, I find cleansing or micellar waters to be the most gentle on my skin, and I especially love the formulations that bridge the gap between cleansers and toners as I find them more hydrating. In the higher end range, I love the ByTerry Micellar Water (here for US), that includes a mixture of rose cells and extracts to soothe, calm and gently brighten skin, the Espa Purifying Micellar Cleanser, which has a reverse pump and chamomile to quieten aggravated skin, and the Su:m37 Skin Saver Cleansing Water, with vitamin B5 and a bunch of fermented ingredients. For a more affordable option, the REN Rosa Centafolia and Neogen Rose cleansing waters (reviews here) have been big favourites with their heady, intoxicating rose scent and slightly thicker, more hydrating formulas. The new Etude House Acne Control Cleansing Water would be a good option for blemished skin, as the mixture of salicylic acid, madecassoside, tea tree and garlic clarify the skin whilst removing face makeup.
SOFTENERS & REFINERS
This is one of my favourite steps in calming and destressing my skin, and that's using a super hydrating toner with a formulation somewhere in between a cleansing water and a serum. When my skin is clearly stressed, I don't want to overload it with heavy or occlusive ingredients and this kind of lightweight texture hydrates my skin without silicones or oils, leaving it feeling really fresh, calm and plump. I've used the Laneige Skin Power Moisture Refiner for years and it always provides my skin with hydration, without the heaviness, and without having to be 'locked in' like a hyaluronic acid serum. If your skin errs on the oily side and isn't sensitive when it's stressed out, the Tata Harper Hydrating Essence Toner includes vitamin C to fight free radicals and brighten skin whilst hydrating. I like to douse my skin in one of these toners, pat in for a good few seconds, then place a cold, damp flannel over my face and let everything steep - I find the coolness really helps calm any puffiness or irritation.
Applying a fuller face of makeup is only going to make my skin worse, so I stick to my tried and tested arsenal of 'safe' makeup that I know won't exacerbate the situation. Mineral powders really work for me, specifically this Laura Mercier one (here for US), as I can buff gently over the skin for a sheer coverage and a little confidence, then take a flat concealing brush and build up in areas I have blemishes if I need to. For drier patches, I like to rub in the tiniest drop of oil to just those areas before foundation, and it really stops the powder grabbing at any dry spots. My other go to is the Hera UV Mist cushion foundation (review + try on here). This one plumps up my skin, knocks redness back and leaves a supremely beautiful, healthy finish, so that even if my skin is feeling fraught and harrowed, it doesn't look it.
I'm a believer in the snail. Products including snail secretion filtrate seem to have such a positive effect on my skin, they're very soothing, calming, restorative and healing. I love the Mizon Snail Recovery Gel, which includes 74% snail alongside peptides etc, and is silky and lightweight, providing enough moisture alone for my combo skin. The Snail 96 Power Essence from Cosrx is another favourite - it's more sticky in texture but still very lightweight and has 96% snail secretion filtrate. I find that this one is better for layering under other products.
We've already talked about sheet masks but there are a few, more traditional masks that I reach for when my skin is stressing, the first of which is my Aura mask from Antipodes. The manuka honey combats blemishes and breakouts and the creamy texture is moisturising yet light - I love the natural essence of this brand too. Gel-type rose masks are a big favourite, as the mixture of the cool, gel texture and soothing rose-derived ingredients always calms and soothes my skin. The Skin79 Rose Waterfull mask is a prime example, as well as the Dearpacker Rose mask (an amazing dupe for the Fresh Rose mask - see my other Korean Skincare Dupes here) that includes black tea to rejuvenate and draw out toxins (use the code BARELYTHEREBEAUTY for 8% off the site, and I don't benefit from the code). I'm giving an honourable mention to the Earth Tu Face Honey Rose Coconut mask (here for US) as I haven't been using it long at all but I already love the jelly consistency and rose and raw honey are ingredients I look for to destress my skin.
It seems like there's a sheet mask solution to every ailment, and I've got a handful I love for stressed skin days. Just like my flannel situation I mentioned above, the very act of putting on a sheet mask is cooling and destressing, and I like to chill mine in the fridge for around 10-20 minutes before use if my skin's feeling a little inflamed or puffy. My go-to masks are definitely the Madecassoside mask from Innisfree, which soothes and calms distressed skin with madecassic acid - a derivative of the parsley family, and the Innisfree Rose mask (I really like Innisfree masks). I also love something we're seeing more of now, and that's charcoal sheet masks. Charcoal works really well to purify and detoxify skin, as well as acting as an anti-inflammatory, and I love that you can get those benefits now without the mess, in a sheet mask. I've been trying the Soo Ae Charcoal Flower Essence Masks for the last few months and love them.
Most of the time, the thicker toners mentioned above, along with a moisturising cushion foundation, is enough for me, and for when it's not, I like to introduce a simple moisturiser to make my skin feel happier. I want one that plumps up my skin, and sinks in sufficiently, without leaving my face feeling greasy, heavy, sticky or dry. The Verso Day Cream is a thin but film-forming moisturiser that feels like it seals everything in. It includes a gentle mix of retinols to contribute to anti-aging, that do not irritate my skin at all, I can wear this moisturiser on my most fragile of days. The Aqualia Thermal moisturiser from Vichy is slightly richer, but makes my skin really plump, fades any signs of dehydration and is gentle enough to use when my skin is stressing.
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P.S Have you seen my Korean Acne Tips?
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