Beauty

Going for the Glow

Facialist Joanna Vargas offers advice for rejuvenating parched winter skin.

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AS AN ESTHETICIAN who sees clients every single day, I am always struck by the similarities we all have. Whether a busy executive, a stay-at-home parent, or a stressed-out student, so many of us have the same concern when it comes to our skin — how do I get glowing skin? It is the question we start with when someone comes in for a facial.

This time of year I tend to hear the same comments over and over again: My skin is so dry; it just doesn’t glow. And: What can I do to get rid of this winter skin? We all know what winter skin feels like — that tight feeling throughout the day, the increase in lines when we smile, the itchiness and overall textural change. So what’s really going on? And how do we fix it?

The outermost layer of your skin, your moisture barrier (or stratum corneum), is actually the thinnest layer, and yet it is entirely responsible for protecting your body from the outside world. It regulates the moisture levels in the skin while protecting you from environmental damage and bacteria. A compromised moisture barrier, or skin that is somehow less able to perform these duties, might feel rough. It will look dull, or might even be red, inflamed, puffy, or itchy.

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When I see clients in the salon, nearly all of them are convinced that their skin will never recover. Luckily, fixing the moisture barrier of the skin is fairly straightforward.

Many factors can contribute to what we see when we look in the mirror, including the weather, drinking alcohol, using water that is too hot while showering, over-exfoliating, air travel, or overheating your bedroom as you sleep. And these changes can happen regardless of your skin type. (Certainly, some people are more genetically predisposed to medical conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, and a doctor can help you figure out the root cause if you have any concern that something bigger might be going on.)

When I see clients in the salon, nearly all of them are convinced that their skin will never recover. Luckily, fixing the moisture barrier of the skin is fairly straightforward. Following some basic skincare rules will help to transform your face from dry and lifeless to plump, soft, and glowing in no time!

Avoid extremely hot showers in the morning.

I love a hot shower as much as you do, but the hot water isn’t doing your skin any favors. If you are struggling with itchy, rough skin, then you should be taking a shower with tepid water. The hot water strips away your skin’s natural oils, which will make your skin instantly drier and more irritated. While tepid water in the morning shower seems like a lot less fun, it will make a big difference to the feel and health of your skin.

Use a humidifier while you sleep.

The air in winter, whether you are outside in the cold or indoors, is incredibly dry. The lack of moisture in the environment while you are sleeping is really tough on the skin. Nighttime is your body’s time to recover from the day’s stressors, so adding the extreme dryness of your home into the equation may prove to be too much for the skin. I like to recommend having the humidifier right on the bedside table next to you. This will help to keep the skin from getting too dehydrated during the night. You may even notice your skin looks less puffy and red in the morning.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, don’t wash your face in the shower.

The water temperature will inevitably be too hot for the delicate skin on the face, so wait until you are out to wash your face with a gentle cleanser. The products we use on our skin matter. And while many people may think a cleanser isn’t the most important part of your routine, washing with the right cleanser makes a huge difference in how your skin feels. Using a soothing cleansing balm or a gentle foaming face wash with soothing ingredients like chamomile, colloidal oatmeal, or green tea will help restore balance to the skin.


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Change your skin-care routine to include oils, ceramides, glycerin, shea butter, and hyaluronic acid to help hold hydration in the skin throughout the day.

These are the ingredients your skin is craving in the dry winter months. Even a simple product like Aquaphor is incredible for the skin because it adds moisture to the skin while helping to create a barrier, so you aren’t losing this moisture while you are at work. Using an oil-based serum over your hyaluronic acid–based serum and under your moisturizer is also a good way to hold moisture in and prevent dehydration throughout the day.

While we all have different challenges with our skin, we have more control over what we see in the mirror every day than we think.

Include plenty of good fats in your diet while being careful not to drink too much alcohol or caffeine.

I love including some avocado in my morning smoothie as a way of keeping things balanced from the inside out. There is compelling evidence that omega-3 fatty acids help improve the skin’s barrier layer and even help with eczema. They help improve the skin cell membrane, which allows for your skin cells to hold hydration. Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine will dehydrate you immediately, so bear that in mind if your skin is having a hard time.

While I absolutely want all of my clients to be adding self-care into their daily and weekly routines, during the winter months only exfoliate once a week. Over-exfoliation can lead to stripping away your skin’s natural oils, which will again add to the imbalance you see in the mirror. Doing an at-home facial once a week will be just enough to rejuvenate the skin. I would avoid using a coarse physical exfoliant and instead look for a combination of a gentle physical exfoliant with a lactic acid. Lactic acid actually helps boost the skin’s moisture levels while holding moisture in. Follow your exfoliation with a soothing, hydrating mask containing EGF and hyaluronic acid. This will help repair and plump the skin.

Remember, a compromised moisture barrier will be patchy in presentation. While we all have different challenges with our skin, we have more control over what we see in the mirror every day than we think. Healthy habits can be truly transformative. As an esthetician, I try not to make skincare complicated, but healthy skin is about balance. With these simple tips, I hope to help you to be the best version of you!

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Our Contributors

Joanna Vargas Writer

Joanna Vargas is a facialist and skin-care expert. Known for her powerfully refining and reshaping facials offered at her signature New York City and Los Angeles salons, she also has a line of products that reflect her unique combination of technique, technology, and all-natural ingredients formulated to beautify.

Vicki Ling Illustrator

Vicki Ling is a freelance illustrator currently based in New Orleans. Her clients include the New York Times, AFAR magazine, Morningstar Magazine, Trix Magazine, Warner Music, and the Swatch Group, among others.

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