When we live in parts of the world that experience four seasons, it often means adjusting our skincare regime. However, on top of the changing seasons we’re now also wearing face coverings as we adjust to the new norm to help manage, flatten, and protect ourselves, and others, from the current coronavirus.

So, anyone else worried about trapping in air, moisture and bacteria between the mask and skin? I started noticing people commenting about skin irritations or breakouts recently. As some of us are getting more comfortable with wearing face masks in public, we’re now beginning to think about our skincare and how we should adapt, if at all.

I recently was introduced to Tamsyn Wessels (www.skinbytamsyn.ca) – an internationally qualified esthetician with over 16 years of experience in the skincare industry. I had been searching for someone since my go-to person for skincare, whom I adored, had recently retired. When I chatted with Tamsyn over the phone for a personal consultation I realized that she’s a gold mine of information. Our conversation went from my current skincare needs to how the pandemic is changing the way we go about our daily routines. Tamsyn was on the verge of opening up her clinic in Toronto until covid-19 forced the city to shut down. So, for now, appointments are done over the phone or FaceTime.

Tamsyn is extremely passionate about educating patients on ingredients and building confidence through healthy skin. She offers free online skincare consultations, where clients can comfortably discuss their skincare concerns.  She will also set clients up with a personalized home care routine on the AlumierMD portal — a medical-grade skincare line she firmly believes in. Having said that, she wasn’t about “pushing products”. We reviewed my current inventory and she didn’t believe in wasting any products. Instead, she recommended that I phase in new products when it was time to replenish. Truth be told, I was already using several AlumierMD products that I had purchased and I’ve been fresh out of face serums for a few weeks now (by the way, I LOVE face serums). Tamsyn believes that a professional skincare consultation combined with medical-grade products and patience are key in achieving healthy, glowing skin. More on this skincare line later.

I was already milling about a story on skincare during covid-19 times and asked Tamysn to give us some advice…

There are many face coverings and masks available on the market. What materials should we be looking for? We’re seeing cotton, linen, silk, plastic, neoprene, bamboo fabrics out there. What’s ideal?

TW: When choosing a face mask, the ideal fabrics are always the “natural” options that allow your skin to breathe. The official guidelines advise that “tightly woven, combination fabrics” such as cotton and silk prove to be better in slowing transmission while also being of natural origin. Since a facial mask needs to be fitted to the face, skin irritation may occur due to friction. Keeping your face mask clean is another important factor. Sweat, make-up and oil build up on the mask and provide a breeding ground for bacteria. Reusable material masks should be washed in warm water with a hypoallergenic detergent and then hung up to dry for the next day. Ultimately having two masks will allow alternate usage between washes. 

Cilque Face Mask

Summer poses issues already for our skin – humidity, air conditioning, and even smog. Can you tell us how the environment affects our skin and what you would recommend we do?

TW: Pollution, cigarette smoke, pesticides and UV radiation are only a few causes of free radical damage that lead to accelerated skin aging. Masks on the other hand trap oil, sweat and dirt that can result in skin irritation and often breakouts. Keeping your skin clean, is the first step to minimizing breakouts while also ensuring the removal of particulate matter that builds up during the day. Applying antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E topically can help neutralize free radical damage caused by the sun as well as other environmental pollutants. However, the most important step in protecting your skin from UV damage is still by applying a broad-spectrum (preferably mineral-based) sunscreen. 

What about for sensitive skin?

TW: Sensitive skin tends to be irritated easily and can often lead to other skin conditions when left untreated. Using a gentle, pH balanced, creamy cleanser without harsh surfactants both morning and evening is a must. Keeping your complexion clean while respecting its natural oils is key in protecting your skin’s natural lipid barrier from inflammation and infection. Choose products with ingredients that improve hydration levels, reduce inflammation, and also strengthen and repair the skin. 

Sunscreen is always a good thing, right? But what about the area that is covered by our masks, is that really necessary?

TW: No matter the season, environment or skin type, sunscreen is the number one product everyone should use as part of their daily skincare routine. My rule is “Don’t leave the bathroom until you have applied your sunscreen.” This is the best way to ensure you always apply sunscreen before starting your day. If you are wearing a mask all day, opt for a broad spectrum, mineral sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 for daily use. Mineral or Physical sunscreens contain Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide as apposed to chemical filters that could increase skin irritation. Depending on your skin type, there are incredible formulas available for acne-prone, dry, and sensitive skin. Sunscreen should be applied to your entire face and neck daily. I also recommend applying sunscreen to your chest and back of hands, as we do not realize how much sun exposure these areas receive. 

At night, when we can allow our skin to fully breathe – do we need to rethink our skincare regime to help repair?

TW: Absolutely! Your most important step at night is cleansing your skin properly. Do the “cotton pad test” and then a double cleanse if necessary. Use a cotton pad dampened with water and wipe your face and neck to check if any make-up or product is still present on your skin after you have cleansed. At night, our skin is able to breathe and repair itself without all the free radical exposure we get during the day. The best time to use ingredients that target inflammation, acne, hyper-pigmentation, and premature aging, is at night.

Any key ingredients in the products that would help us now? 

TW: I really try to educate the importance of using the correct ingredients as opposed to just a new and trendy product. Always do your research when it comes to skincare brands. Medical grade skincare lines have done the research to develop potent formulas that are results-oriented when used correctly. Ingredients such as Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) protect and strengthen the skin’s lipid barrier, Glutathione is an antioxidant that helps fight free radical damage and Aloe is soothing and calming to the skin. Another one of my favourite healing and moisturizing ingredients is Jojoba Oil. It is non-comedogenic, a very similar oil to our skin’s natural sebum and is very easily absorbed by the skin.

What else would be important for us to do now?

TW: Avoid using harsh chemicals, artificial fragrances and alcohol-based products on your skin. Facial wipes might seem like a quick and easy cleansing option; however, they do not clean your skin thoroughly and can often lead to a build-up of oil and make-up. Keep your facial wipes for an absolute emergency or for when you are on a plane. 

What should we keep in mind as we move into the fall/winter seasons? 

TW: I tend to view the Spring and Summer months as the seasons to “Hydrate & Protect!” As it starts to get cooler in the Fall, this is the perfect time to start preparing your skin for the winter months and for having more intensive in-clinic treatments. I recommend using Lactic Acid and enzymes to hydrate and gently exfoliate the skin before slowly introducing the use of Retinol at night. Daily, superficial exfoliation helps aid product absorption while also giving your skin a beautiful, healthy glow.

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*Full disclosure: I was first introduced to AlumierMD during TIFF. I discovered their Clear Shield SPF 42 oil-free sunscreen (for face) in a goodie bag I had received at an event. I had not heard anything about the brand prior to this but searched it quickly online. I have sensitive skin and wear sunscreen all year round. I’m still using this one nearly a year later. Then, my second introduction was at an uptown MediSpa where I had a few facial treatments. The esthetician there suggested I try AlumierMD HydraCalm for my sensitive skin. It’s now been 7 months and yes, I’m still using that as well.

With that success in mind, I decided to return to the AlumierMD site and keen on trying other products, particularly for aging skin and hyperpigmentation issues. I have struggled with Melasma as some of you may already know. I’ve had it treated successfully with glycolic peels in the past but also knew that this condition would never 100 percent go away. It’s become more about managing and keeping it under control. Which lead to a personal interest in finding out what AlumierMD can do to help address my concerns.

I realized that the only way to purchase their products was through a professional. Why? This is medical-grade skincare and the company wants to make sure you’re getting the right products for your needs. Only approved skincare experts can sell the goods. Since the MediSpas are not opened yet, I was referred to Tamsyn.

Feeling like you need some skincare advice during lockdown? Anyone can contact Tamsyn to arrange for a free skincare consultation. You can email her directly at info@skinbytamsyn or reach out to her on Facebook or Instagram.

BTW, I’ve been documenting my ongoing personal skincare journey on my Instagram Stories @theculturepearl if you’re interested about how I’m managing skin pigmentation issues including Melasma so feel free to check-in. I’ve recently become interested in learning more about AlumierMD, and will use the recommended products to see how the line could help with my concerns including aging skin. Hey at my age, I’m not in the mood to play around with just any products!

Big thanks to Tamsyn for her time and advice!