Are there cracks in your façade? I don’t know about you, but when winter bites and blustery winds blow, my face sometimes looks like one of those shriveled-up apple dolls, and my legs, if I can stand looking at them, appear reptilian. Worse. Oy, do I look old.
For advice, I go to my British friend Maggie Hall, a retired journalist and inveterate traveler with enviable skin. Maggie has had a place in Washington, DC, since 1980, where she spends about a third of the year, another third is spent at her house in Yorkshire, and she explores the rest of the time. At the moment, she’s cruising around South America, where the southernmost point is known for big waves, strong winds, and icebergs. She’s very familiar with the ravages of weather on skin.
“What do you do, Maggie,” I asked. “I don’t use anything but Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap,” she declared most decisively. “In fact, I just bought a new bottle. When I’m traveling, I wash my clothes in it as well. That’s all.” End of subject.
There’s a pause.
“Oh, and Olay Age Defying, the classic, with SPF 15,” she adds, “I’ve used SPF since I’ve been in the USA.”
There’s another brief pause.
“I also use Olay Total Effects 7-In-One Moisturizer Plus Serum. Oh, actually, every time I get in the shower, I use Ponds Cold Cream to let it soak in with the heat. And Clean and Clear with salicylic acid. And occasionally, I’ve used Elizabeth Arden’s 8-Hour Cream. I was brought up on Elizabeth Arden.”
One more pause.
“I use a lot more than I thought, don’t I?” She laughed, adding, “I have no proof, but I think air conditioning wrecks your skin. As does dry central heating.”
“The drier the air due to low outdoor temperatures and overheated interiors, the more moisture it pulls from the skin—and the less water the epidermis can retain,” said Mary Carpenter, health columnist at mylittlebird.com, whose bona fides include Time Magazine and the International Herald Tribune.
“To stay moist, what the skin needs is the unlikely-sounding combination of oil and water.” For her extremely dry skin, she applies a concoction of lanolin, mineral oil, or petroleum jelly, plus Lubriderm or Eucerin, right after bathing to seal in the moisture.
While most of her friends find the concoction too greasy, “nothing has worked better for me, particularly when indulging in long, hot baths and showers (ill-advised for those with dry skin), but mostly because of dry air.”
Sounds a bit like “slugging” to me. This TikTok trend, with over 106 million views on the platform, has taken over the internet with support from dermatologists, magazines, celebrities, and various online influencers.
The idea is that you apply your nighttime skincare, then top it off with petroleum jelly and go to sleep. On your back. With a towel over your pillow.
You can slug your entire body, says Sophia Lacy at InStyle Magazine. Slather your damp skin with moisturizer, top with Vaseline or another occlusive, and dress for bed. “Socks, gloves, or your clothes (at least the ones you don’t care about getting a little sticky!) can add an extra layer of protection to help seal the moisture.”
Dallas, Texas-based dermatologist Dr. Rebecca Euwer has heard of slugging. “Unfortunately,” she said with a laugh and an audible grimace. “For a 25-year-old girl with acne, this is not a good idea.” For the most part, that’s who’s jumping on that bandwagon. “Some women over 50 still have trouble with acne; they won’t want slugging either. It’s just too much.”
But for those with very dry skin, or with eczema, or women who are over 80, when most have dry skin, it might be beneficial.
Among the products she recommends are old-timers like Cetaphil and Eucerin. They have heavier formulations for the body and lighter ones for the face. Creams, which have a Vaseline-like base, are good for very dry skin. Lotions, which have more water, are best for those with clogged pores and acne.
Will drinking water help? “I don’t think you can drink enough water to make your skin moist. I’ve seen people who drink 32 ounces of water a day and still have dry skin,” she said. However, those who don’t drink enough water risk dehydrating their skin to the point that it loses elasticity. “Water, she said, “is good for your whole system.”
The older I get, the more modest my skincare collection becomes. Mainly, I stick with Olivella Face & Body Soap and their olive oil moisturizer. It’s an Italian brand with a nice clean scent. Then come various experimental serums, mostly from The Ordinary, because they’re cheap and a heavy topping – like Nivea, perhaps because the smell reminds me of my mom. For body care, Neutrogena Sesame Oil is a great one slathered on after a shower, and the fragrance is delicious.
One final note. “Keep indoor temperatures down, and use humidifiers to moisten the air,” said Mary Carpenter, adding, “many people overdo their body-care routines; dermatologists suggest limiting the use of cleansers to private parts and underarms. Showers should last less than five minutes—in warm water.
“And take hot baths only when in dire need of comfort.” Oh, Mary, when is one not?
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