Hydration: Skincare for Runners
Last summer while recovery from surgery at home with no kids, no cable, and no Netflix Coach MK fell down a skincare rabbit hole she describes as "Life-Changing". Skincare is now a non-negotiable in her self-care routine, helping her face the start of a day as well as signal its conclusion. In the process, she fell in love with her skin and gleams with pride when it is noticed (which is TOTALLY new for her).
Many of us are washing our hands more than ever before, which takes a toll. Last night, she livestreamed in the Quaranteam Facebook Group, breaking down hydration and the three types of moisturizing agents as well as how to effectively layer them. Here, she lists the products she uses and why. (Fun fact: the way we wash our face and hands has a bigger impact on hydration than the moisturizer or lotions we use.)
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Short Version: Start with the easiest things to incorporate, then add more if your interest grows. IMHO, if you wear a mask all day that would be the double cleanse (this and this), the hyaluronic acid, the lip creme and the dry oil.
When we moved to Denver from Houston in January 2012, I got a crash-course in hydration. My hands peeled, my lips cracked and bled no matter what I did. I searched and searched for 'the best' moisturizers for altitude and came up empty. Last summer, (2019) I learned I'd been asking the wrong questions. Learn from my mistakes!!!!
There are three types of hydrating agents: humectants, emollients, and occlusives. Each has drawbacks and can actually increase dehydration, so rather than grabbing aimessly for "the best" products in each category start with a few questions and grab the right ones.
1. Internal Sources
Before you consider what to put ON your skin you need to stop and ask what the source of dryness is this time of year.
I'd never had seasonal allergies before moving to Houston, and the dark, clear bumps I would get on my elbows, knees and palms of my hands were MADDENING. Turns out, this is called dyshidrotic eczema and is linked to allergies. Allergy season starts in March and continues into June, and coincides with GLO, making Spring a really tough time in general (doubly bad in Denver, as January and February are notoriously arid; we installed a humidifier in our house as quickly as we were able). Anything that helps with allergies will dehyrate you and make you really thirsty, so even with itching and sneezing gone you've created a second hydration issue.
(This sounds super-basic but you wouldn't believe how we forget that everything is connected and look at symptoms in isolation.)
take in electrolytes ALL DAY LONG: Hydration is not a one-time thing. Eat bananas, drink potent electrolytes consistently throughout the day, and eat water-rich foods when you can.
antihistamines- Allergy sufferers tend to be Zyrtec people or Claritin people. I'm a Zyrtec person, it massively helps with the itchy spots (but you may need to ask your PCP about steroids if you scratch till you bleed).
Takeaway: Lotions won't do much if your dehydration is internal
Now, we move onto external sources that can compound the dryness and itching.
2. External Sources
What I learned that first weekend in Denver is that lotion isn't enough. Hydration starts with how you wash your skin. The US conflates 'tight' skin with clean skin, so most of the products on the market here are way too harsh. If you are stripping the moisture out with soap, you're doing damage that lotion cannot mitigate.
a. face care
I have oily skin that is also uber-sensitive, a terrible combination because anything that treats the acne also destroys my skin. Dermatologists couldn't do much, for decades my routine was Neutrogena applied with a Buf-Puf and followed up with Oil of Olay with suncreen.
The 'life-changing" thing I learned last summer was double cleansing. Turns out, my routine had been making the acne WORSE. We all know that oil and water don't bind to each other, so the key is to cleanse first with an oil-based cleanser that binds to the dirt makeup and bacteria, emulsify, rinse off, and follow with a gentle water-based cleanser to remove the rest of the oil (no need to dry in between), rinse, and pat gently with a (dry) exfoliating cloth.
There are tons of oil cleansers out there; I like Clean It Zero most of the year and And Then I Met You in winter. I follow with a super-gentle water-based cream cleanser all year long.
If a double cleanse is a stretch for you and serums are just not gonna happen, I GET IT. use this as your oil-based cleanser. It's heavenly! takes care of acne and noticeably brightened my skin.
Like it or not, layering is key to lasting hydration. After you double cleanse (if you have acne-prone skin or get lots of blackheads, please use a toner first) pat your face dry then apply a humectant like this basic hyaluronic acid. Three small drops should cover your entire face and neck with a thin layer (thicker isn't better). You may add a serum on top of that, this one is wonderful once you get used to the texture, then finally moisturizer/sunscreen to lock it all in. This will last all day under a standard hospital mask.
That's a LOT, I know. This is a fun starter kit and I like all of the products in it.
b. lip care
We all have lip balms and chap sticks all over the place. They are either humectant (aka "greasy and I have to apply it every 5 minutes"), emollient ("my lips absorb it and they are still dry") or occlusive ("it's thick and goopy and sits on top of my lips and the skin around my mouth is still dry and cracking"). The best have all three, but they aren't cheap.
Key here again is layering. I apply the hyaluronic acid to my lips as well as my face, then follow up with this. It's pricey but it works well on its own and you don't need very much. When I go to bed at night, I use this. It stays in place till morning. (I've tried it during the daytime and don't like it as much for daytime wear).
c. body/hand care
If you are an HCP, you probably use antibacterial hand soap and hand gel all day long. The alcohol in it will dry your hands out, but since you work in a hotspot this is a necessary evil. Use this during the day, then follow the directions below for post-shower and nighttime.
If you do NOT work in a healthcare environment, you don't need to use antibacterial hand soap AS often. I use it immediately when I come indoors after being outside, at the grocery etc but 95% of the time a gentle all-purpose soap will suffice and won't have you running for specialized hand cream.
Now, comes the big one: body washing.
Gentle Soaps are just as Effective- Most of the year I use a moisturizing soap (Pacha is my favorite) in the shower but in the winter and during allergy season I double cleanse (first wash with shower oil, follow quickly with Pacha).
Post-Shower Is Key- Warm water softens skin and opens pores. When you are most dehydrated, you need to take advantage of this (short) window. Immediately after the shower I squeeze and wrap my hair, shake water off my hands, then apply a post-shower emollient lotion all over.
Follow with Occlusive Repair - (this final layer is really thick, so be sure to put on any face creams first) Dab this creamy oil on any itchy spots, then right before bed rub all over your hands for overnight repair.
That's it! Again, I know it sounds like a LOT but it makes a huge, HUGE difference. Start with the easiest things to incorporate, then add more if your interest grows. IMHO, if you wear a mask all day that would be the double cleanse (this and this), the hyaluronic acid, the lip creme and the dry oil. (Crazy, right? the way you wash your face matters more than the moisturizer you use. MIND BLOWN!).
Am happy to answer questions in the comments below or in #AskAway!