After more than a year of working from home and wearing face masks, we’ve gotten used to giving our makeup bags a bit of the cold shoulder. Many of us who previously wore a full face every day are now happily going more bare much of the time, even as we head back into office life and in-person socialising—and not just because it’s easier. More time spent outdoors (and less spent in bone-dry, glow-zapping office building air) can have a positive impact on skin, and there are a slew of new skincare formulas to help us feel polished with less makeup. Here’s what to know about putting your best face forward.
Make sure your skin has moisture.
A lit-from-within glow is beauty-speak for skin that has a healthy moisture barrier. That’s the outermost layers of skin responsible for holding in water and nourishment and repelling irritants in the air so they don’t penetrate skin and wreak havoc. “If your face is dry, red, or flaky, that means you have a damaged moisture barrier,” says celebrity facialist Renée Rouleau. “When this happens, your skin develops tiny, invisible cracks that allow moisture to escape and light to penetrate, meaning light is no longer bouncing off skin’s surface to create that natural radiance.”
Thankfully, the right skincare can restore a damaged moisture barrier as well as your luminosity. First, stop using retinoids and anything with exfoliants until any dryness or irritation subsides. Introduce into your regimen a daytime moisturiser with hyaluronic acid, which holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water for maximum hydration—it’ll also plump skin so it appears smooth and give you a nice, subtle dewiness. At night, slather on a face cream that contains ceramides, a core component of the moisture barrier, to help replenish them within your skin.
- Try for day: Wonderskin It’s a Miracle 8-in-1 Hydra-Gel
- Try for night: Dermalogica Intensive Moisture Balance
Consider a brightener.
There’s a reason so many dermatologists recommend using a vitamin C serum daily on all skin tones: This powerful antioxidant is one of the best ingredients for boosting radiance, evening out skin tone, and fading pigment spots. Look for a formula that contains l-ascorbic acid or tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate—more stable forms of vitamin C—in a pump bottle (to best preserve the ingredient’s potency).
For instant brightening, Rouleau recommends blending on an illuminating serum or moisturiser with pearlescent particles, which create a healthy-looking sheen along with a blurring effect that makes skin tone appear more even.
Highlight and smooth.
Your everyday skincare can double as highlighter, and you may find that it works even better than cosmetics. “I always prefer a dewy highlight rather than a sparkly one, because it looks much more natural,” says celebrity makeup artist Monika Blunder, who likes to use a balm, salve, or face oil for this move. “Tap a little along the high points of your cheekbones—the wetness catches the light to give you a pretty gleam,” she says.
And consider makeup primer: Worn on its own, it fills in pores so skin appears smoother. Today’s formulas are much lighter than the old-school silicone-packed primers that left your face feeling slimy, and most contain nourishing skincare ingredients along with brightening and blurring particles to make you extra luminous.
Chill your tools.
If your face tends to get red or blotchy or you have undereye dark circles, stashing a few things in your fridge can work complexion wonders. Blunder keeps a couple of spoons in her refrigerator as a fast fix for tired eyes. “Place the back side of a chilled spoon under each eye and gently rock it back and forth to massage the skin for a few minutes,” she says. “The cold metal helps constrict blood vessels to reduce redness and make dark circles less noticeable—plus, it’ll reduce puffiness.”
Rouleau stores her entire skincare regimen in the fridge for this same reason. “Cleansing, toning, and moisturising with cool-temperature products helps constrict capillaries to calm redness and irritation,” she says.
Massage your face.
A few minutes of gentle face kneading increases blood circulation and helps drain excess fluid, which can make skin appear tighter, firmer, and rosier, notes Blunder. Before you begin, “pat on a facial oil or serum,” she says. “Your skin needs some slip so you’re not tugging on it.” You can use a facial roller tool or your own two hands, “but always massage upward, never down toward the ground, to help create a lifted effect,” explains Blunder. “And don’t be afraid to use a moderate amount of pressure—enough to get the blood moving but not so much that you’re pulling and stretching the skin.” Try her technique whenever you need a complexion pick-me-up:
- Using the sides of your index fingers, start at each side of your nose and smooth your fingers out along your orbital bones (eye sockets) until you reach your temples. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
- Holding your index and middle fingers together, press and glide up along each cheekbone, again working toward your temples. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
- With these same fingers, massage along your jawline, starting from your chin back to below your ears. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
- Finish by using the same fingers to gently knead your forehead from your eyebrows up to your hairline. Repeat 5 to 10 times.