Local experts talk self-care and skin care in the era of COVID-19

From at-home facials to online ordering, here’s how some of the region’s self-care professionals are getting through the outbreak.

woman reaching for makeup and makeup brushes with pink and green background
Photo by Allie Smith

Just a few short months ago, daily schedules were so packed that self-care seemed like an afterthought. A night of soaking in a bathtub and using a face mask was a special occasion. 

But now, there’s more time than ever to treat yourself and your body. We caught up with some of the region’s self-care professionals about how you can take care of your skin, find the right products and find time to relax during social distancing. 

Sara Demelio is the founder of Skincando, a luxury skin care brand based in Maryland. She recently started a campaign to donate her Combat-Ready Balm to health care workers known as Operation Coronavirus Dry Skin Relief

Rachel Mulcahy is the founder of Ivy Wild, a DC-based independent beauty store, which has shifted all purchases to online ordering, and closed its doors early to protect its staff. The company has since launched care packages that can be sent near and far to friends, family members and more. 

Lastly, Sarah Akram is a board-licensed master esthetician and founder of Sarah Akram Skin Care, based in Alexandria. Her company has also moved all orders online, and is offering virtual skin care consultations through the immediate future. 

All three have weighed in on their quarantine routines, go-to products and more in the conversation highlights below. 

What have been your favorite ways to practice elf-care during COVID-19?

SD: I have had a lot of time on my hands being in quarantine, so I have been doing my full, six-step Skincando skin care routine every morning and evening. My skin looks great! Also, I have been sleeping more, taking long walks, eating healthy vegetarian food and enjoying hot epsom salt baths more often.

RM: Personally, I feel best when I keep a routine and feel some small sense of control over my day. I know that I need to allocate time to be productive, to be active, and then to really wind down each evening, in order to keep stress in check and have peace of mind. Even though I’m working from home and rarely seeing anyone besides over video chat, I like to stick with a good skin care routine. To me, taking a few easy steps to care for my skin has the same payoff as making your bed in the morningit’s a really easy accomplishment and it makes you feel ready for the day. Depending on what’s going on that day, I may also wear a tiny bit of makeup.

SA: I found out I was pregnant in July, so I had to cut out some of the products I normally use. I’ve been reintegrating things like retinol and more powerful exfoliation into my routine, and I definitely have been indulging in some at-home facials. One of my favorite things to use are cryosticks. They utilize cryo-technology that keeps them at or below a freezing temperature while you massage them over your face. They are wonderful for circulation, rejuvenation and calming down puffy, dark circles. For those stuck at home without access to these, you can put two spoons in your freezer and gently rub them under your eyes and over serums.

What have been your go-to products (especially from your own line!) during COVID-19, and how can readers add them to their daily or weekly routines?

SD: I have been loving my CBD cleansing oil, Pearl Mud exfoliant, Sage + Gold toner and Liquid Silver with SPF 15 during this time. The CBD cleansing oil is the first cleanse to hydrate the skin and remove dirt, oil and makeup. The Pearl Mud is my exfoliant which I suggest everyone use every day to keep skin clear and glowing. The Sage + Gold toner sprayed on a cotton round and used after cleansing keeps skin blemish free by removing any trace of dirt or products left. The Liquid Silver is a beautiful light lotion for all skin types and made with a natural SPF that will not cause you to break out. 

RM: I’ll always use a cleanser and an antioxidant serum in the morning (lately I’m using Ursa Major Vitamin C to help brighten and toneplus it has hyaluronic acid to moisturize). If I’m going outside at all, I’m putting on SPF. Suntegrity makes a great five-in-one Tinted SPF Moisturizer with Vitamin C, which gives you just a bit of tinted coverage and antioxidant protection in one step. 

When I wear makeup at home, I usually use a little brow wax to define my browsthis just gives my face more structure and a younger look. I love Ecobrow Wax, which is super blendable and lasts forever. I may also add a touch of bronzer or blush to wake up my skin and look fresh. I’ve been using a bronzer by Saint and a Rituel de Fille blush in Lovesick.

In the evening, I use an oil cleanser to get everything off (depending on how much product is on my face, I’ll double cleanse). Then, most nights, I use a gentle exfoliant to keep my skin clear and even. The Indie Lee Gentle Daily Peel Pads combine alpha-hydroxy acids which help smooth the surface of your skin and lighten hyperpigmentation, and beta-hydroxy acid, which helps keep skin clear and also stimulates collagen production.

SA: My go-to products have been Environ’s triple cleanse system and Biologique Recherche’s Lotion P50. Environ’s triple-step cleanse includes an oil cleanser for stimulating facial massage and to help draw out oily impurities from pores. Next, you’ll work in their hydrating clay masque over top the oil for impurity absorption and micro-exfoliation, followed by one of their gel or lotion cleansers to remove all product and impurities. Deep cleansing feels so good when you’re trapped inside all day!

What are some tips you want to offer to those who are looking for new ways to care for themselves right now?

SD: The best way to take care of your skin is to stick to a routine and build up your immune system. Do your full skin care routine every morning and evening, get in some exercise outside every day, indulge in an afternoon nap, stretch, eat healthy, organic foods and take supplements like vitamin C and vitamin A. Keep in touch with friends and family through the phone and internet. A call with a loved one does a world of good! 

RM: I think a lot of us struggle with facing uncertainty right now, never mind such a dramatic change in our routines and social lives. Creating a simple self-care routine is one small thing that you can control day-to-day, and it takes you out of the moment and gives you something to look forward to. Self-care can really be anything that brings you some peace or entertainment,  whether it’s a short time each day to get outside, read a book or put on a face mask.  

SA: My biggest tip is to really pay attention to and analyze your skin. Every day, even at different times during the day, your skin will feel, look and act differently. If you’re feeling a bit more oily than usual, use a gel cleanser, pick out some of your more clarifying products and put a hold on thicker, creamier products. If you’re feeling congested and needing some clarity, focus more on exfoliation and deep cleansing. If you’re feeling more dry, stick to thicker, creamier products that protect the skin. 

You may find different areas act differently, and day to day you’ll need to adjust. Experiment! Now is a great time to practice cocktails for products and customizing your own at-home treatments.

When it comes to skin care during COVID-19, what’s the best way for readers to maintain a consistent routine and make sure their skin is as healthy as it can be?

SD: With skin care, it is about the quality of the ingredients in your skin care products more than the quantity of products being used. Invest in clean beauty products with healthy ingredient decks. Read the ingredient list before purchasing: If it sounds like a bunch of chemicals, it is! Skincando products are full of beautiful, healthy ingredients including extra virgin seed oils, waxes, natural butter, gourmet tea, wild herbs and trace minerals.

RM: We’ve heard from some of our customers that their skin is showing signs of stress, either becoming dry and sensitive or breaking out. If you’re noticing changes or flare-ups like this, it’s best to pare down your routine to a few gentle items (ideally clean, fragrance-free products). For dry or sensitive skin, try using a gentle cleanser and incorporate a nourishing facial oil like Odacite Gt+L Radiance Serum (the green tea seed is highly anti-inflammatory and soothing) or the Saint Jane Luxury Facial Serum (omega fatty acids help to protect skin’s moisture barrier). For breakouts, try incorporating a nightly toner with AHA or BHA like the Indie Lee Gentle Peel Pads or the Banish Stick

If you aren’t having issues, this is a great opportunity to give your skin some extra care by incorporating more routine face masks, nightly facial oils or exfoliant treatments. If you are interested in boosting your skin’s elasticity and radiance, try a vitamin C serum and a moisturizer with Niacinamide. We love Ursa Major Vitamin C, Joanna Vargas Vitamin C Rescue Serum and Sansceuticals Cellular Repair Cream

SA: Depending on your situation it can be difficult to access products, experts and, some days, some folks just don’t want to get out of bed. Make sure you’re getting up every day and going to bed with a clean face that’s moisturized. Once you get into that routine, start adding in targeted masks and serums, and continue building up.

Why are skin care and self-care important?

SD: Overall self-care, which includes skin care, is important. We are in a global pandemic because of a very serious virus that is highly contagious and attacking our immune systems. During this time we should be focused on self-care to strengthen our immune system, so if we do come in contact with the virus, our body is strong enough to fight it off or minimize the symptoms.

RM: In the big picture, there are larger things to worry about, but self-care and skin care are simple things that we can do for happiness and wellness. Most importantly, self-care helps to manage stress, which has cascading effects on maintaining immunity and emotional well-being. If you’re a skin care lover, practicing this can feel like your self-care. If you’re not really into skin care yet, this is a good time to learn and it might also boost your mood. 

SA: Skin care is always important, because once you’ve achieved your goals you’ve reached the maintenance stage. I like to compare it to brushing your teeth. I like mine to sparkle, so I didn’t stop brushing just because COVID-19 shut things down. You won’t want to have to start from scratch with your esthetician once normal life resumes!

What has been keeping you hopeful and positive during COVID-19?

SD: I have taken this time to reflect on my life, slow down, sleep and eat nutritious food to strengthen my own immune system. Life has been very fast for me these past 10 years and I appreciate the stillness I am feeling now. I also know that this unique time will pass and the pace of life will pick up again soon. 

RM: Keeping perspective is huge. Is it frustrating to watch the news, and have concerns about my business? Yes. But I’m lucky to be healthy and safe right now, and I’m reflecting on the things I enjoy about working from home this spring. I actually like working at home, I have more time to cook, I talk to my dog constantly throughout the day, I have multiple text threads going with friends … these are all good things. I realize that this is a moment in time that’s going to change. 

SA: My precious baby girl has definitely been a bright light through all of this. The miracle of life keeps me hopeful that we will continue to grow, push forward and improve humanity. In a more concrete way, clients new and old have been reaching out asking how they can support me and my team. We are strong, we are blessed and, like so many, we are ready to get back to doing what we love and (fingers crossed) June might be the month the DMV opens up for business. Our clients are anticipating that as our June and July bookings are very strong, which is always a blessing.

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