If You Use Retinoids In The Winter, You Need This Mask


Every morning as of late, I walk into my bathroom, assess the peeling skin around my nose (fine? Kevin Durant’s ankle?) and, while leaning over the sink to get a good look in the mirror, limply repeat some affirmations. They are as follows: Upping your tretinoin prescription in the winter made sense. Tretinoin makes your skin more sensitive to sun, and you’re not in the sun when it’s cold out. You upped your tretinoin prescription because it’s helping your cystic acne. If you stop using your tretinoin, the tretinoin cannot do its job. Dryness is easier to treat than adult acne. Do not try to treat it with more stuff, because the stuff will make your face burn and you will regret it.

That last one is the most important, because it’s also the first to fly out the window in a crisis. I feel an eruption of bumpiness, and my fight-or-flight instinct kicks in. Well, in this case, just fight. Do I need to do a mask? Use an extra hydrating serum? Slather myself in whatever’s in this heavy glass bottle I stole from the beauty closet? My lizard brain says more skincare when the more rational, experienced hostage in there knows to do nothing at all. Pare back, simplify, focus on nourishing, buttery oils without any pizzaz. Stick to products I know my skin likes. That’s the only way to rebuild the moisture barrier compromised by vitamin A and frigid walks to work.

However, I’ve recently discovered a winter game changer that I need you to know about. It’s a silicone mask. I know, I know—I said no extra stuff! But silicone masks lack the ingredients that super sensitive skin might react poorly to. In fact, they have no ingredients, full stop. They’re just plastic. Which isn’t to say they don’t do anything: Saran wrapping your face with a swath of silicone keeps moisture in and New York apartment dry heat out. Meaning if you apply your favorite moisturizer on slightly damp skin, exactly how you normally do, a silicone mask can help turn it into a more intensive treatment. (Think of it as sustainably sheet masking, or slugging without the mess.)

Traditionally, plastic surgeons have used silicone gels and patches to help heal their patients’ post-surgery scars, a practice that was first pioneered for burn victims. But now, lots of different brands sell ‘em for use in less dire circumstances. Some are clear-ish, which contrast your skin tone just enough to make you look like Hannibal Lecter. Others have a slightly pink or purple cast, resembling, when you put them on, a very large slice of ham. But Experiment’s mask (my personal favorite) is an opaque slime-y green that makes its wearer look like Shrek. I love Shrek, so I am OK with this. I also love that I have the option of two sizes, small and large, to guarantee a snug fit.


Experiment Avant Guard Mask

I use my tretinoin on alternating nights, so I’ll use the mask on my off days. All I do is apply my regular moisturization routine and then stretch my silicone mask on top. It’s not drippy or sticky, and it has holes for my eyes and mouth, so once it’s secured behind my ears I can pretty much live life regularly. Watch a movie. Eat a snack. The works! I cooked Thanksgiving dinner wearing it. Then, after anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple hours, I peel it off and tap all over to make sure the moisture is absorbed. After just one use, I noticed a massive reduction in peeliness. And no bad reactions from any new products to sabotage my great results.

Now, I can actually say my affirmations confidently: Upping your tretinoin prescription in the winter made sense. Dryness is so much easier to treat than adult acne.

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG