If you’re a regular reader of SpotlyteTM, you likely already know that it’s essential to plan for downtime when it comes to booking medical aesthetics treatments. Some procedures have more of a recovery period afterward than others, and some require that you baby your skin until it heals. But even careful planning can backfire!
I’m a professional makeup artist, and I’ve seen it all too often. A client will book a treatment – like a skin resurfacing laser, chemical peel, or micro-needling – knowing that she should stay home (makeup-free!) for a few days afterward. Then, she finds herself in a situation where she needs to leave the house looking presentable. She is often frantic to find makeup while her skin recovers.
Just last week, a client came to me with visible redness and huge flakes of skin that were practically hanging by a thread. She then asked me what foundation she should use. I gently suggested that she cancel her plans in the name of protecting her skin and after she left my chair, I started doing some research on how I can truly guide these clients when it comes to selecting the right makeup.
According to Longmeadow, MA, plastic surgeon Dr. Glen Brooks, “Using the right products can speed up the healing process and help to avoid inflammation.” Reducing inflammation will also help expedite your skin’s recovery, so seek out formulas that cater to sensitive skin (such as fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and SPF-infused options). Keep reading for my product recommendations and application tips.
How to prep skin after treatments – before you even apply makeup
I cannot stress this enough – you must consult with your licensed provider on what is best for you and your skin. Dr. Brooks notes that there will be important steps to take before and after each treatment that will aid in your skin’s healing. That’s especially the case if the treatment you booked has broken down the skin barrier (such as chemical peels, laser resurfacing, or other similar appointments). This is because your skin will be especially raw and exposed. Every person’s skin and healing process is different, so ask your provider to advise you. That said, for many treatments, you should do your best to let your skin heal makeup-free for at least the first two to three days.
If you are going to be wearing makeup over recovering skin, there’s a bit of prep work you have to do before you just slather on products. You should first go through your makeup collection and toss any formulas if they’re on the older side. (Not sure what to toss? If it’s a liquid formula, throw it out after six months to a year. Powders can get pitched after one to two years.) Disposing of old products is something you should do year-round, but it’s particularly key to do after getting a facial treatment. This is to prevent the spread of bacteria on your fresh and healthy skin!
Finally, remember that properly priming your skin before applying makeup is essential. If you are a fan of retinoids or regularly book non-invasive treatments, you likely have drier skin due to frequent and deep exfoliation. There’s nothing wrong with that – you just require a heavy dose of hydration before starting your makeup routine. Makeup always looks best on healthy, hydrated skin – so it’s a win-win.
[Editor’s note: Retinol shouldn’t be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
When prepping these drier skin types, I always begin with a rich moisturizer. My go-to is usually La Mer® Creme De La Mer®, as I find it’s the best choice for clients who are facing dry, flaky skin. The formula contains a legendary “Miracle Broth®” that includes sea kelp extract, which is said to have healing properties. Then I use a hydrating primer to help keep makeup in place. My favorite is IT Cosmetics® Feel the Moment® because it’s loaded with botanical oils (such as avocado, argan, and olive oils) to help transform parched skin. Now that you’ve prepared your complexion, we’re ready to get into makeup.
Most doctors recommend mineral-based makeup after procedures, including Dr. Brooks. “Anything water-based – which is most liquid foundations – can grow bacteria, which is a risky choice,” he warns. “Mineral makeups don’t grow bacteria, because bacteria cannot grow without water, making it a safer option.”
Know that if you have a lot of texture concerns (such as fine lines and enlarged pores), the mineral foundation may not be the best choice for you. These formulas tend to be a little less forgiving and can cling to roughness or wrinkles instead of hiding them. That being said, your skin’s recovery is more important than a little uneven coverage. My top choice for mineral powder foundation is BareMinerals®. It comes in two formulas – original, which has a subtle luminosity, and matte – and there are 30 shade options to choose from. I also find the pricing to be reasonable for a foundation that you might only use when you’re healing from treatments.
For those who insist on applying liquid foundation on healing skin, or for those who prefer liquids to powder, seek out a medical-grade foundation. Aesthetics consultant Amanda Covitt, who has worked alongside plastic surgeons for five years, always recommends the Oxygenetix® line of foundations to patients. “I love this foundation because it comes in an oil-free formula, as well as a regular formula, so it suits the needs of all skin types, and you don’t even need concealer because the coverage is so good,” she says. The line’s products contain nourishing aloe vera and SPF to ensure delicate skin is pampered and protected.
Per Dr. Brooks’ advice, it is wise to add as many mineral-based products into your life as possible while your skin is healing. Mineral bronzer is already a popular category, and it turns out that my favorite one – the Colorescience® Pressed Mineral Bronzer – can be found in most doctor’s offices. The brand specializes in post-procedure skin, and this specific product comes in a gorgeous sun-kissed shade – an orange-free, deep bronze with a subtle red tone that can even be used as a contour on fairer skin. Because it’s a mineral formula, the product is breathable and won’t disrupt the healing process. If you don’t want to wear a traditional foundation or powder, consider sweeping bronzer all over the face for a natural, healthy glow.
Concealers in particular can be very dry, so it is important to choose one that is hydrating and creamy – especially when using it on the delicate undereye area. “Lasers go right up to the lash line since the tell-tale signs of age are often seen around the eyes,” Dr. Brooks notes. “It is definitely important to choose the right products for the eye area.”
In this instance, you can rely on an industry favorite: the Yves Saint Laurent® Touche Eclat® All-Over Brightening Pen. This product is light and creamy, comes in 14 shades, and was formulated with hyaluronic acid to help hydrate and vitamin E to protect skin from damaging free radicals. One of the most appealing features of this product is that the formula is dispensed via a clickable pen with a brush tip (which you can easily wash). That’s important because many concealers are housed in a pot, which means you likely have to stick your dirty fingers or dirty brushes into it. These formulas are a bad choice for healing, sensitive skin as you have a higher risk of coming into contact with bacteria growth in those products. If you do use a pot concealer, make sure to keep your tools (or hands) clean.
As a makeup artist, I generally use brushes more than sponges when I am working. I find that sponges breed bacteria, and most women do not keep up with cleaning them as much as recommended (which is daily). However, sponges are far gentler on healing skin. For recovering complexions, I would choose a sponge that has antibacterial properties and can be easily cleaned, like the Laura Mercier® Flawless FinishTM Makeup Sponge. This dye- and the latex-free tool has been developed to be antibacterial, with a unique S-shaped curve to help hug the angles of the face. It also can be washed with simple soap and water and doesn’t require a separate sponge cleanser as some other brands do.
If you still find yourself struggling with makeup application post-treatment, remember: it’s very challenging for makeup to adhere to peeling, flaking skin. Consider this your skin’s way of telling you that it needs a break, and allow yourself the downtime. When you are ready to wear cosmetics again, be strategic in your choices to keep your fresh complexion healthy. And, of course, don’t forget to apply a high level of SPF to protect your beautiful new skin.