Whitney James is an aesthetician at a luxury spa in the Hotel at the University of Maryland and shared tips for caring for the skin underneath your mask. (Courtesy photo)

By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO

The summer weather can be brutal on your skin, whether it’s dealing with summer acne, concerns about whether or not to wear sunblock, insect bites and making skin look extra good because…well, there is so much more of it on display. This summer in particular, coming out of an over-a-year-long shutdown where we were wearing masks most of the time, the need for summer skin prep will be a very high priority for many.

The 5,000 square foot Spa At the Hotel at the University of Maryland, offers services that address those concerns and many more. A full service spa, it offers a variety of luxurious massage, skin, hair and nail treatments.The spa opened in its current iteration in March, taking over from the previous owner.

One of its aestheticians, Whitney James, spoke to the AFRO about how to go about bringing out the best of your skin after lockdown.

James, a licensed aesthetician for 17 years,  shared that customers flocking to the spas now  are seeking “a reset” for their skin that was unavailable during lockdown. “At home you can do things on a daily basis but here at the spa, we use more professional products and tools that can penetrate the skin more. So at the spa, you can get more in-depth without hurting yourself.”

Some of us battle acne on a regular basis, but for many during the shutdown, acne happened as a consequence of mask-wearing. This created an issue for those with lingering acne or those who would prefer to continue wearing masks even after they are deemed no longer necessary. James said there are ways to mitigate the challenges that come with mask wearing.

She finds that certain masks are less damaging to skin than others. “The N95 masks, or anything that sets the mask off the skin itself so the oxygen can circulate, is good. I think on Amazon there are things that you can insert into the mask to lift it from the skin.”

As for caring for the skin under the mask, she said,  “It’s going to take a lot of work!” First and foremost, she indicated that  you have to develop the mindset that you will have a regular routine for your skin. This would include, James explained, “a double cleanse, gentle exfoliator with salicylic acid, a vitamin C serum, sunscreen and a moisturizer.”

A double cleanse consists of a cream or oil cleanser initially. “That takes away the dirt, makeup, everything from the environment. Follow up with a gel cleanser,” explained James. She emphasizes that the regimen must be done twice per day: morning and evening.

For those who wonder whether or not they need sunscreen because they have darker skin, James assured us that we do. “We all need sunscreen. Melanin does help, but it doesn’t prevent the overall damage from the sun. Use things to aid it,” James states.

She also recommends doing a gentle peel several times per week, particularly if you have oily skin . “You want to do a peel to exfoliate the skin and unclog the pores.”

For deeper exfoliation there is microdermabrasion and a chemical peel that can be done by spa professionals. Though it’s not available in Maryland (but is available in D.C.), James states that dermaplaning is another option. “If you want to really reset your skin for the summer, those are more high echelon methods if you really want to turn your skin cells over without the wait.”

Another thing that is really valuable for summer skin health according to James, is Vitamin C. “Overall it helps heal the skin. Sunblock protects our skin from about 55% of the sun’s harmful rays. The Vitamin C comes in and plugs in that extra 45%.” She advises that Vitamin C also helps heal blemishes, helps reproduce collagen, reduces hyperpigmentation, plumps the skin, and “gives your skin that overall glow.”

If you aren’t yet able to get to the spa, there are things you can do to keep your skin as healthy as possible. “If you can’t double-cleanse, use a gel cleanser with salicylic acid exfoliate w a scrub every other day if you have oily skin and once a week if you don’t. Use an exfoliating or hydrating mask.” She also advises drinking a lot of water.  “Water is very important for skin. And then a vitamin C and a moisturizer. This would help tremendously.”

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