I’ve been doing some traumatic things to my face lately. I’m in the middle of a course of Fraxel treatments, I’m loyal to prescription Retin-A, and I often abuse over-the-counter acne creams whenever a blemish pops up, which is a bit too frequently for my liking. Add to this the facts that I live in the Northern hemisphere and it’s winter, and you have a recipe for a flaky disaster.
Recovery creams have saved my face during all this punishment. I forgive you if you’ve never heard of this very specific genre of skin care products — they definitely weren't on my radar until I started becoming really masochistic with my skin. They’re sort of like the post-hangover, greasy egg-and-bacon sandwich of skin care: You don’t know you need one until you really need one.
Luckily, there’s a robust market with lots of choices, and they happen to be the perfect products for winter, even if you haven’t lasered half your face off. Skin’s main function is to act as a barrier to keep nasty things out. When you get irritated and flaky, whether from the weather, a harsh ingredient, or a dermatological procedure (ahem), that barrier is compromised. “It’s almost like the waxy coating on your car or on an apple — that’s the barrier function,” explains Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, a dermatologist at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in D.C. “If you start messing with that barrier, you have to replace that waxy coating, and some of these products will help you do that.” Essentially, they're souped-up moisturizers, with some extra ingredients to help heal and soothe irritation.
Ahead, eight heroic recovery creams, why they work, and why you should be using them — no matter what else you're doing (or not doing) to your face.