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March 29, 2009 7:42 PM   Subscribe

Working all winter as a bike courier seems to have taken a toll on my skin. What can I do to mitigate the damage and lessen the effects of future harm?

I rode all winter as a courier in Toronto. I wore a jacket that had a hood and a built-in facemask, so the only part of my face exposed while I was riding were my eyes and lower forehead. Now, after six months on the job, there are prominent wrinkle lines under my eyes that look permanent, the skin on my forehead looks scaly and rough, and my face generally looks puffier and rougher. I'm sure some of this is natural aging, but that doesn't explain it all.

Right now, I'm just using a generic pharmacy brand moisturizer on my face before bed, and I've started wearing sunglasses to try to lessen the damage around my eyes. I'm worried the sun this summer is going to start off where the cold weather ended and do a whole new number on my face. Any ideas on how to treat my skin, make it look a bit less rough, and be more proactive about avoiding further damage?
posted by pcameron to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A moisturizer with sunscreen (generally these only go up to SPF15, though), or mix a little bit of stronger sunscreen in with your normal moisturizer. Apply in the morning before you set out and reapply throughout the day.

There are various creams you can slather on at night, and plenty of different eye creams, but if you're going to see any difference at all (debatable) you need to apply them pretty regularly, and over a long period of time. I use a couple of different things and while they have worked and there is a noticeable difference, it took a few months.

A lot of guys will pooh-pooh it, but I guarantee moisturizer at the very least will help you out, especially with your forehead. Standard men-specific pharmacy stuff like Nivea or L'Oreal is as good as anything (super-expensive stuff feels nicer and soaks in quicker but has the same net effect).
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:52 PM on March 29, 2009

Sunscreen is meant for use all year round, not just in the summer. It was a crappy grey winter here, but you were exposed to sun (and wind, and cold) for hours throughout the day. So keep using sunscreen on your face from now on, not just this coming summer. Sunglasses with complete UVA and UVB protection are also a good idea.

See a dermatologist to rule out any common skin problems, but you will probably find that gentle cleaning morning and night, sunscreen during the day, and even good old petroleum jelly on your (dampened) face at night will help a lot. However, if your skin is prone to breakouts, stay away from PJ. A good daytime moisturizer and sunscreen is Olay Complete Defense (30 SPF). Shoppers puts it on sale fairly often.

When you get back from riding, wash your (hot/sweaty/shiny) face gently with tepid water and a mild cleanser like Cetaphil or Shopper's generic equivalent. If it feels dry, apply a moisturizer (or petroleum jelly, as mentioned above, if your skin can tolerate it), but if it doesn't, just leave it alone.
posted by maudlin at 7:59 PM on March 29, 2009

As a fair Chicagoan with sensitive skin, I stand behind the Body Shop's hemp facial moisturizer. It's not frilly or smelly, so I think it would work well for dudes as well as ladies. It's only 16 bucks a tub, which will last you a while. If you can afford them, kiehl's products are also totally worth the money. At least waltz into the store and get a bunch of free samples.
At one point, my roomate and I also just lathered up straight with an olive oil/aloe homemade concoction. Surprisingly, this really did the trick and didn't lead the breakouts.
hang in there...this winter weather is almost over.
posted by shrimpsmalls at 8:02 PM on March 29, 2009

It sounds like at least a portion of the damage is done. Chalk it up to a learning experience. The first trick will be to treat your current dry skin, and then minimize future impact.

With extreme dry skin, I find Aquaphor works great (think vasaline on steroids). During the winter, its the only thing that works on my skin if it gets dry to a certain point. Otherwise, if its mild enough, I use some Aveno. Both products are non-scented as I'm allergic to a variety of perfumes and I don't like to find out too late that I can't use a moisturizer.

Once the skin is treated and healing, its time to talk to mom, sis, and gradma. Both my mother (in her 60s) and my wife (in her 30s) get good results from Oil of Olay's Deffenity product line. Its expensive, but it works in decreasing visible crows feet.

For the remainder of the spring/summer, make sure youre using some sort of blades for sunglasses (something that wraps) to minimize wind, and get some sunscreen.

I too am in my 30s, and biked year round in Boston for 3 winters. For next winter, add ski goggles ($40 for a very very good pair that won't fog) and a vented balacava (schampa makes some awsome thermal ones) to your outfit.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:02 PM on March 29, 2009

Exfoliation every few days (or even once a day if your skin can handle it) will help the roughness pretty quickly, but you have to pair this with a moisturizer. You can go with a commercial exfoliating product, but I've used baking soda on my own skin and it works fairly well. Make a thin paste with the baking soda and gently rub it on your face, and keep your face well moistened with water as lubricant (don't end up dry rubbing). Rinse well and follow up with a moisturizer. You'll have to do this gently and routinely but it will make a noticeable difference in a few days.
posted by lizbunny at 8:09 PM on March 29, 2009

As far as products go, a friend swears by Clinique's City Block moisturizer. It's 25 spf, and of course, sunscreen is one of your best defenses. I've only used it a few times, though. I thought it felt great but I can't personally vouch for it working against what city living does to your skin in the long term, as it claims.

But Clinique is relatively inexpensive, they often offer freebees w/ purchase, and it may be worth a shot for you.
posted by juliplease at 8:43 PM on March 29, 2009

I got some products for life on the desert, where my skin gets hammered by dry winds, dust and cold. I found one product that act as a barrier cream for nurses, it protects their hands against the constant washing for example. I also got some leather protectant, which is basically a wax. Think of your skin as basically a porous and sensitive membrane and then think of how you can insulate it from the direct effect of the weather. I also have tried using shea butter, an African clay with insulating properties. Anyhoos, message me if you want specific product names.
posted by diode at 9:30 PM on March 29, 2009

Best answer: diode: "I found one product that act as a barrier cream for nurses, it protects their hands against the constant washing for example."

I suspect this is Glysomed, which I know is widely availible in Toronto because that is where I first found it, tried it, and fell madly and passionately in love with it. Do not bother with the face cream - get the hand cream and slather it on at night.

If you want to deal with the flakey skin, I would take a shower before bed and scrub your face with St. Ives Apricot Facial Scrub. It's a very inexpensive, gender-neutral, un-perfumed scub you can get in any grocery store or chemists. Scrub with a big glob of that, rinse, get out and then slather on the glysomed.

During the day, use sunscreen. (You will sweat to death under the Glysomed.) But the night routine will help a lot to smooth and soften you skin.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:08 PM on March 29, 2009

Best answer: another vote for glysomed - I've been using it since my brother recommended it - before he was a cop, he worked in parking enforcement, and he said that it was the only thing that worked on his hands when out writing tickets in the winter. (of course, ever since he suggested it, my boyfriend has referred to glysomed as "cop sauce")
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:21 AM on March 30, 2009

Obviously sunscreen is a must for protection.

For moisture, though --

Plain old drugstore glycerin, diluted and applied topically, is my holy grail for dry/rough skin. There's a reason why it's in virtually every cosmetic product out there: in many of them, it's the only truly effective ingredient. (The rest is usually perfumes, dyes and preservatives.) But plain glycerin is naturally unscented and free of additives so my sensitive skin doesn't have any negative reactions. It's great stuff - there are even reports of alleviation of eczema symptoms with regular use. And it's cheap! Typically under $5 for 8 oz.

I apply it after bathing when my skin is damp because you MUST, and I repeat, MUST dilute it with water.

Why? Because it's a humectant; it attracts water to itself. If your skin is dry, it will pull moisture out of your skin, making it worse and also causing the discomfort of dessicated skin cells. But if your skin is damp or you dilute the glycerin with a bit of water just before applying, it will seal in the moisture and attract more moisture from the air. (You don't want to just dilute the entire bottle as soon as you open it -- I have read that causes it to break down over time and lose its efficacy. Which probably explains why the money-grubbers don't just dilute it and sell the watered-down version.)

If you find your skin feels sticky or greasy, you haven't diluted it enough. I find just a few drops is enough for my wet face, but if your skin is particularly dry you may need more. Not only does it moisturize better than anything I've ever tried, it makes my skin so ridiculously soft people actually pet me and exclaim over it. Lol! And it's fine to use on the delicate eye area, too -- just pat it in gently with your ring finger so you don't pull on the skin and cause more damage. After it's soaked in, apply an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen.

[Btw: "cop sauce"?? LMAO!!]
posted by Phoenix Ash at 5:46 AM on March 31, 2009

Response by poster: A big thanks to everyone for the advice. I've started slathering on the sunscreen and wearing sunglasses all the time, and moisturizing at least twice a day. I think I will try out the Glysomed first, and/or pure glycerin, as well as exfoliating. I'll try that for a few weeks and see if it is improving my skin. In the end, I might just quit my job. I don't mind working this job for low pay for the freedom it provides, but if I have to pay in the form of premature aging, that might be a bit more than I'm willing to give.
posted by pcameron at 12:20 PM on April 4, 2009

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