Olaplex, Sunday Riley, Sand&Sky clay mask and more

From a cult shampoo and conditioner duo to the best no-foundation foundation, to the skin-clearing wonder of an Instagram-famous face mask, Alison Izzo discovered that some of the new beauty habits she cultivated during isolation are worth continuing, well past lockdown. 

Isolation taught us many things. How to bake banana bread. How to set up a home gym. How to get back on a bike (literally). Heck, it might’ve even given you the push you needed to upskill by learning a new language, or hone a new creative pursuit.

Me? Apart from getting to first name basis with my local UberEats delivery guy, I feel like I really embraced the self-care thing, and am going to be taking my new skincare and haircare discoveries with me as restrictions (hopefully!) continue to ease.

I must preface this and acknowledgement that my job as digital editor for Body+Soul affords me the somewhat luxurious opportunity to try new beauty tools and products in the name of work – something I usually don’t have time to do in any serious or studious manner. But social isolation gave many of us the gift of time – and I think I spent most of that snacking, but also rebooting my beauty routine.

Some experiments weren’t so successful, and I would not recommend (at-home infrared saunas… for reasons I won’t go into here). But others were truly life changing. These are the products and treatments I found to do what they promise to – and that I’ll definitely be keeping up, and recommending to anyone who’ll listen.

#1. Indoor sunscreen

I assumed (wrongly) that because I wasn’t leaving the house that I could skip my daily sunscreen application. Turns out I was wrong. Ava Matthews, founder of Ultra Violette, set me straight, saying “Damage from UVA rays still comes through your windows – these aren’t the more harmful cancer or burning rays (these are UVB) but have the most impact in terms of ageing and skin damage, wrinkles, sagging – all the fun stuff!”

I found using a lighter-weight sunscreen made it feel like less of a chore, and more like part of my skincare routine. The Ultra Violette Screen Queen in particular felt FUN to apply (and that’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d type about sunscreen), so I will definitely be adding this to my forever routine.

Try:

Ultra Violette Queen Screen SPF 50+ Luminising Sun Serum 50ml ($47, at Adore Beauty) or La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra-Light Fluid Facial Sunscreen SPF 50+ 50ml ($29.95, at Adore Beauty)

#2. A silk pillow case

This is one of those things I’d heard beauty editors bang on about, but never thought was worth the time/money/effort. And hoo-boy, was I wrong!

Melanie Grant, skin expert to Sydney’s most famous faces has been sleeping on a silk pillowcase for years now, and is a firm advocate, telling news.com.au, “Silk allows the skin to slide, so it won’t pull or tug. This reduces crease lines and marks across your face, neck and decollate… Silk is a non-absorbent fabric so it won’t deplete your moisture levels or absorb your precious serums and night creams.”

The thinking extends to your hair, too, with celebrity stylist and founder of RAW salon Anthony Nadar saying, “When resting your head on cotton you can agitate and roughen up the hair cuticle … however, with silk, your strands will glide along the pillow with ease, leaving your hair smoother.”

So, the experts agree – but I was still dubious, until I tried swapping my usual 1000-thread count cotton pillowcase for a luxurious silk version. The difference was not immediate, but after four or five days I started to notice that I needed to pull out the straightener less to coerce my hair into some kind of shape, and the congested areas around my mouth and chin were starting to clear up, too.

I was also, weirdly, worried that a silk pillowcase would look out of place on my otherwise minimal white and grey bed linens, but a simple white silk style is less overtly glamorous-looking than expected, and now I even take it with me when I travel (locally, because – let’s face it no one’s going overseas anytime soon…).

Try:

Slip queen pillowcases come in a range of great colours, $95 from Slip, Adairs Pure Silk pillowcases, $79.99 at Adairs, Sheridan Lanham silk pillowcase, from $89.95 at Sheridan, or Gioia Casa 100% mulberry silk hypoallergenic pillowcase, $39.99 at eBay.

#3. Regular masking

Again, this was something that was regularly espoused by my beauty editor Kelsey Ferencak but, pre-COVID, the thought of doing a weekly face mask seemed laughable. After all, I was so busy – who had the time? Looking back now, I could’ve made the time – and now knowing the balancing effect it has on my skin I will be carving out the 10 or 15 minutes it takes, once a week, to use a face mask.

My breakouts were less angry, my skin felt smoother and looked less aggravated, and my pores smaller. It also meant my serums and moisturisers penetrated deeper, so I was less flaky and crepe-y to boot. WHO KNEW? (Kelsey, obviously).

Try:

This was my go-to, and wild horses won’t keep me away from it now: Sand&Sky Australian Pink Clay Porefining Face Mask 60g, $69.90 at Adore Beauty. I also loved this Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask – Enzymatic Dermal Resurfacer, $92 at Sephora, when my face felt like more of an energising scrub than a balancing-clay vibe. I know they’re both on the pricier side, but trust me when I say their five-star online reviews are there for a reason.

#4. A retinol oil

I had recently discovered the wonders of retinol – but had suffered with some of the common side effects: flakiness and general skin sensitivity. I started using this blue-hued oil just before lockdown, and was applying it nightly, and liberally, while on a work trip to Park City Utah (it was in February = simpler times!). Sunday Riley is a cult skincare line – but this product in particular has a strong following, averaging a five-star rating online. The combination of retinol with nourishing ingredients like blue tansy and avocado oil means it soothes and calms, as well as evens skin tone and softens fine lines. I actually didn’t realise it was a retinol until I returned to Australia – but my skin had never looked clearer, more even and more luminous. See above for a gratuitous pic of my smiling mug to prove it.

Try:

Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil, $169 at Mecca

#5. No-foundation foundation

With all that good, glowy skin going on (well, to be honest there some iso-skin issues, too), I felt like showing off my fresh face on all of those Zoom calls. I could’ve gone bare-faced, but truth be told I’m a tad too vain, and a few too many years past my 20s to subject my colleagues to such horrors. But I did find just the right amount of coverage in a new breed of no-foundation foundations. Lighter than a CC cream, and with more skincare-esque benefits, my daily go-tos helped to even out my skintone, but left me feeling (and looking) like I wasn’t wearing anything at all. I’ll be taking these with me, forever-ever.

Try:

I was dubious at first about the Chanel Les Beiges Eau De Teint ($109, at Myer) as it looks quite water-y, but by using the ergonomic brush to work in the microbeads of pigment you get a beautiful, even finish that looks fresh and remarkably natural. When I felt like when I needed a tad more coverage, I reached for Skin Physics Colour Foundation No More BB Cream SPF 30+ ($29.95, at Skin Physics). It felt hydrating and melted in the skin easily – but didn’t look like foundation.

#6. The cult shampoo and conditioner

Have you ever used something once, and then realised that everyone you know has been using the same said *miracle product* for years? That was me when it came to Olaplex. I’d heard the hype around this patented hair care range (thank you, Kimmy K), but didn’t think it would help me mostly-straight, mostly-fine, mostly-manageable hair. But after using the Number 4 (the shampoo) and Number 5 (the conditioner) a few times I noticed an immediate difference in the condition of my hair. It was easier to blow dry, sat better once styled, but most of my dried and slightly fried ends felt softer and looked shinier. Apparently, it’s all due to the it’s secret ingredient, which is a “bond multiplier containing a single active ingredient Bis-Aminopropyl Diglycol Dimaleate”. Whatever it is, it works.

Try it:

Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo, $50 at Sephora and Olaplex No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner, $50 at Sephora