There were a whole slew of reasons why my boyfriend and I booked a last-minute, four-day getaway to Santa Fe, N.M. There was the chili-covered food, the thriving art scene, the opportunity to drive up into the mountains and out over tumbleweed-filled plains, and the best vintage store in the country. But there was one element I wasn’t so excited about: the dry, windy climate. My skin thrives in humidity, like a shower plant. So if I couldn’t find moisture in the air, I reasoned, I would get my fix the man-made way: with a sheet mask. I would do #AMaskADayInSantaFe, I decided.
The plan included all my favorite things — it rhymed, was hashtag-able, revolved around skin care, and gave me an excuse to talk about my vacation even more than I usually would (a lot). I rounded up a few of my favorites and a few newbies, tucked them into my bag, and was off.
I kick-started the whole thing on the plane with a luxe SK-II Skin Signature 3D Redefining Mask, after wiping my makeup and grossness off with cotton pads that I’d pre-moistened with Garnier’s cleansing water (I wasn’t messing around). The plane was dark when I finally pulled the mask out of my carry-on and put it on, but I was still hyperaware that I looked terrifying. It didn’t help that my boyfriend took one look at me and turned away. (“That’s scary” was all he said.) Or that the flight attendant kept walking by and, at least in my mind, chuckling.
But when I peeled it off after 18 excruciatingly long minutes, I felt like my skin was hydrated for the first time on a flight. It was a little weird how my cheeks felt so different from my sandpapery nostrils or parched eyes, but waking up the next day with glowy skin after only three hours of motel room sleep didn’t suck.
On day 2, I gave a Rose Moisturizing Essence Mask a try. This was the one I was most concerned about. I was worried its rose fragrance would irritate my skin, and its low price ($2) only added to that concern (I’m a snob). But the mask was lovely, and the scent mild enough. My skin didn’t look as smooth as it did after SK-II, but it was pretty dewy for the next few hours — no small feat, given the desert climate I’d suddenly dropped into. Two days, two masks, and skin that felt more hydrated than ever — the mask-a-day plan was officially succeeding.
And then, friends, the inevitable happened (at least if you’re me) — I got sick. It was a stomach thing, so I could wear the masks on my face without sneezing or scratching them off, but all the essence-heavy face cloths suddenly seemed extra-slimy. My stomach turned as I pulled one particularly goopy mask out of its casing, and I just couldn’t slap it on my face and pretend all was well. Plus, the cooling sensation that felt so calming the day before felt clammy on my feverish skin. The masks didn’t just make me look like a Dementor out of Harry Potter — now I felt like one too. So I took a hiatus and felt my glow start to fade along with it.
I did have nature on my side, though. On the day my stomach bug raged the worst, it rained. Santa Feans apologized for the uncharacteristic weather, but I embraced it: The slight humidity meant my skin wasn’t parched without masking. Plus, I doubled up on my trusty water creams, layering hyaluronic acid after hyaluronic acid.
On the last night, as my appetite slowly came back, I sucked it up and soaked up a Verso Deep Hydration Mask, which did exactly what it said it would. I headed out to gorge on enchiladas and tamales with plumped-up cheekbones and a line-less forehead, looking substantially better than I felt. But as great as that was, it was accompanied by a small bump on my chin, and another above my eyebrow. In my haste to mimic humidity, I’d forgotten the other half of keeping my skin happy — exfoliating. I was hydrating my skin cells without sloughing off the old ones, which led to some seriously clogged pores. I suppose I could have layered on a mask with an exfoliating acid. But by that point, I’d spent several hours of my vacation lying on my back, sheet mask in place. Did I really want to spend my last night in New Mexico double-masking?
No, I didn’t. So I cooled it on the masks, and my skin thanked me. The bumps went away on their own, drying out from the air, rather than salicylic acid. On the flight home the next day, I passed over a ginseng mask in favor of Revelations RX undereye masks. They smelled vaguely alcoholic (Can eye masks expire? Probably), but the skin under and adjacent to my eyes was so plump by the time we landed, the smell didn’t matter. Plus, no complaints from my boyfriend. Success!
Did I save my skin from the potential havoc Santa Fe could wreak? I like to think I did, given the circumstances. A stomach bug normally would have left me dry and splotchy, even without a drastic change in climate, but I made it back to New York with a more even-looking complexion than when I’d left. Part of that was using high-quality masks, packed with pricey essences. (There’s a reason Cate Blanchett uses SK-II.) Some people say price doesn’t make a difference, but after this week, I think I can safely (anecdotally) call BS on that.
But there was another element at play here: What Santa Fe lacked in humidity, it made up for in relaxation. My stress level plummeted so low in New Mexico that I suspect the smoothness between my brows had less to do with trapping hydrating serums on my skin, and more to do with the fact that I didn’t frown once while I was there — stomach bug and all.
So go ahead and give the vacation sheet mask marathon a try, if you have the time and resources, and report back @YahooBeauty.
Photos: Courtesy of Molly Shea