We had high hopes for 2021! Seeing in the new year with new goals, aspirations and dreams, but before we could get on with our plans for success we got sucker-punched with yet another Lockdown! Homeschooling is in full swing, you are struggling to work between schooling and entertaining the kids and now your skin is playing up! There are many reasons why this might suddenly be happening, and even if you have always struggled, Lockdown is the perfect time to look after your skin and change things around.
Lockdown Skin is a Real Thing
Many ladies have noticed that their skin is worse for wear recently, despite ditching the make-up! Whether you have had pristine skin and noticed a sudden decline, or you have struggled with your skin for years but now you have had enough, there are answers ahead.
So why is Lockdown wreaking havoc with everyone’s skin? Well, for one it’s winter! We are confined to the house for work and homeschooling with the central heating cranked up, our stress levels are through the roof (even if you don’t want to admit it to yourself), a decline in vitamin D and for some there is the indulgence in all things sweet.
Dermatologists usually see more problems in winter anyway, but combined with the stress this pandemic is adding, as well as mask wearing, there has been a rise in the exacerbation of existing skin conditions and those with new problems.
It’s easy to turn up the central heating when it’s cold outside, especially when you now spend the day inside working or homeschooling. The central heating reduces the humidity causing increased water loss from the skin and increasing the overall dryness. This dryness impacts the barrier function of the skin leaving it at greater risk of inflammation.
Winter also means we tend to hibernate, we limit our time outside and we are all bundled up when we do venture out. Combined with rainy days, the sun already makes a limited appearance everyday. It makes sense that during the winter months our levels would decline, but how does that effect our skin? A decrease in vitamin D levels brings with it a decrease in immunity as well as hormonal imbalances and low energy levels. Does this sound like you? A deficiency can absolutely have a negative impact on the skin. A poor immune function weakens the skin barrier increasing dryness (on top of the above), increasing inflammation which will worsen other inflammatory conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis.
Everyone has different levels of stress. And some might not even care to admit they have stress. But no matter the person, this pandemic has added to the stress in our lives. Whether it is worry from the pandemic itself, the stress of learning how to take your business online, trying to cope with homeschooling, mum guilt for not doing enough or in a lot of cases financial worries. Even in denial, stress can affect how our body works. With stress there is an increase in cortisol floating around which is the hormone that helps to fuel the body for the fight-or-flight response.
It controls how your body manages carbohydrates, increasing your blood sugar, controls your sleep/wake cycle and your blood pressure. When you are under constant stress, it can derail your body’s functions leading to weight gain, anxiety, trouble sleeping, heart disease, impaired brain function and it even impairs the immune system.
This lowered immunity leaves the skin barrier at risk for infection, allergic reactions and flare-ups. Trying to get a handle on our stress (as much as is possible) is important, and so is restoring that skin barrier, seeing how important it is.
There has been talk of maskne (acne caused by wearing masks) ever since it became law to wear them in all indoor public settings. While masks help to decrease the spread of the virus, one of the downsides is the effect it can have on the skin. The humid environment with sweat, oil and bacteria is a recipe for disaster, causing break-outs or worsening pre-existing conditions. Not to mention the effects friction can have on already vulnerable skin.
Remember to wash or change your mask regularly (after each use preferably). If you are anything like me, I don’t follow this advice enough. I can go a whole day wearing a mask at work or I can think that short stints at the shops don’t warrant a change and then I forget how many times I’ve reused it. Oops. But if you are struggling with your skin this is definitely something to be stricter about.
I know I have seen a dramatic increase in delicious treats available for delivery on my Instagram (maybe that’s just me?) and loads of baking going on (or has that worn off in this Lockdown?). It is okay to have treats every now and then or for festive occasions, but indulging in refined carbs and sugary treats over a prolonged period can negatively impact skin health and accelerate skin ageing. Sugar can cause inflammation throughout the body. Aggravating that already vulnerable and inflamed skin. The accelerated ageing is a result of glycation which is when excess sugar attaches to healthy collagen and elastin and causing it to stiffen. Enter wrinkles and sagging.
The Rise in Awareness
On top of all these aggravating factors to our skin’s health and barrier function, there is a rise in awareness of how we look. Prior to this pandemic, most people worked in offices and with clients in person. Online being the exception, not the norm.
Remember those days you used to get up, brush your teeth, shower and get ready for the day. You would look in the mirror for a few minutes at a time to check that all was on track. Then maybe you would catch a glimpse of how you looked here or there during the course of the day. The last chance again was just before bed. Overall, I would say we only saw our own faces for a few minutes a day.
Now, a lot of us are working remotely and have meetings via Zoom or even just catching up with friends and family. It’s great to see other faces, but there is that little square with our own reflection constantly staring back at us. We cannot help but assess how we look! In different lighting we can look better or worse. Even make-up cannot hide dark circles emphasised by the shadows on our face. Those concerns you had before, or this new flare-up, keeps staring back at you.
That’s why Lockdown is the Perfect Time to Look After Your Skin!
So whether it is new skin issues, a flare up of the old ones or even if you have never struggled with your skin, let’s get to how and why we should choose Lockdown to work on improving your skin.
Let’s see Lockdown as the chrysalis, and we are the caterpillar that wants to emerge as a butterfly. We can use this last stretch of Lockdown to make a change; let that change be your skin. I am suggesting simple changes that could help you become that beautiful butterfly.
With the skin being the largest barrier to infection, it makes sense to keep it and anything it comes into contact with clean. That means PHONES, hands, towels and pillows need to be cleaned or washed on a regular basis! Lazy days are normal right now, but remember to keep your daily skincare routine going. Cleanse twice a day with a cleanser suited to your skin type.
To keep your skin’s barrier hydrated use a moisturiser that is nourishing and contains different humectants (a fancy word for water retaining ingredients). With all the talk of inflammation above, why not opt for ones that have calming and soothing ingredients? The best would be to look at a range that is medical grade. A consultation with a professional can help you get the best skincare routine for you.
There is a great @home hydration kit that AlumierMD brought out specifically to help restore the skin barrier with hydration. It is also a great way to take time out for ourselves and unwind by focusing on some self-care.
Hydrate from the Inside Out too.
While no amount of water consumed can hydrate dry skin, it still helps to be well hydrated to ensure optimal skin function. Water helps ensure good blood flow to the skin, taking nutrients and oxygen to the surface and removing toxins. It also keeps the underlying structure of the skin plumped out, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
With all the evidence surrounding us, supplementing with Vitamin D is not only beneficial for our skin but also keeping our immune system tip top in case of the dreaded Covid virus. It will be hard to get enough vitamin D from the sun right now and it is always recommended to wear your SPF all year round. Especially on your face! (The only part exposed right now). Find an oral supplement containing Vitamin D or a stand alone one. You are looking for concentrations of 400 micrograms and above.
Stress plays a much larger role than we previously thought. There are many ways of reducing stress; yoga, meditation, calming apps, oils, therapy etc. If you are finding the stress overwhelming, the best is to seek professional help. I find that scheduling in some self-care can help bring calm. A simple and maybe overlooked way, is to take a few deep breaths where ever you are. It helps clear the mind and bring back a sense of control. Incorporating some daily exercise also helps to bring oxygen to the skin and helps to lift our moods. All you need to do is try.
Cut Back on Sugar
Keep sugar for special occasions. I aim to stick to the 80/20 rule. I eat as healthy as I can 80% of the time and take it a bit easier 20% of the time. It is the refined sugar that we need to be extra careful about. Try a piece of fruit to satisfy that sweet tooth and keep the sugary treats for the weekend.
Eating healthy supports your skincare as increasing the amount of fruit and veg we eat supplies us with the vitamins and minerals we need. I love the ideal of eating the rainbow (different colours of veg) at every meal or at least throughout the day.
Consider adding an antioxidant to your skincare routine. This helps to mop up any harmful free radicals and bring calm to the battle being fought on the surface. L-Ascorbic acid is great but if your acne is playing up you may need to look for alternatives or wait for it to settle before adding it in.
Be Patient and Keep it Simple
It has taken time for our skin to flare-up or act out after the onslaught of chocolate and stress, it will take time to settle. Do not overdo it now by using too many products and face masks. Keep it simple and wait for your skin to settle before adding too many steps and levels to your routine.
Ready to Take Action on your Skin Problems in Lockdown?
Times are changing; the days are getting brighter, spring is around the corner and so is the end of Lockdown. Take time for yourself and your skin. Make simple changes to help support your skin and keep it healthy. If it seems overwhelming or you need help to know which cleanser or moisturiser is right for you, use this opportunity to have a free virtual consultation with me, and let me worry about the technicalities and help you get healthier, happier skin.