If you cast your mind back to the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, you may recall one detail: still adjusting to the idea of self-isolation, there appeared a broadly held idea about the weeks that would follow.
“Sure, the world is in chaos right now,” we thought.
“But there is a silver lining! If I’m home for two months – makeup-free and out of the sun – surely, SURELY (!!) my skin will be in the best condition of my adult life. Right?”
Wrong. Weeks on, we’ve learnt that this is not the case. In fact, many of us are experiencing the opposite.
Iso skin – as it has been aptly nicknamed – has emerged as a point of annoyance for folks all over. We dropped the foundation brushes and began spending more time on our skincare routines, but our faces are frustrated; breaking out like never before. Why?
Here’s what they shared:
On this topic, both Dr Wong and Politano were clear. Stress has a substantial impact on the health of our skin. Although we might be giving our faces a breather from makeup, our headspace is taking a toll.
The tricky thing with stress is that it doesn’t show up in just one way. It can cause a long list of skin issues.
As Politano explained, “stress causes a cascade of inflammation body-wide”. This, she said, can result in acne breakouts, a sudden increase in oil, and “flare-ups of psoriasis or eczema”.
We’re probably all guilty of this one. Your skin is misbehaving, so you slather it with every product you have, praying that this will keep the issues at bay.
There are a couple of problems with this approach. Most importantly, Politano stressed, you might be misdiagnosing your skin.
“You may think you’re breaking out, but it may potentially be inflammation or a reaction appearing as congestion,” she said. By taking to your face with a cocktail of treatments, you risk “overwhelming your skin”.
Dr Wong echoed this point, sharing that “less is more” when it comes to skincare regimes, particularly those “containing harsh ingredients that might potentially irritate” your face.
While everyone’s day-to-day looks a little different at the moment, both Politano and Dr Wong said folks should stick to their usual skincare routine.
That means: keep up your evening cleanse, even if you aren’t wearing makeup. A thorough cleanse, Politano shared, will “get rid of dirt and all your product from that morning”.
Dr Wong proposed following a simple regimen made up of gentle products (preferably fragrance and soap-free). Skin does not like change, so prioritise brands you’re familiar with.
In the morning, use a gentle cleanser and toner. Follow with a hydrating cream that has a light SPF (yes, you still need sun protection). Before bed, double-cleanse then use a hydrating serum and cream. Pop on a mask or use a scrub “every 7-10 days, but no more than that”.
In extreme cases, it is worth slightly shifting your routine. Consider speaking with a skin therapist or dermatologist first, though.
Politano shared that vitamin A in medical doses is particularly effective for nasty breakouts. However, this requires a prescription from a medical professional – so, as always, talk to your doctor first.
Politano warned that it takes time for your skin to adjust to this ingredient, and you might experience some peeling at first. In time, however, “your skin will feel smoother, breakouts will clear, and acne scars fade” she said.
If your skin is dry, Politano suggested swapping to a heavier moisturiser or adding a few drops of jojoba oil to your cream. Alternatively, oily and congested skin will benefit from a weekly clay mask.
Positive changes to your skin health don’t end with products. Dr Wong highlighted that our daily habits have everything to do with the state of our faces.
Poor sleep quality, high-sugar diets, and excessive alcohol can “cause more acne outbreaks,” she said. A low-GI diet and regular exercise will help get your skin back on track.
Working out will not only increase “blood flow, oxygen and nutrients to the skin,” but it’s also a great way to alleviate stress.
Lastly, resist the temptation to take long, hot showers. Dr Wong shared that while they may feel relaxing, they dry out the skin and flare up eczema symptoms.
In the end, the lesson you should walk away with is this: our skin is dealing with the same situation as the rest of our body right now. It’s contending with increased stress, an altered routine, and probably some additional indulgences (we’re only human).
With that considered, it’s hardly surprising that some of us are facing skin concerns we weren’t expecting. The good news is the steps forward are simple. Ease up on the product-use, show your mind and body some love, and be patient.
One thing’s certain: we’ve got the time available.