One theory is that we’re actually over-doing it on the skincare front. A recent call with facialist Kate Somerville confirmed that using this time to try out the entire contents of our bathroom cabinet is probably not a wise move. We can aggravate and sensitise our skin if we go too hard all at once. For instance, if you’re using retinol, and exfoliating acids and heavy creams we can confuse and overwhelm our skin. And if skin’s miffed, it will react by breaking out.
Has anyone else noticed that their skin‘s having a mare? But why?!! We’ve given it a break from pollution, from public transport, from heavy foundation. We’ve even taken a work call slathered in a face mask to give our skin some TLC while we WFH. Even so, the consensus coming from my (virtual) office and from friends is that their skin is actually getting worse. How can that be?
Another explanation is the increased stress we find ourselves under in this new situation – as Pamela Marshall, clinical aesthetician and co-founder of Mortar & Milk and Debbie Thomas, advanced skin and laser expert and founder of D. ThomasClinic, explain.
Have you noticed an increase in skincare concerns (particularly spots) during lockdown?
“Yes,” says Pam. “There are so many factors involved but the main culprits will come down to stress, lack of sleep, diet, lack of vitamin D and hygiene.”
Debbie agrees. “Any big change in routine – whether it is diet, exercise or stress levels – can have a direct impact on the skin. Even if the changes you are making are positive, it can still take the body time to adjust and for hormones to settle.”
Like Kate, Debbie also reckons that tinkering with your skincare can play a part. “If you are experimenting with new skincare products or regimes, then this can be a contributing factor and could cause the skin to play up while your skin adjusts to the new products,” she says.
What do you think might be causing this?
“The majority of acne break outs are due to hormonal imbalance,” says Debbie. But, “diet and stress are known to have an effect on our hormones, with the latter a big concern considering the current lockdown situation we’re faced with.”
“When our body is stressed it releases cortisol which is our fight or flight hormone,” explains Pam. “When cortisol is high, oestrogen production is lowered. As our oestrogen decreases, our androgen is in abundance and it will send messages to the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Our pilo-sebaceous unit (the main structure of our pore) doesn’t like an abundance of anything, and therefore will swell to a close, creating an inflammatory response – an acne spot.”
As for our diet, “When we are tired and run-down for whatever reason, we have this innate need to comfort eat to keep the body moving,” Pam explains. “Comfort eating is bad for the gut and the skin, and will ultimately add to hormonal changes and gut permeability. It’s important to remember to continue to eat a nutrient-rich diet, which I understand is difficult when it’s nearly impossible to get to the market. Succumbing to junk food may feel good in the short-term, but will wreak havoc on our gut which will in turn wreak havoc on our skin.”
Throw in the fact that we’re missing our daily rays, and it doesn’t look good. “Vitamin D is important for cell development, so not being able to be outdoors will increase our deficiency and our cells ability to differentiate. It’s important to supplement your diet with Vitamin D daily at the moment,” says Pam.
Last, it’s worth looking at whether our hygiene standards have slipped. “It’s still important to keep up our skincare routines, to wash our sheets weekly, and keep our hands away from our face,” adds Pam.
What is the best action to take to prevent it?
“It’s likely that it’s the change in our situation and stress (caused by worry) that is the trigger, so try to keep some familiar routine,” advises Debbie.
“Don’t become lax in your skincare routines. Continue with your daily morning and evening routines, but keep it simple,” agrees Pam. “Eat foods made with love, and make sure you’re getting in plenty of water, omega’s and sleep. I also strongly recommend taking a vitamin D supplement. My favourite is from Wild Nutrition, but they are many excellent brands out there.”
“We are all also spending a lot more time in our sheets, so we need to make sure we are washing them once a week. Dirty sheets directly affect the health of our skin,” she adds.
That said, there are some silver linings. “It’s worth noting the single best thing about this situation is that we are not assaulted with daily air pollution and excessive UV exposure,” Pam highlights. “Obviously, some pollution will seep indoors, but for the most part we are protected from environmental factors.” So, there is that.
What is the best action to take to treat it?
“Continue to cleanse but avoid oil or balm cleansers as they can make breakouts worse,” warns Debbie. “Next, apply an acne or spot treatment – this can either be a gel or a serum. Finally apply your normal hydrator (moisturiser) and always use SPF during the day.”
“In addition to this I’d recommend using a clay mask 2-3 times per week. You could slowly introduce some breakout specific products but do it gradually, otherwise you risk overwhelming the skin. A good place to start would be an acne gel that can be used alongside your normal products. Salicylic acid is probably the easiest ingredient to find that has acne fighting benefits,” advises Debbie.
And, “try not to pick, or obsess, says Pam, who recommends Clinisept. “It’s anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-sporous and anti-viral and is an excellent wound healer. It is brilliant at preventing breakouts, and healing inflammatory skin,” she says. Like Debbie, she’d also recommend using a good clay mask as a spot treater. “Preferably something formulated with PHAs.”