16.06.2021

The damaging skincare habits we developed during lockdown

While salons reopened in July and again in November after lockdown 2.0, sales of DIY beauty tools and products have continued to increase.

Celebrity facialist Adeela Crown told, “This prolonged isolation has forced us to take skincare matters into our own hands, leading to some good and some terribly bad skincare habits.”

Thinking back to March when the pandemic was at its peak and Boris Johnson announced we were heading into a ‘lockdown.’ We weren’t sure what life was going to be like, we swarmed the supermarkets, stocked up on the ‘essentials’ (definitely not booze) waved to our colleagues and families on Zoom and embraced a new way of life.

As our everyday normal changed, our habits did too. We had to learn how to do things ourselves, whether that was home-schooling, giving our housemates and partners a haircut or whipping up an at-home facial. We turned to YouTube videos to watch the experts show us how to tackle #lockdownskin and were eager to hear the secrets of Kate Middleton’s Zoom glow.

So, what are these bad habits we’ve adopted and what can we do to fix them? Adeela shares her advice below.

Bad Habit: Self-skin diagnosis

When the option of popping along to your monthly facial appointment was suddenly taken away, we all had to learn to get creative at home and brush up on our own beautician skills. With a wealth of (and often confusing overload of) information available on the internet most resorted to self-diagnosing to treat their own skincare issues.

Buying strong peels online unsuited to skin types and using at-home without a prep solution or neutraliser, leading to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or worse burning skin tissue by leaving peels on for longer than recommended time for different skin types.

The solution: Though the physical doors of the beauty industry were closed, many facialists (like myself and others) and dermatologists kept our virtual doors open. As an international facialist with global residencies, I only ever held virtual consultations with my overseas clients but since lockdown I suddenly saw a big surge in Virtual 1-2-1 skin consultations and my Skindance face massage tutorial bookings from both regular and new clients.

Virtual consultations are much like a face-to-face consultation, just without the touch aspect. Through a trained eye and knowledge us professionals can coax skin secrets from you and decipher their causes and give guided solutions in the shape of tailored at-home skincare routine, appropriate products with the correct ingredients your skin is lacking in. So treat it like a support network. You are not alone in your skincare journey, you have a virtual skin-guide there to help.

Bad habit: Over or misuse of actives

Being forced to adapt and maintain skincare practices at home has turned daily skincare into a more personal and private experience. The upside is that we are suddenly more interested in self-care and feel rewarded when we see positive skin results. The downside is that armed with our newly-googled internet knowledge and to make use of this extended downtime available at-home, we rabidly started buying products containing strong active ingredients. This eagerness to use actives like Retinol or stronger Retin-A for resurfacing, Vitamin C for lightening, AHA/BHA/PHA acids for peeling has ushered-in a rise in misuse and inevitable side-effects.

The solution: The skin doesn’t enjoy being overloaded, on the other hand some problematic skincare issues like textural imperfections, pigmentation, melasma and acne scarring can only be addressed using specific active ingredients.

Follow my 5-step plan when delving into the tricky world of active ingredients.

  • Start by booking a virtual consultation with your Facialist/aesthetician to work out your at-home skincare game-plan.
  • As a rule of thumb, don’t use more than two actives on your skin on any given day.
  • Thirdly, don’t mix, blend or layer actives. For example, if using Vitamin C in the morning, use another active like a light Retinol or AHA at night. (Retinols or AHAs shouldn’t be used every night – skip days and swap them with hydrating serums creams) Start slow with a low concentration retinol containing 0.25% – 0.5% max.
  • Most importantly, actives make the skin more vulnerable to the sun than usual, so always apply SPF – even if you spend most of your time indoors (more on that later).
  • Once a fortnight try at-home microneedling – a resurfacing treatment that increases absorption and efficacy of your active ingredients. Usually associated with downtime which otherwise needed to be planned around your work, social, weekend commitments, you can now carry out without the worry of not being able to face the world whilst the skin heals and repairs itself.

Our lives have been affected causing stress and when we’re anxious the body ramps up cortisol production, causing inflammation and can also result in an increase in oil production in the sebaceous glands, eventually leading to breakouts. Lack of cleansing and hygiene also plays a role in breakouts. Since resuming appointments I have been seeing a rise in scar tissue and pigmentation on my client’s skins left by DIY extractions of pimples, blackheads and whiteheads.

Though popping that new angry pimple on your face may be super-tempting and rather satisfying, it’s important to remember that even the slightest bit of over-pressure, lack of disinfection before and after or using internet-bought extraction tools will leave the skin with the kind of scarring that’ll take a long time to heal and repair afterwards.

The solution: Not all pores are created equally, so the first rule of facial extraction is to realise that not all pores should be squeezed. When you squeeze the skin and ‘burst’ the pimple, you’re creating a tear in the skin, which then needs to heal and can leave a scar. Avoid any deep or painful pimples, like cysts, completely. These tend to look red and lumpy with no visible head.

Steaming skin is also essential to soften the contents of pores. Do this by taking a shower, applying a warm compress, or simply hanging your face over a bowl of hot water. Next, wash your hands thoroughly. This helps prevent dirt and bacteria from being transferred back into your pores during extraction. While you can use your bare fingers, a better bet is to wrap them in tissue, wear gloves, or use two cotton buds (dipped in a skin-friendly disinfectant) to press.

I’m a huge advocate of blue light therapy for the treatment of spots and acne – this is because it targets one of the root causes of the problem, killing the bacteria that causes problem skin to develop.

Invest in wearable LED masks. These sci-fi looking gadgets may be very instagrammable but the diode technology has profound skin rejuvenating benefits. A blue light LED session of up to 30 mins 2-3 times a week will neutralise p.acnes bacteria and also rev-up your skin’s cellular engine to give you a healthy lasting glow. Home-use LED masks have become lightweight and are wearable, allowing you to multi-task whilst you work from your desk.

Bad habit: HEV and SPF overlooked

Facing your phone and devices is ageing your face! Blue light (HEV) – high energy visible light is one of the silent agers of our generation. Electronic devices emit a blue light (HEV) light that can lead to elastin and collagen damage, pigment changes and ultimately photo ageing. Evidence suggests that daily exposure can penetrate deeper into a lower layer of skin compared to UVA and UVB sunlight.

During my virtual consultations and treatments a worrying fact has been highlighted that whilst working from a home desk, set up near a window, during isolation most of my clients have not been wearing SPF indoors because they feel they’re not exposed to the sun. Wrong! Glass may block the high intensity UVB wavelengths responsible for burning, but the skin damaging and ageing UVA light still gets through.

Both HEV and sun damage are not immediately visible on the surface of the skin. I don’t doubt that we’ll be seeing long term effects of this lapse in daily indoor sun care for months and years to come.

The solution: To reduce HEV exposure to skin, when WFH connect headphones to answer calls so your phone isn’t near your face. Setting a nightly timer to automatically switch your device to night mode will disable blue light in favour of yellow light. It’ll benefit your skin and improve your sleep too.

Daily application of SPF doesn’t just shield your skin from photo-damage when you’re outdoors. A study conducted in 2015 showed that constant use of SPF30 over the course of a year also reversed the signs of photo ageing. So, if applying a sunscreen seems like yet another skincare step then start blending an edamame bean-sized amount with your daily moisturiser in the palm of your hand. It’ll seamlessly become a part of your daily routine.

New-age antioxidant boosters are serum-like topical skin supplements that can be blended to your nightly serum or moisturiser to strengthen your skin’s defence barrier against environmental stressors like pollution, infrared, HEV damage.

Bad habit: Lack of sleep

Netflix and other streaming platforms have reportedly seen a surge in subscriber numbers this year but having such a wide selection of content at our finger-tips is a double-edged sword. Studies so far have shown that people who binge-watch report poorer sleep, increased levels of insomnia and greater fatigue the following day. Electronic screens emit broad-spectrum light, including HEV blue light. Night-time exposure to the blue light also disrupts the circadian rhythm, our body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.

The solution: Prolonged sleep deprivation causes a break in skin barrier function and mucous membranes. In fact, the reduction of sleep time affects the composition and integrity of various brain and body systems, which in turn impairs skin’s integrity to repair and defend itself.
Set an alarm the old-fashioned way at least 30-60mins before bedtime to remind yourself to switch off the TV and devices. Read a book. Brew a calming tea containing chamomile, rose, and fennel to soothe senses.

Take a sleep supplement. Not to be confused with sleeping pills, sleep supplements normally contain herbal adaptogens with neuroprotective properties for restfulness, in capsule or powder form to take with your bedtime beverage.

Bad habit: Comfort and stress eating

A host of skin afflictions in quarantine arise from the overindulgent ‘stress-eating’ at home. Stress increases free radical regeneration, oxidative stress and raised levels of cortisol which degenerates collagen. Stress is also a major driver behind you comfort-eating high GI foods like cakes, biscuits and crisps. Weight gain isn’t the only issue to worry about as sugar is also responsible for a skin deteriorating process called glycation.

Glycation is a process where sugar molecules attach themselves to other molecules, for example proteins and fats. One of these affected proteins is collagen, which results in loss of the skin’s elasticity. It doesn’t end there, glycation also causes free radical formation, oxidative stress and inflammation, all of which accelerate ageing.

The sugar and refined carbohydrates cause a surge of the hormone insulin, which can lead to increased levels of testosterone and in turn can contribute to acne. Secondly, as it can stimulate sebum production leading to clogged pores and inflammation.

The solution: Get more sleep to reduce your body’s insulin sensitivity and glucose dependency. Look out for fructose found in juices, salad dressings and sauces as it causes more glycation than glucose. Stress less. Though there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to stress management – the secret really is about finding out what works for you and building it into your daily routine. This could be exercise, meditation, journaling, listening to music, yoga, talking to your friends, walking your dog, dancing around your bedroom – whatever brings you joy.

We should use this forced hiatus and the extra time suddenly available to us to practice a five-minute nightly facial massage with your favourite oil or even a mask (for both hydration slip). Use a Gua Sha massage tool to help drain and soften lines and furrows. The enhanced blood circulation will boost your immune system increase lymph drainage. The happy side-effect is firmer skin and sculpted facial muscles.

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