Story by: Paige Holland
As we all settle into the coronavirus lockdown to slow the spread of the killer bug you may have noticed your skin is looking a little worse for wear.
You probably thought being in lockdown would give your skin the chance it needs to breathe – and if you’re confused, you’re not the only one.
No make-up days, more sleep, less damage from pollution and the sun since we’re not travelling or spending excessive amounts of time outside…
But for many of us, our skin is now looking extremely dull and we’re suffering regular break-outs of spots.
But experts from Stratum Dermatology Clinics have explained why this is happening to so many people – and how you can tackle your probel skin while you’re in lockdown.
Common factors causing the changes in our skin are stress, a different diet, a lack of Vitamin D, and a change in your normal skincare routines says, Dr Mark Hudson-Peacock, consultant dermatologist.
Lack of Vitamin D
While this period of lockdown is reducing exposure to ultraviolet light – and sun damage, hurrah! – temporarily, it will also reduce vitamin D activation, which explains why your skin is looking so dull.
Dr Mark says: “Often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D plays an integral role in skin protection and rejuvenation.
“It is activated in the skin by Ultraviolet B light and, in its activated form as calcitriol, vitamin D is involved with skin cell growth, repair, and metabolism.
“It also enhances the skin’s immune system and helps to destroy those free radicals that can lead to premature sun ageing.”
Dr Mark says this can easily be fixed by taking vitamin D supplements of the appropriate type – but you should get your GP’s advice first.
He said: “Don’t worry, who’s going to be seeing you, so who cares!
“Just stick to your normal routines if you want to and make the most of giving your skin a chance to breathe.”
He recommends using three staple skincare products to combat dull skin – an antioxidant, an SPF – for longer periods outside – and topical retinoids at night (a topical retinoid is a product used to fight acne).
And use a fourth product, a moisturiser, if you have dry skin.
Stress and lack of sleep
It turns out, that the skin itself doesn’t suffer detrimentally if we miss out on a few hours of sleep, it’s the muscles around your face that tend to be tired and can give the skin surrounding the eyes that puffiness.
And, if you think you look a little pale when you’ve had a sleepless night, it’s because you are – lack of sleep can reduce the amount of Melanocortin going around the body which further enhances that sallow appearance.
However, stress plus exhaustion lowers your immune system and equals skin flare ups.
Dr Adam Friedmann, consultant dermatologist said: “Stress can also make it harder to sleep and a loss of sleep can influence your skin’s ability to heal.
“So, getting plenty of sleep is certainly going to help but sometimes a change in personal circumstances, which everyone is going through right now, can trigger feelings of stress and a flare-up is unavoidable.
“At night the skin relaxes. It’s not under any stress so can recuperate after a hard day. Your skin cells go into regeneration mode, replacing damaged or dead cells with new ones. When sleep is reduced, so is the body’s ability to carry out these functions.”
He explains that for those with eczema, it’s important to know that a flare up is rarely brought on by stress itself, but it can aggravate it.
And, while reducing anxiety or stress levels is unlikely to make your eczema go away completely it may ease symptoms – so, try to find tactics that can help throughout the day like meditations or yoga.
We’ve probably all noticed that since the start of lockdown, our eating habits have changed a little.
This may be because we’re not able to go out shopping as we did before the lockdown. Supermarket shelves have been a little bare so we’re having to improvise with what we have in the cupboards.
But – even though it may sound like common sense – it’s important to eat a healthy and balanced diet, as this will help to maintain the minerals and natural oils our body needs.
Vegetables and salads specifically will soak up the free radicals and help the look and feel of the skin, says Dr Adam.
The main issue with staying inside is the impact it has on your mental health – which cannot be underestimated.
“Getting outside for some light exposure is good for skin health, general health and mental health.
“Just 15 to 30 minutes of daily sun exposure can be helpful in addressing all of these issues, so go for a walk or a run (remember stay at least 2m (6ft) away from others), sit on your balcony or on your patio or open your window and breath in the air and get some light on your skin,” says Dr Mark.
He suggests using this time outside to relax, as stress can impact all of the above – read a book, go for a run, do some yoga… anything that relaxes you the most – all staying within the government’s lockdown rules.
If you’re still finding the willpower to wear makeup – well done to you by the way – but make sure to remove it before you go to bed.
What you don’t need is day old makeup clogging your pores.
Also, what you’ll find is after leaving the makeup on for longer than you should have, you’re more heavy handed when you try to remove it.
Dr Adam says, this firm wiping action can irritate the skin and will usually cause blood vessels to dilate which is why your skin ends up so red.
Avoid harshly rubbing at your eyes, since the skin around this area is much thinner and is more delicate – hold a cotton pad with makeup remover on your lid for a few seconds – as this helps to dissolve the product – and then wipe away.
Also, try not to fuel every night with alcohol – although you may find it tempting as there’s no early morning wake up calls and long commutes into work – excess alcohol consumption can cause blood vessel dilatation which can make the face look quite red.
This is because alcohol dilates the blood vessels and increases the cardiac output so that everything gets redder – so anyone who already has skin condition like dermatitis or psoriasis will often notice it worsening.And, finally, it’s always a good idea to have fragrance-free, hypoallergenic substitutes for your usual skincare/ body care products.
So, if your skin is starting to feel a little dry and itchy you can easily swap them out for some that you know won’t irritate it.
Dr Adam suggests Doublebase, Cetraben and Diprobase as well as ointments such as Vaseline, Hydromol and Epaderm – which as an eczema sufferer I also highly recommend.