April 14th, 2020
In our series of isolation self-care features, this week it’s your skin that’s in the spotlight.
It’s fair to say that we are living in the most extraordinary times, and that stress and anxiety for many is running high as we all try to navigate our new normal. If you find your skin is a little more sensitive, with eczema and psoriasis flare-ups, or some unusual breakouts of acne, spots and pimples then it could be a physical reaction to the anxiety that you are feeling. Health expert Sara Davenport, who writes a holistic and healing blog full of wide-ranging advice, and also author of book Face Facts explains.
Mind and skin are closely connected and the things you think and feel have an immediate effect on your physical body, skin included. The skin is the largest organ in the body, and a blank canvas for what’s going on inside you, and when stress (or stressful situations) get hard to deal with, then your skin shows it.
Stress makes skin more sensitive and reactive, due to your body making hormones like cortisol. These hormones in turn tell your skin to make more oil, which is more prone to acne and other skin problems including premature wrinkle formation.
While there is no magic solution, there are several simple steps you can introduce into your daily/weekly routine to keep your skin as healthy as possible:
You may have gone make-up free during isolation, but fresh moist air is key to allow your skin to breathe, so exercise outside if you can. The climate created by central heating – high temperature combined with low humidity – can make your skin drier, which in turn can disturb the barrier function causing inflammation and irritation. Regular fresh air, a daily intake of 6-8 glasses of water (and eating water-rich foods) and regular application of a serum prior to your moisturiser can help to improve hydration. Fresh fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants which can help boost the immune system. Try and reduce the amount of processed foods and sugar in your diet if you can.
Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Serum (£24.99) formulated with hyaluronic acid and red marine algae this everyday serum is your skin’s equivalent of a morning coffee. The red marine algae encourages circulation which boosts the ability of the hyaluronic acid to penetrate deeper in to the skin’s surface leaving your skin hydrated and glowing. Available from boots.
Lisa Franklin Clinic Privé No 3 Serum (£75) extremely hydrating, this serum acts on three levels to support long and short term hydration, vital to combat dry skin from indoor heating and closed environments. Available from lisafranklin.
COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence (£24) contains snail filtrate that helps to protect the skin from moisture loss while improving elasticity, pigmentation and texture. Snail mucin contains glycolic acid, glycoprotein enzymes, copper peptides and hyaluronic acid as well as having antimicrobial properties making it great for fighting off acne-causing bacteria and soothing skin after breakouts. Available from beautybay.
Protection from blue light
We are all relying on digital devices more than ever during these times – whether you’re tied to your laptop to work from home, having on-line business meetings or regular catch ups with family and friends on Zoom, Skype or HouseParty.
However, research suggests that blue light from digital devices may contribute to the skin’s aging process as this can penetrate deeper into the skin’s layers than UVB rays. Damage may include hyper-pigmentation, wrinkles and sagging.
To reduce the amount of blue light reaching your skin, you can cover your phones and computers with a blue light shield or change the setting on your phone to night mode. You can also apply products that are formulated to protect your skin from environmental pollutants.
bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Defence (£35) is formulated with sustainably sourced antioxidant cacao extract which helps block the skin-damaging effects of blue light. It’s also a light glowy moisturiser that will add a touch of radiance, both with or without makeup. Available from bareminerals.
Murad Essential-C Day Moisture SPF30 (£65) uses next generation vitamin C to help achieve more youthful, firmer and illuminated skin. As well as providing hydration and reducing lines, wrinkles and pigmentation, it works hard to protect the skin from environmental pollutants. This includes blue light from digital devices such as phones, tablets and PC monitors, environmental toxins such as exhaust fumes and other air pollutants, infrared radiation produced by microwaves and other electronic devices and harmful UVA and UVB sun rays. Available from murad.
Review your skincare regime
Don’t overdo it with skincare products as this can cause irritation, with pores becoming clogged or dryness from too much being applied. Also make sure you know what skin type you have. Just because a product works well for your friend or is being promoted on social media doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Cleanse and exfoliate – even without wearing makeup your skin will still need a good clean in the evening after collecting dirt throughout the day. If you’re wearing makeup then double cleanse, first with makeup remover then with a skin cleanser. Use a gentle cleanser that won’t strip all the natural oils from your skin. This will prep the skin to allow for better absorption of treatments and moisturisers. Exfoliate once or twice a week for a deeper clean.
Leading Consultant Dermatologists, Dr Jinah Yoo and Dr Daron Seukeran from sk:n clinics recommend:
If you have oily skin try using a foaming cleanser with glycolic or salicylic acid which will help remove dead skin and excess oil. Follow with an oil-free moisturiser.
For dry skin use a gentle cream or lotion-type cleanser for sensitive skin, followed by a moisturiser containing hyaluronic acid and ceramide.
Exfoliators containing salicylic acid (a BHA) are best for oily skin types. For drier skin types, chemical exfoliation containing AHA acids such as lactic or glycolic acid are best.
sk:n Vitamin Rich Gel Cleanser for oily skin (£15.75) is specifically designed with rich vitamins and antioxidants to reduce oil and bacteria. The skin is left cleansed and in perfect condition for the application of other skincare products. Available from sknclinics.
Bioderma Pigmentbio Foaming Cream (£10) is an everyday cleanser to brighten the skin targeting hyper-pigmentation, dark spots, age spots, brown spots and areas of discolouration in the most sensitive skin types. The high tolerance and soap-free formula lifts away impurities and unifies skin to reveal a clearer complexion over time. It uses a combination of active ingredients, including citric acid (AHAs) which regulate the biological mechanisms that cause dark spots. Available from escentual.
Remember your eyes and lips where skin is fragile and sensitive. Eye creams hydrate the skin, and some contain active ingredients such as caffeine, hyaluronic acid or peptides to reduce fine lines while others include brightening ingredients to reduce dark circles such as kojic acid, vitamin C. It’s also a good idea to incorporate a lip moisturising balm into your routine. Vaseline or Shea butter are great at locking in moisture and preventing dryness.
Indeed Labs Hydraluron + Volumising Lip Treatment (£14.99) formulated with wonder ingredients that help to mimic a hyaluronic acid injection to get a beauty hit and your lips healthy and hydrated. Available from boots.
Always moisturise to keep skin hydrated and protect and maintain the barrier function of the skin. As a bonus tip, apply body lotion as soon as you’re out of the bath or shower, whilst your skin is still damp. That way you’ll lock in extra moisture!
If spending time in your garden remember to use a good sun cream with an SPF of at least 20. Sun exposure can cause changes in pigmentation, lines and wrinkles and generally play havoc with the condition of your skin, as well as causing an increased risk of skin cancer. So, whether you have fair, olive or darker skin, keeping your skin safe in the sun should be a top priority. Where possible use a product that is light and oil-free to avoid that greasy feel and blocked pores.
Use treatment products. At home peels can help smooth the skin, unclog pores and give your complexion a radiance boost. They make fine lines and wrinkles appear less visible and can help fade pigmentation too. Skin care guru Dr Howard Murad says:
It’s the combination of ingredients that make the impact. Studies have shown that lower levels of acids combined with anti-inflammatories and hydrators offer the best results with longer-term benefits. Higher levels can cause inflammation, peeling and irritation which compromise the moisture barrier and lead to dryness. Look for acids combined with soothing or antioxidant ingredients such as Holy Basil, Indian Fig and niacinamide that will calm and strengthen the skin.
Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel (£48) a daily-use, bi-phase peel that resurfaces and nourishes, giving skin a great glow. Featuring AHA, BHA and TXA acids which work together to exfoliate and resurface and adaptogenic holy basil which is rich in antioxidants and omega-rich oils to soothe, nourish and hydrate. Available from murad.
Murad Intensive-C Radiance Peel (£55) features glycolic acid and vitamin C for an immediate brightening boost and improvement in skin texture. Formulated with antioxidants and indian fig to protect against free radical damage and strengthen skin’s natural defences and myrtle extract to boost collagen production, elasticity and firmness. Available from murad.
Another way of achieving freshly moisturised skin is by using a face mask – which help to refine skin pores, increase hydration, diminish fine lines, make skin firmer and give even skin tone. I recommend doing a face mask before going to sleep, as this is when our skin loses hydration.
Different products work for different skin types, therefore if you have oily, acne prone skin the best masks to use would be a clay mask as it extracts the excess oil from your pores that are a big factor of skin breakouts. Sheet masks are really great for hydrating the skin but would not be recommended for naturally oily skin. If you have sensitive skin, a gel mask is recommended to moisturise, exfoliate, soothe and detoxify the skin.
Crystal Clear Complex-C Super Repair Mask (£11.99) super-nourishing with lavender, morina oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and anti-ageing plant stem cells for younger-looking, revitalized skin. The mask hydrates as well as clarifying with the added detoxifying clay. Available from crystalclear.
Luneia Radiance Ritual Glow Mask (£40) is a exfoliating and hydrating weekly treatment, designed as an at-home mini facial. It contains ingredients to loosen dead skin cells and decongest pores, revealing a smoother, more radiant complexion. Formulated with a potent blend of glycolic and salicylic acids, hydrating sugarcane, squalane and calming prickly pear seed oil to ensure minimum irritation and maximum hydration. Available from luneia.
Stress is a well-known factor contributing to skin ageing and worsening of existing skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, rosacea and acne. It can also have physiological effects on the body including increased blood pressure, weight gain and weakening of the immune system. According to fitness expert Jorge Cruise and other health professionals, the more stressed you are the more cortisol your body produces. This is a “fight or flight” hormone that raises heart rate and blood pressure and leads to the deposit of excess calories in the midsection.
To reduce your stress at home; you may find some of the following helpful:
- At home workouts – yoga, circuit training or PE with Joe Wicks! There are many options online and on social media. Make sure you wear appropriate clothing and warm up and down to avoid injuries;
- Try and reduce your consumption of tea and coffee. You could switch to decaffeinated versions or choose a herbal tea instead;
- Keep in touch with friends and family. Phone calls, writing letters or emails and virtual games can help to keep your spirits buoyant and feel less isolated;
- Try keeping a journal – even if only for five minutes a day. Getting your thoughts out of your mind and on paper can soothe stress and anxiety, especially if you are alone;
- Take up a hobby such as drawing, painting and cross-stitch or learn to knit or crochet;
- Run a bath using aromatherapy oils or magnesium salts;
- Practice mindful meditation.
Infrared therapy can also reduce your cortisol levels. Sunlighten Portable Sauna (from £2,800) is an easy way to harness infrared therapy, reducing cortisol levels immediately. It can be used on the bed or the floor and put away easily and is perfect for the smallest of spaces. Whilst traditional saunas use steam to create heat, this uses heaters to raise the temperature. It is also the only portable sauna to feature build-in chemotherapy lighting with an LED array providing the ancient healing method of light and colour therapy to improve health and harmony. Available from sunlightensaunas.
As an aside, if you’re worried about missing your waxing appointments you can always try home depilation treatments.
Nair new Rose Sugar Wax (£14) with precious rose extract allows you to have a luxury wax at home with an oriental inspired scent. 100% natural and vegan-friendly, this is suitable for even the most sensitive of skins, revealing smooth legs that last up to four weeks. The wax is also biodegradable and the strips can be rinsed with water and reused. Available from superdrug and boots.
Flawless Beauty, the #1 hair removal devices in the USA have just launched in the UK. Finishing Touch Flawless Brows (£19.99) instantly and painlessly removes hair for perfect brows. Hypo-allergenic with a gold-plated head, gentle enough to use daily, with a built-in LED light. Very portable you can use it anywhere. Finishing Touch Flawless (£19.99) is for painless facial hair removal and can be used daily. Suitable for all skin types and tones, the 18carat gold-plated head is hypo-allergenic making it irritation-free. Available from superdrug, sainsburys, asda, boots, wilko and tesco.
Whatever you choose to do to reduce your stress levels and improve your overall health, remember to stay safe and practice social distancing.