The unpredictable nature of this year has meant that we are dealing with a new type of stress that can often have a negative impact on our skin, and therefore our confidence. Add that to wearing a mask everywhere you go, and you have a breeding ground for skin irritation and acne - fun!
I’m Aroosa, the Social Media Exec at náu, and since mid-May my usually clear skin was plagued with consistent breakouts and irritation. It seemed like nothing I was doing was working. I felt self-conscious, frustrated, and embarrassed - I couldn't pinpoint what was causing such severe reactions. The most challenging thing for me was not the actual breakouts, but the dark pigmentation it would leave behind. The scarring would often take up to four weeks to clear, just to be replaced with more acne.
I know it sounds ridiculous that this would provoke such a strong emotion out of me, but skincare is a passion of mine. For me, skincare is an act of self-love, it's where I give myself permission to take a break from whatever the day is throwing at me, putting everything on pause to focus on myself. So when my skin was being problematic, my skincare routine no longer became a source of comfort; instead it made me feel anxious - will this new product give me a reaction? Another day, another breakout?
A contributing factor as to why my skin was not getting better (and perhaps why yours isn't either if you’re reading this nodding) was because of lockdown. Being indoors for long periods of time and being alone with your thoughts can lead to increased stress levels. During such uncertain and stressful times, our system has to cope with the increased production of Cortisol. Cortisol is an androgen hormone that is released when we are facing unusual challenges. However, it will also increase the sugar level in the bloodstream and production of sebum that might be a cause of the breakout, which would explain why I was breaking out like a teenager!
After a lot of trial and error, I have reached the place where my skin is slowly going back to ‘normal’. Here are some of my tips to help you on your journey to repairing your skin.
1. Explore gut health:
Gut problems and indigestion can affect the way your body retains the nutrients found in your diet, leading to poor absorption of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed to keep skin looking healthy and potentially worsening existing skin conditions. A healthy gut and digestive system can help improve these common skin conditions by ensuring nutrients are correctly absorbed. How do you get a healthy gut? By eating foods rich in Probiotics and Iron.
2. Strip your skincare back to basics and be consistent:
The goal of any skincare routine is to achieve a brighter and healthier complexion and targeting any areas you want to work on. The fewer products to apply means fewer products you forget to use. So keeping your routine simple usually helps you stay on track. Remember, results are seen after consistent use - stick to a cleanser, moisturiser, SPF and exfoliator. I know what you’re thinking, is SPF really essential if I'm going to be indoors? The answer is yes! Windows do not block out UVA rays, and your computer screen and phones emit blue light, which can increase pigmentation and dullness.
3. Incorporate a chemical exfoliator into your routine:
Chemical exfoliators are great for “maskne” as they penetrate deep into the skin’s layer to unclog pores. These exfoliation steps will aid in the removal of dead skin cells, dirt debris and bacteria that can clog pores. Please don’t forget to wear sunscreen daily to protect your skin barrier, as exfoliating does sensitise your skin! Also, it is important to note that you only need to be exfoliating twice a week.
4. Get enough sleep:
When you sleep, your skin’s blood flow is increasing, which happens because your skin is rebuilding collagen and repairing any damage. Not getting enough sleep can cause dark under-eye circles, paler skin, and more noticeable wrinkles or fine lines. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night for the best skin rejuvenation results.
5. Take care of your mental health:
Stress can have a negative impact on your skin, everyday life pressures and now COVID means that we need to look after our wellbeing, now, more than ever. The two things that helped me manage my stress were exercise and guided meditation. Exercise helps to nourish skin cells by increasing blood flow, which carries oxygen to the skin. Your skin will look clearer as a result. Apps like Headspace are great for 5-15 minutes of guided meditation. Utilising such tools will help you to manage your thoughts, therefore easing your stress.
Whether you're recovering from any skin related issues or you're currently going through it. My advice is to be kind and patient with yourself, remember it takes up to six weeks to see a noticeable difference as this is how long it takes for the skin to regenerate; my skin took six long months to recover! Please don't be discouraged by the images you see on social media; nobody posts their problems! Acne, amongst other skin related issues, is common, and as a society we should normalise this.