OK, first things first, shall we agree to not refer to this time as “unprecedented” because, I think we’re all a little over that term aren’t we?
But, it’s fair to say we have all been thrown into somewhat unchartered territory, none of us are meant to spend 24/7 uninterrupted with our families…surely!
So, the days in quarantine stretch out for the foreseeable. I think we have all been somewhat wistfully, entertaining the notion that we would be spending our time makeup free, emerging with fresh, radiant skin.
The reality… perhaps your complexion is not living up to your ideals.
These are stressful times; the fall out from this virus is wreaking havoc with all our normality and comfort.
So what is stress and how does it affect our skin?
From the acute fight or flight response, an adrenal stress where the body readies itself against potential threat to chronic day-to-day stress, living…coping, stress comes in many forms.
Eustress is a positive negative, it is a nervous, energetic stress caused by exciting events.
Distress brings an overwhelming sense of negativity that impacts daily life; redundancy, state of the world, financial concerns.
Modern living means we have become accustomed to living with stress, we tend to push it into the ‘blissful ignorance’ pile of our mental wellbeing filing system and ignore until it confronts us head on.
Stress is a trigger response
When stress responses are initiated, the body releases hormones – Adrenalin and Cortisol – ‘the stress hormone’. This initial response prepares the body for ‘attack’; it is the alarm phase where blood courses to protect key organs.
Then the body moves to resistance phase, where the focus is to minimise the negative impact of stress reactors on essential functions.
Cortisol itself isn’t the enemy, when balanced. It provides support managing daily pressures. The trouble occurs when we subject ourselves to sustained episodes of “resistance” and the impact on our bodies becomes protracted.
It is well publicised about the negatives on health and wellbeing of prolonged heightened stress levels, but can we identify the impact when we look at our reflection?
STRESS & SKIN
Skin is our largest organ. It is our first line in defence, the shield to daily environmental aggressors, the guardian to our internal structure, strength and organisation.
Often when we are stressed we enter a cycle of compromise. Good skin care practice can be affected, which in turn can contribute to further skin health decline, compromised barrier function, causing a damaging impact on skin repair and resistance. You end up with a negative reflection and this causes, more stress. The cycle continues.
When Cortisol levels are elevated, sebaceous glands are triggered to boost oil production, this can cause imbalance as excess sebum blocks pores, causing congestion and ultimately break out.
Stress can trigger flare-ups of pre-existing conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
Sometimes when we are stressed, we may develop ‘body-focused repetitive behaviours’ – this can include picking, pulling at skin, hair, nails, lashes. This makes us feel good short term, but is a harmful part of the cycle in relation to long-term skin health management.
Comfort. Judging from the social media memes doing the rounds we are all fluctuating between trying to eat well and snacking for the eleven-billionth time in the day! Even with good intentions, the need for relief in stressful times can lead us to reach for the wrong foods.
BREAK THE CYCLE – CONNECT WITH YOUR COMPLEXION
Your skin may let you know you’re stressed before you’ve truly acknowledged it.
When you are in touch with your skin, you will notice change; you will see the shifts in balance. Whether that is skin feeling over-active, a breakout, an eczema flare-up, dry patches or a dull cast to the complexion that you can’t seem to shift even with makeup.
If your skin is reeling from quarantine stress, try to instil a few management techniques to minimise impact and get back control.
1. Diet: Choose where possible, foods that will help skin rather than cause inflammatory responses. Opt for healthy snacks – plenty of fruit and veg, nuts and seeds. Avoid too much dairy and sugar.
2. Vitamin D: we’re outside less so it’s important to ensure sufficient Vitamin D in our diet to compensate. Vitamin D helps regulate inflammatory skin conditions. If you suffer with conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, it is key you consider a diet rich in oily fish or fortified cereals to boost intake, or consider a Vitamin D supplement.
3. Hydrate: Our environments are different, our habits will change – we may seek the comfort of coffee, tea (and a few rather delicious G&Ts too perhaps?!) these drinks bring contentment but they don’t help our skin. Rehydrate regularly.
4. Sleep: Get enough. Lack of sleep can cause Cortisol to release, reparative functions are impaired and skin starts to look as tired as you feel.
5. UV Protection: Try to step away from devices regularly and use UV protection if you are working in the garden or by a window. Now is a great time to swot up on your SPF knowledge.
6. Exercise: Although exercise can elevate adrenalin (male hormones) it will also burn cortisone and release endorphins, so there is a balance of feeling good and helping alleviate the impact of the stress hormone on anxiety levels. Wimbledon-based yoga teacher, Annette Wiik, shares some useful tips that you can integrate into your day.
7. Daily Skin Care: Make sure you remember to still cleanse carefully. Enjoy that retreat to the bathroom, relish in the quiet of those moments – make it last! This may not be the time to start changing your skin care products, but it is the time to do your regime with care, with regularity and without compromise.
If you don’t double cleanse…start! It is the foundation of good skin health and an utter game-changer once you start. It is super easy:
Cleanse 1 – a balm or oil based cleanser breaks down makeup and daily impurities
The Beauty Insider Loves…
Clinique Take the Day Off™ Cleansing Balm
La Mer The Cleansing Oil
Cleanse 2 – a milk, gel or lotion will cleanse away any residual from the first cleanse and leave skin refreshed, balanced and perfectly prepped for treatment.
The Beauty Insider Loves…
Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser
REN Evercalm Cleansing Gel
The Insider’s Tip
A little word to the wise, if like me, you are using this time of seclusion to start a retinol programme, just remember UV broad spectrum protection during the day, as your skin renewal will reveal young, vulnerable skin that must be protected!