Coronavirus lockdown: this is why your skin is breaking out at home

Thought staying at home would mean the best skin of your life? Us too. Here, skincare experts explain why our skin is breaking out during lockdown and how to overcome it.

Since lockdown began, I’ve been making some changes. I’ve omitted wearing make-up from my daily routine (bar the occasional weekend), I’m taking a lot more time to focus on my skincare regime and I’m drinking more water than usual. So why is my skin breaking out?!

Surprisingly, I’m not the only one. When the topic came up during a Stylist editorial meeting, everyone responded along the lines of “ME TOO”. Multiple friends have brought it up in WhatsApp conversations and a quick scroll through Twitter shows it’s a common problem for everyone at the moment. But why? 

“I would put at least some of the reason down to stress,” explains Debbie Thomas, advanced skin and laser expert and founder of D. Thomas Clinic. “Worrying about your own health, your family and potentially your job will leave you feeling stressed.

“Additionally, lifestyle changes – whether good or bad – can also upset the hormonal balance again resulting in your skin acting up. You may think doing more exercise and eating more home cooked meals should mean you’re in better shape with glowing skin, however sometimes it can take a while for your body to settle – it can go through a purging phase where it pushes toxins out.”

Daniel Isaacs, director of research at Medik8, also points out that just because we’re sitting at home, doesn’t mean our skin isn’t experiencing a build up of dirt, oil, environmental aggressors and pollutants. “Impurities like these can block pores, making a flawless, smooth complexion difficult to achieve.”

Along with blemishes, most of us may notice our complexion looks duller/slightly grey compared to usual. Thomas says this could be down to becoming lax on skincare: “By not wearing make-up, some people may skip their evening skincare routine. But even without make-up your skin still produces oil and sweat that should be cleansed away”. A lack of vitamin D and, again, stress could also contribute to a duller complexion.

Here, the experts break down each of our current skincare concerns and share their advice on how to overcome them…

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How does stress affect our skin?

Stress and worry can have a big impact on the condition of our skin and considering the current pandemic, it’s understandable that we may be breaking out. “Stress especially can cause breakouts, and this in itself can result in more stress,” says Isaacs. “When we’re under stress, our skin produces stress hormones, including cortisol which can stimulate oil glands to overproduce resulting in clogged pores and unwanted breakouts.”

Thomas adds, “Prolonged spikes of these hormones lead to the body being unbalanced and inflammation increasing, which all leads to all the organs being put under stress and behaving differently – we just see the effects on the skin.”

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How does a lack of vitamin D affect our skin?

With most of us spending the majority of our days inside our homes, we may not be getting enough vitamin D into our system, which can cause inflammation of the skin and have a knock-on effect on certain skin conditions.

Vitamin D is an immunity booster within each skin cell; it will help keep inflammatory conditions like eczema and psoriasis more under control,” says Thomas. “Often with low vitamin D, many underlying skin conditions can flare up.”

So how can we help boost our intake of vitamin D? “If you are no longer going outside in the sun as much during these unique circumstances, you could try looking at your diet and incorporate more vitamin D-rich foods,” says Isaacs. “Oily fish like salmon and sardines are good sources but, if you are vegan, you could try mushrooms or fortified foods like cereal and dairy-free milks.”

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What is the best way to overcome a dull complexion?

If you want to make your skin appear brighter, smoother and more radiant, the key is vitamin C. “This is one of the core ingredients we think should be used within everyone’s skincare routines – its benefits are far-reaching,” says Isaacs. “There are many different forms of vitamin C. However, they all work toward the same end goal – luminous, youthful and protected skin.

“Vitamin C works with your skin cells to stimulate collagen production while also helping to block the enzyme that causes pigmentation. Considered one of the best antioxidants in skincare, vitamin C is also able to fight off free radicals which can cause premature ageing.”

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What’s the best way to overcome at-home breakouts?

It may be frustrating to experience breakouts during lockdown, especially when we’re trying to let our skin breathe freely from make-up and we’re actually taking more time on our skincare routines. Here, Isaacs shares his advice on how to treat them.

1. Wash your bed linen

“When you’re sleeping, blemish-causing bacteria (P. acnes) are transferred from your face to your sheets – so if you’re not washing them regularly, you could be passing bacteria back and forth for days on end. Pore-clogging oils from your scalp can also be transferred to your pillow.” Read our guide on how often you should wash your bedding here.

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2. Sanitise your smartphone

“Mobile phones are hotspots for blemish-causing bacteria, so keep them clean with an antibacterial wipe. Simply wipe down your phone screen at the end of each day to ensure bacteria isn’t transferred to your face when you’re making your next phone call. And better still, use the hands-free speaker mode to minimise phone contact with your facial skin.”

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3. Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise

“Dowsing oily, blemish-prone skin with moisturisers may seem counterintuitive, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do for your breakouts. When skin is dry, the oil glands tend to overproduce sebum in an attempt to add moisture back into the skin. This can lead to clogged pores, which causes even more breakouts. To nourish your skin while keeping blemishes at bay, use a lightweight, low-oil moisturiser.”

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4. Clean up your make-up brushes

“Anything that comes into contact with your face on a daily basis should be cleaned regularly. This is especially true when it comes to make-up brushes. Those brush bristles are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria of the blemish-causing variety.”

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5. Keep your hands away from your face

“Especially important now, it’s always best to take a hands-off approach. Continuous touching can move blemish-causing bacteria from one area of the face to another, spreading your breakout across the entirety of your complexion.”

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6. Add retinal to your regime

“Vitamin A is often hailed as the gold-standard of anti-ageing, but it might surprise you to learn that this ‘miracle’ molecule actually started out as an acne treatment. Most types of vitamin A will assist with blemish-care – they work by speeding up cell turnover to prevent pores from being clogged.”

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7. Exfoliate regularly (but not too much!)

Removing dead skin cells before they have the chance to clog your pores is a sure-fire way of obtaining a clear complexion. The key is to do it gently. Harsh exfoliating scrubs can ramp up your skin’s inflammation, worsening the appearance of blemishes while delaying their natural healing cycle. Instead use a gentle facial wash that incorporates mild exfoliating acids such as salicylic acid.”

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8. Take off your make-up before bed

“When you sleep, your make-up can become embedded within your pores, taking daily dirt and grime along with it. By cleansing your skin before bed, you’re giving your pores the opportunity to breathe, which will ultimately result in a clearer complexion.”

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