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How Self-Quarantine & Social Distancing Affects Your Skin

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There's one spring trend that we can all agree on, since we have no choice: staying in truly is the new going out. Slowly but surely, the world is acclimatizing to spending significantly more time indoors, forgoing the metro and makeup in exchange for banana bread baking and Netflix bingeing. Sweatpants have finally become our sartorial savior, yes, but our self-quarantine skin care routines have been less thoroughly discussed.

The good news is that according to Dr. Tanuj Nakra, M.D., FACS, social-distancing could be the answer to achieving our skin goals. “As tough and as testing as things are, this is the perfect opportunity to optimize our skin providing we have a quality skin care regime,” he tells The Zoe Report. And while we may not know what day of the week it is, our experts weighed in on how to maintain our skin health for the unforeseeable future of lockdown life.

How Self-Quarantine Affects Your Skin: Be Conscious About Air Quality

Our homes may be our sanctuaries, but it’s not necessarily the optimal conditions for our skin. The artificial environment of your house, heating system, and lack of fresh air can cause havoc for skin as it dehydrates and compromises the bilayer structure of the barrier function, Megan Felton, co-founder of bespoke skin care consultancy Lionne tells TZR. As we only just step out of winter, trying to stay hydrated is challenging when internal heating systems deplete it of hydration. Danuta Mieloch, Rescue Spa founder, agrees. “Indoor air tends to be dry, so drink plenty of water and perhaps incorporate a humidifier or a diffuser to help keep your skin moist.” She also notes that just because we’re indoors doesn’t mean we’re pollution-free. “If the filters in your home aren't clean you're still likely to be dealing with pollution, so a physical veil of protection such as a light-tinted moisturizer to create a barrier is imperative if your environment isn’t optimized.”

How Self-Quarantine Affects Your Skin: Stop Scrolling

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We’ve already learned that wearing SPF indoors is non-negotiable. But according to Nakra, founder of AVYA Skincare, there are some pivotal skin benefits to spending more time at home. "Self-isolating reduces our exposure to many environmental stressors that can negatively impair the skin and cause oxidative damage." He tells me that we can optimize our skin regimens by using products high in antioxidants and active ingredients that trigger molecular changes whether they’re botanical or cosmeceutical. Our eyes may be straining as we struggle to complete jigsaw puzzles but Nakra, who specializes in oculoplastic surgery, says the real concern is the effect of a disrupted circadian rhythm due to excessive blue light exposure from laptops, TVs, and phones. “Although we may currently be sleeping for longer, the quality is reduced which in turn not only makes us look and feel tired but compromises major biological functions.” My personal suggestion: swap the nightly TikTok spiral for a book to limit light exposure.

How Self-Quarantine Affects Your Skin: Mask In Moderation

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In the midst of a global pandemic, looking good may seem frivolous — and yet so many of us lean into skin care when practicing self-care. Nakra says that with the additional time on our hands, we can engage in a slow and deliberate skin care routine. “Mindful beauty is a relatively new term but is a solo experience that resonates deeply in the same way that yoga and meditation can.” Using skin care as an opportunity to invite a deep sense of calm, peace and tranquility is nothing new with masks often being the peak symbol for self-care while delivering a high dose of ingredients. Dr. Ranella Hirsch, M.D., FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of personalized skin care brand Atolla, explains that masks are a great way to boost addressing specific concerns but warns that not all ingredients play well together, and you can fairly easily overdo it. “If you think of what masks are — a way to increase penetration of specific targeted ingredients to address your specific skin concerns — then it makes sense to think that there should be a limit on how often and what you apply.”

Masking frequency is dependent on an individual's concerns but Hirsch analogizes masking to working out, with skin needing time to heal after the more intense activity. “For oily skin, one to two times a week is often a good guideline. If you’re dry and trying to deliver moisture, try two to three per week, although I’d encourage people to think about adding a daily serum under their moisturizer instead of just masking for a better outcome with less effort and expense. Lastly, for specific anti-aging concerns, spots, light wrinkles, and better texture, I’m a once a week fan.”

How Self-Quarantine Affects Your Skin: Missing Your Facial Fix?

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If your skin care rituals typically take place externally in the loving hands of an aesthetician, panic may already be setting in at the thought of when your next facial will be. Now that we have to go longer before our next professional treatments, Glowbar founder Rachel Liverman suggests weekly chemical exfoliation to increase cell turnover and banish dull skin. “Sloughing off dead skin cells helps your skin better absorb active ingredients in serums and moisturizers. Lactic acid is a great at-home exfoliant.” She recommends following up with a hydrating mask to give newly polished skin the moisture it needs for an enviable glow. Rachel is adamant, however, about staying away from DIY treatments such as dermaplaning and extractions as we all try to convert our bathrooms into day spas. “Whatever miracle fix you saw online — stay away, the risk isn't worth it!”

No matter how highly we rate our skillset, fillers and Botox can only be left to the professionals. With no clear idea of when lockdown ends, we may start to feel a little deflated sooner rather than later. Different injectables have different lifespans due to their consistency and placement but if you are due for a top-up, board certified dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss, M.D., advises staying on top of a hydrating skin care routine. “Look for products loaded with glycerin to give your skin that extra boost of hydration, enhancing the effects of fillers.” With Botox, while there’s no proven way to increase its efficacy, Idriss suggests using ingredients that help promote collagen production and minimize fine lines. “Collagen boosting ingredients such as retinols or bakuchiol help firm up the skin and will support the effects of Botox.”  

How Self-Quarantine Affects Your Skin: Your Hormones Might Be Playing Havoc

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We may be lounging at home, but forced quarantine amid the pandemic has heightened our stress and anxiety — leading to a few unexpected friends on our face, which Hirsch says is completely normal, considering the circumstances. “Breakouts are a reactive process and stress is the main cause as it ups production of a couple of hormones in the body; androgens and, particularly, cortisol. Cortisol stimulates our sebum production and voila, zits ensue.” Introducing a gentle BHA to deep-clean pores should keep these two at bay and minimize inflammation. She also notes that our rampant beauty experimentation may also be a culprit. “So many people are playing with skin care during this time at home and either it is more than you need or it’s just not the right thing for you: consequently, you strip or irritate the skin and poof, breakout city. I often say to patients that zits can follow from using the wrong product the right way or the right product the wrong way.”

Just as we've seen across other areas of our lives, our experts all agreed that sticking to a regular skin care routine is paramount even if we are staying indoors. Whether you're a K-beauty, 10-step disciple, or prefer the upmost minimalism, a steady but simple approach is crucial to keeping skin healthy but also bringing some much-needed normality to our days.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support.