Why is my skin worse in isolation? The reasons behind breakouts, spots, dryness and dull complexions

For many, not wearing make-up doesn't guarantee radiant skin

Close up of Asian woman worry about her face when she saw the problem of acne and scar by the mini mirror. Getty Images

“Why is my skin so bad right now?” is a question that has been bemoaned on social media and pondered in WhatsApp groups since self-isolation began.

Despite the fact many of us are wearing less make-up than we typically would, many people are complaining about dryness, breakouts and a generally dull complexion.

The answer is fairly simple, and comes down to three things: vitamin D (or a lack thereof), air quality and routine.

“Many of us are seeing an increase in skin-related troubles, from breakouts to dryness and irritation during the coronavirus pandemic," explains Dr Nancy Labib, a specialist dermatologist at Medcare Medical Centre.

"Spending time indoors is linked to vitamin D deficiency, as well as an increased exposure to artificial and dry air. And it's these two factors combined that are causing our skin to throw a bit of a tantrum.”

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If you take time to treat your skin well now, it will reap the benefits once isolation has ended

“Vitamin D deficiency accelerates [skin's] ageing. Not getting enough sun also lowers immunity and increases flare-ups of autoimmune conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis,” Dr Labib explains. “The artificial air that comes from our air conditioners further removes the moisture from our skin, causing it to dry out.”

However, for many, there may be a few more factors at play, which include shifts in our routine – both our beauty routine and that of our general day-to-day life.

“Stress, poor diet and a lack of exercise while we spend more time at home can further exacerbate these skin issues,” she adds.

“Some of us are neglecting to apply [typical] home skincare due to stress and definitely that has a negative impact on our skin. However, others overdo their skincare regime, it inhibits the protective features of your skin. This has an opposite effect and causes flare-ups of acne and eczema."

So if you have been amping up your face mask routine from daily or weekly, it may be having more of a negative effect that the positive one promised on the jar. Stick to the basics, and what your skin is used to.

How to brighten up skin in isolation

Rebecca Treston, skincare and laser expert, echoes Dr Labib’s advice, saying, “depending on where you are living, many of us are confined indoors. This means we have little access to oxygen from fresh air and vitamin D from the sun and the general feel-good factor you get from being outside.”

Her advice for improving the condition of your skin is simple and routine-focused.

“Keep to a consistent and basic skin routine each day. This should include cleansing, toning, and in the morning the use of antioxidants with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to keep skin well moisturised,” she advises.

“Wear sunblock through the day as the UV can still penetrate through devices and windows. Exfoliate the skin in the evening so the skin can have a healthy cell turnover, which gives it a lovely glow.”

Treston also suggests trying skin tools to remove puffiness and add definition, these include jade rollers, gua sha and beaded gel sleeping masks.

“You can also make enzyme masks using natural store cupboard products such as pineapple, oatmeal, papaya. Ingredients such as this will give your skin a boost,” she adds.

“The key is not to overtreat the skin, but rather be consistent. If you take time to treat your skin well now, it will reap the benefits once [the period of self-isolation] has ended and will be ready to have treatments that will give it a fresh, youthful glow.”

Is your skin actually faring better in isolation? 

The exception, as they say, proves the rule. So naturally, there have been people commenting on how fresh their skin feels on social media, as they're not using as much make-up as they typically would.

“Different people respond differently to every situation because stress plays a huge role in how your skin responds,” says Treston.

"I am definitely letting my skin breathe, but sometimes, I do have a make-up day to give myself a boost and make myself feel better. But I recognise the effects not wearing make-up has had, especially around my eye contour area, where I usually have a little bit of irritation."

Rest and relaxation is the key, as ever, to a glowing complexion. Dr Labib, concludes: “Try to think of the time at home as a vacation for your skin, your skin is the biggest organ in your body and reflects your health status, that is why it needs a little special care.”