Pandemic Stress: How Does It Affect Your Skin?
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, dermatologists have noticed a huge uptick in patients reporting hair loss.
Let’s be clear: hair loss can come as a result of multiple factors. It could be hereditary, simply arriving at your doorstep without warning. It can also be due to certain medical conditions or hormone imbalances.
But the timing of these reported cases is no coincidence. Pandemic anxiety, normal as it may seem now, leeches into almost every part of our lives. It’s natural that the stress manifests in physical forms, and hair follicles are an easy target.
It’s not just the hair, either. We all know by now that stress also leads to stressed-out skin. This is bad news for those who have stress-related skin conditions, such as eczema.
The Link Between Skin and Stress
Our body is an incredible thing. On its own, it can fight against perceived threats, protecting our systems from incurring too much damage. This is helpful for battling physical dangers such as COVID-19 or a simple case of the flu.
However, our nervous system, which is responsible for sending stress hormones, doesn’t always know the difference between an emotional threat and a physical threat. If it senses stress, it will immediately try to “heal” the body, which results in inflammation, sebum overproduction, etc. Normally, these reflexes would be super helpful, but not when there is no physical need for them.
You can only imagine how bad it is when we’re in a heightened state of stress. Most of us don’t even realize it because we have gotten used to living in constant anxiety as a result of the pandemic.
Some stress-related skin and hair conditions include:
Coping With Pandemic Stress
The good thing is there are plenty of ways to care for your body during this time. After months (and years) of trying to find stress-relieving activities that will leave you feeling good inside and out, we’ve managed to round up some of the best advice we’ve seen. Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Pandemic Skincare Routine
It’s not just a fad. The foundation to clear skin is really a consistent, minimal routine. Yes, minimal. We’re going back to the basics.
In mild cases, stress-related skincare problems can be managed by creating and following a simple routine. The cleanser-moisturizer-sunscreen combo is foolproof and makes sure that you are removing impurities and dirt on a regular basis.
For eczema flare-ups on the body, dermatologist Ohara Aivaz suggests taking short lukewarm showers (10 minutes max) with gentle soap on the body parts most affected, such as the groin, feet, and armpits.
2. Seek Professional Advice
A simple skincare routine can provide a solid foundation, but sometimes it’s not enough to combat more complicated conditions like acne and inflammation. This is where seeking the help of a professional is important. Since the pandemic, many clinics have started to offer free online consultations so you can get the advice of a dermatologist in the comfort of your own home.
Skin issues like inflammatory acne and eczema can require certain prescribed medication to treat. If a normal skincare routine or lessening your stressors doesn’t help, try talking to a board-licensed dermatologist. Personally, I find it reduces the trial-and-error stage which can be more expensive in the long run.
This tip also extends beyond skin problems. If you find that the anxiety is becoming too much to handle and it’s affecting your ability to function on a daily basis, there are plenty of online counseling and therapy services from reputable professionals. Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health.
3. Listen to Your Body
If there’s anything to glean from this time, it’s that taking a break is necessary to our health. The first step is listening to our body: knowing your stressors and observing what makes you tired. This tip might be simple at first glance, but it’s the foundation of holistic beauty and wellness.
Knowing your stressors can also help you find solutions to manage them, thus managing your body’s responses. It’s important to be honest with ourselves about what burns us out. It can be something as simple as scrolling through our timeline or eating the wrong food.
There are plenty of ways to manage stress: getting enough sleep, disconnecting from social media, meditating, engaging in physical activity, and even spending time with your pet are just a few examples. My personal favorite is mindfulness. This is the practice of observing your emotions as you experience them, and acknowledging their presence without immediately reacting.
Next time you’re feeling antsy, remember that it might be your body telling you to slow down. Bust out that yoga mat and do some stretches or unwind with your favorite Netflix binge.
4. Keep Moving
Remember that post-workout glow? It’s a real thing. Studies say that moving our body helps deliver nutrients that nourish our skin. Sweating also opens up the pores, releasing dirt and debris stuck inside. Apart from this, exercise is also shown to vastly improve mood, reduce anxiety, and even boost self-confidence. Talk about hitting a flock of birds with one stone.
A word to the wise: ditch the makeup when going for a run or to the gym. It might be tempting to hide those undereye bags while you’re in a room full of people, but having makeup on while you sweat is actually terrible for your skin. Often, you’ll end up sweating your makeup off, but other times your opened-up pores can absorb the product. This leads to breakouts and uneven texture.
Instead, try a tinted moisturizer and some sunscreen for a fresh glow that still protects and nourishes your face. If all else fails, you’ll always have that post-workout glow to fall back on.
5. Give It Time
Finally, the most important tip I’ve found: don’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes it takes a while for results to show. It’s not what we want to hear, I know. But this is honestly one of the biggest tips that helped me manage stress responses, and it’s something so many people overlook.
Let’s go back to our first example. According to dermatologists, hair loss can kick in 3 months after the stressful event. In the same vein, repairing and nourishing your hair and skin requires patience. You aren’t going to see results overnight, but it’s important to still keep going in the right direction.
There’s no magical overnight solution to reduce stress and its adverse effects on the skin, so don’t be too hard on yourself. We’re all going through the anxiety of living through a pandemic, and the least we can do is help each other out with these tips! Give us a shout in the comments below if you’ve got any advice of your own.
In the meantime, stay tuned for more of the best tips on beauty, health, and fashion right here at Pretty Me.
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.