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Facing the facts: How staying inside is affecting our skin – and what to do about it

With the majority of us now confined to our homes and limiting ourselves to one form of exercise outdoors every day, various elements of our previous lives have been forced to change. And while there are far more serious events to be concerned with right now, it is undeniable that our skincare regime requires some fine-tuning.

Wearing little to no make-up combined with a speedy bed-to-desk commute might sound like the recipe for a flawless complexion, but for many the reality of being cooped up has caused an increase in breakouts, spots and skin drier than a Monday night during lockdown.

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But why is it that your skin seems to be more unhappy than ever and what can you do about it?

Here, The Independent speaks to dermatologists and skincare experts to find out how staying indoors is affecting your skin and the changes you should be making to your routine during lockdown.

Our beauty round-ups are unbiased. On some occasions, we may earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to affect our coverage.

Why am I experiencing more breakouts and what can be done to prevent them?

According to Dr Susan Mayou, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic, there are a number of reasons why people might be experiencing skin breakouts right now, including an increase in anxiety.

“Stress is a recognised trigger for inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne, so it’s unsurprising that more people are reporting breakouts at this uncertain and very stressful time,” she says, adding that mindfulness, meditation and exercise are all great ways to relax and refocus.

Dr Sam Bunting, skincare expert and founder of Dr Sam’s Skincare agrees, explaining that “evening rewards” such as sweet treats and alcohol are also likely to contribute to flare-ups.

As well as ensuring you stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet, Adeela Crown, an expert facialist who has treated the likes of Lady Gaga and Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams, suggests using lockdown as an opportunity to start doing at-home facials will give your complexion a boost.

“We should use this forced hiatus and the extra time suddenly available to us to practice a five-minute nightly facial massage with your favourite oil or even a mask,” Crown says.

“Self-administered at-home facials needn’t be complicated,” she adds. “Isolation should be a chance to reach into our pantry and fridge and introduce the clean simplicity of natural ingredients back into our skin regimen like manuka honey, rose water, green tea or matcha, turmeric, probiotic yoghurt and berries.”

If you would prefer not to delve into the depths of your fridge, Crown highlights Caudalie’s Vin[Activ] Overnight Detox Oil, Uma’s Deep Clarifying Oil and Vintner’s Daughter’s Active Botanical Serum as some of her favourite at-home facial products.

Will staying indoors affect the health of my skin?

Dr Mark Hudson-Peacock, a consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics, explains that there are some positives of being indoors, such as avoiding skin-damaging pollutants and photo-ageing UV exposure.

However, he adds that skin can begin to look sullen due to a lack of vitamin D.

“Staying indoors will reduce exposure to ultraviolet light and will reduce sun damage, albeit this will be minimal compared to a lifetime of exposure prior to the Covid-19 lockdown,” Peacock says.

“It will reduce vitamin D activation in the skin but this can easily be overcome with vitamin D supplements of appropriate type (if not sure, get your GP’s advice first).

“Often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D plays an integral role in skin protection and rejuvenation. It is activated in the skin by ultraviolet B light and, in its activated form as calcitriol, vitamin D is involved with skin cell growth, repair, and metabolism. It also enhances the skin’s immune system and helps to destroy those free radicals that can lead to premature sun ageing.”

Crown agrees, adding that exfoliating can help remove the build-up of dry skin likely to be caused by moisture-sucking central-heating and lack of exposure to the elements.

“Not many people take the time to properly exfoliate. To make the scrubbing process more effective and less messy I suggest using a physical exfoliant like a scrub or cleansing device once a week in the shower,” she says.

“Chemical exfoliation using gentle oil-control pads with active AHA/BHA concentration every other night (after cleansing) will help the skin with healthy cellular turnover.”

Crown suggests investing in products like Elemis’ Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Pads, Alpha-H’s Liquid Gold with Glycolic Acid and BeGlow’s TIA Sonic Skincare System.

Do I still need to wear SPF while indoors?

Whether you are staying at home or going outdoors once a day for exercise, it is important to continue to use sunscreen, says Bunting, adding: “It is essential. UVA rays are present all year round and are responsible for premature ageing, plus they penetrate through glass.”

Mayou agrees, adding that even if you are sitting by a window and enjoying the sunshine, you are still at risk of UV damage.

“Whilst you may not burn when sitting next to a window the UV exposure can cause premature ageing,” she warns.

When applying sunscreen, Crown suggests making it seem like any another skincare step by “blending an edamame bean-sized amount with your daily moisturiser in the palm of your hand. It’ll seamlessly become a part of your daily routine.”

Crown’s top picks include Nuxe’s Sun High Protection Fondant Cream for Face SPF 50 and Shisheido’s Urban Environment Protection SPF 50.

Is it still important to cleanse in the morning and evening?

Jasmina Vico, a skincare expert and facialist to celebrities such as Killing Eve star Jodie Comer, says it is important to keep up with your regular cleansing routine, even if it you are not wearing make-up during the day.

“We need to clean our skin twice per day to remove sweat, sebum production or any toxins we may have produced,” she explains, adding that even if you are going make-up-free changes in diet can contribute towards skin becoming more congested.

Mayou agrees, adding that morning cleansing will help to remove nighttime skincare products, especially if you are using retinol as this can make your skin more sensitive to UV light.

In the morning, Crown suggests using a gentle pH balanced cleanser while your evening routine should focus on deep cleansing to pick up the day’s dirt, make-up and oil build-up, as well indoor pollutants.

“Evenings are best time to double cleanse like us facialists do during treatments,” she explains. “An oil cleanser to remove make-up and oil followed by a gentle cleanser to hydrate.”

If you are unsure what products to use, Crown recommends investing in Alpha-H’s Balancing Cleanser with Aloe Vera for the morning followed by Caudalie’s Make-up Removing Cleansing Oil for the first evening cleanse and Elemis’ Pro Collagen Cleansing Balm for the second.

Is increased screen-usage harming my skin? 

With many of us working from screens at home and anxiously looking at our phone screens for news updates, our skin is becoming more exposed to blue light – a high energy visible (HEV) light that can lead to elastin and collagen damage, pigment changes and ultimately photo-ageing.

“It’s really hard to strike a balance at the moment in anything as our routines are up in the air but if we can try and not stare at our phone late at night or work on our computer too late that would be a very good thing,” says Vico.

“Turning off our screens also helps regulate our sleep pattern and a good night’s rest is something we all need.”

If you are concerned about the impact of blue light on your skin, Crown suggests wearing SPF indoors and adding an antioxidant booster to your nightly serum or moisturiser which will help “to strengthen your skin’s defence against environmental stressors like pollution, infrared, HEV damage”.

Crown recommends Niod’s Survival 0 and ReVive’s Defensif Environmental Antioxidant Booster.

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