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Bad acne? Here’s why coronavirus isolation might be to blame

Click to play video: 'Why is my skin breaking out more during COVID-19 isolation?' Why is my skin breaking out more during COVID-19 isolation?
Why is my skin breaking out more during COVID-19 isolation? – Apr 14, 2020

Even if you’ve been staying mostly inside during the COVID-19 outbreak and laying off heavy makeup, your skin may be acting out.

Reports of increased acne and dry skin are not uncommon, even for people who previously had their skin under control.

“For many people, stress can be a trigger for acne — and we are certainly living in stressful times,” said Dr. Julia Carroll, a Toronto-based dermatologist at Compass Dermatology.

READ MORE: How to cope with the ‘new normal’ of COVID-19 lockdowns

But stress is only one culprit.

Here are some reasons why you may be experiencing acne or overly dry skin during coronavirus isolation.

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Stress

Like Carroll said, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus is understandably causing a lot of people stress. From job loss to health concerns, many Canadians are experiencing a pique in anxiety.

Unfortunately, stress can wreak havoc on our skin and the stress hormone, cortisol, can lead to acne flare-ups. There’s also stress-related habits that we develop.

“With so many people working from home all day in isolation, I’ve had a lot of my patients confess to touching and picking at their face,” Carroll said.

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“It’s a common habit when people are stressed, bored or procrastinating.”

Carroll said people should try to keep their hands off their face, which is not only important for acne, but for preventing the transmission of COVID-19.

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To help lower stress levels, try to find ways to relax, like exercising, deep breathing, meditation or doing something creative.

New skincare routines

With more free time on our hands, some people are experimenting with their skincare routine, Carroll said. This can include using different and new products, like cleansers and leave-on face masks.

“Many of the patients I have been seeing virtually are trying new routines while isolating and this has caused some breakouts,” she said.

“Others are abandoning their routine all together, which is also causing changes in the skin.”

READ MORE: Why you keep breaking out in certain spots on your face

Carroll suggests people take a look at their skincare routine and make modifications accordingly. If you tend to have breakouts, she said to add products with either salicylic or glycolic acid.

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“This could be in the form of a cleanser or a medicated cream,” she added.

For people who are wearing masks, their skin may also see a change.

Carroll said she’s seeing a lot of acne-like breakouts due to the humidity in closed-off masks, like the N95 model.

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“Stress may also be a factor here,” she said.

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“Others are reacting to the mask material with contact dermatitis. This could be a true allergy or just an irritation. The mask marks are another common complaint.”

To treat mask irritation, Carroll suggests people use a gentle cleanser before putting on the mask and after they remove it.

Moisturizer can also be used, but she cautions against over-applying as it can affect the masks’ material, she said.

Lifestyle and environment

Because health officials urge people to stay at home to help curb the spread of COVID-19, many of us are not getting the same amount of fresh air we are used to.

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“I’m seeing a lot of patients with dry skin,” Carroll said. “This comes from low humidity in some of our dwellings.”

READ MORE: The best (and worst) hand creams for dry, cracked hands

There’s also lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, that many of us are experiencing.

Research shows exercise can help reduce inflammation, which can be a culprit of acne. Exercise also helps reduce stress, and might even lead to younger-looking skin, according to research out of McMaster University.

Our eating patterns may also be out of whack, and what we eat might affect our complexion.

While this varies from person to person, Carroll said, some people do have specific triggers to certain foods.

According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, if a certain kind of food seems to aggravate your acne, it’s best to avoid it.

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Coping with stress and anxiety during COVID-19 pandemic – Mar 20, 2020

“There is evidence that avoiding dairy products or having a diet with a low glycemic index may reduce symptoms for some people,” the association said on its website.

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Treatment

If you have dry skin, Carroll suggests adding a hydrating wash to your routine, “as well as moisturizers or serums with ceramides and hyaluronic acid.”

If your acne does not get better with a consistent skincare routine and lifestyle changes, you might want to see a dermatologist, Carroll said.

READ MORE: Pants or no pants? How your coronavirus home outfit impacts your mood

Whatever you do, do not pop your pimples or pick at your skin. Squeezing pimples only leaves behind “holes,” or worse, acne scars.

“Once scars are on your face, you can’t do anything,” Dr. Faisal Al-Mohammadi, a Mississauga, Ont.-based dermatologist and pathologist at Dermcare clinic, previously told Global News.

He said that for for some adults, laser scar removal treatments only improve scars by 40 to 50 per cent.

“We will not be able to bring your skin back,” he said.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

Laura.Hensley@globalnews.ca

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