Experiencing Isolation Breakouts? An Expert Explains Why


An Expert Shares 5 Things You Never Knew About AcneSource: Shutterstock

If your skin is acting out RN, despite the fact that your skincare routine is more consistent and hydrating than ever, you could be suffering from what’s being coined as ‘isolation breakouts’. And as frustrating as it may be, the surge of acne flare-ups during isolation makes total sense: our stress levels are (understandably) higher than ever, our workout routine has taken a serious hit, and our diet consists of banana bread and quarantine snacking. Even if we’re not wearing makeup, it means we’re more likely to be touching our face more often, and that’s not helping either.

The well-known saying “good skin comes from within” has never made more sense. The reality is, no matter how many miracle serums or hydrating masks your skincare quarantine regimen includes, if your lifestyle is unhealthy, your skin is likely to show it – your skin, after all, is your biggest organ.

The good news is, it’s a problem with a solution, and even if you’re in lockdown, there are adjustments you can make to your routine that’ll help soothe and calm your breakouts. For the best skincare solutions, we consulted celeb dermatologist, Dr. Doris Day, who also told us she’s “seeing a marked increase in breakouts during this pandemic.” Together, we covered everything from the various causes of your isolation breakouts, and of course, how to solve each issue.

1. Increased Stress

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“I’m seeing so many more acne flares during isolation as this is a very stressful time,” Dr. Day says. She notes that while “The direct connection between stress and acne are still being explored, we know that cortisol and other hormones can fall out of balance and this can lead to a flare of conditions like acne or any condition you may be prone to such as eczema or psoriasis.”

While the current cause of our increased stress levels is not within our control, there are a variety of exercises or daily habits that can help you to feel less stressed. One of our go-to stress relievers is meditation, which is proven to minimize anxiety and stress – there are even meditation techniques that can help up your glow game. Journaling is another ritual that can be really beneficial for your mental state as it allows you to let go of negative thoughts in a productive way. For more quick tips and daily rituals to help you stay positive, check out our expert’s guide to dealing with anxiety while living in isolation.

2. An Unhealthy Diet

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“During times of stress, we tend to reach for comfort foods over healthy fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Day (#guilty)! However, Dr. Day insists that we should try to avoid these unhealthy eating habits as “We know that highly processed foods and food high in sugar increase inflammation and that can have an impact on the skin and acne.”

She also points out that “We may also have increased nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin D, which is so much better when you get it from food (rather than from the sun), healthy fats and protein.” However, Dr. Day does point out that “Eating greasy food does not make your skin greasier, but eating healthy food will make your skin more beautiful.” This is why it’s so important to fill your diet with healthy unprocessed foods as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables. If you need some inspiration for your grocery list, check out these 15 glow-enhancing foods.

Your diet also majorly impacts your gut health, which has a big influence on the health of your skin. Dr. Day confirms, “I’m finding more and more that leaky gut issues can have profound effects on the skin.” So, if you’re not already clued-up on how to improve your gut health, check this out.

You can also start your day with a cup of warm water and lemon, which is a great detoxifier and will help cleanse your digestive system. Immune-boosting ingredients like apple cider vinegar can also be great for your body. Finally, Dr. Day adds that “It also helps to avoid alcohol and to increase the amount of water you drink.” We can probably say that so far quarantine has encouraged the opposite, so making the switch to less alcohol and more water can help to make a big impact.

3. Poor Sleep

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“During stressful times our sleeping patterns can change, and we often don’t get as much sleep as we need,” says Dr. Day. This can have a negative impact on our skin as “Our skin heals and repairs while we sleep, so there’s no way around needing sleep for beautiful healthy skin, especially when it comes to acne flares.”

If you’re currently suffering from lockdown insomnia or crazy dreams are disturbing your beauty sleep, you’re not the only one, in fact, there’s a scientific reason! As we’re spending our days inside, our body’s melatonin (the sleep hormone) levels are being disrupted due to the lack of natural sunlight. Plus, increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can disrupt our sleep and trigger nightmares. This is why it’s really important to establish some healthy sleep habits. Try having a digital detox one hour before bed and try to maintain a consistent sleep and wake time.

It can also be helpful to sit outside or by an open window for 10 to 20 minutes each morning to help reset your internal sleep schedule so that by the time bedtime comes along, you can fall asleep more easily.

4. Drastic Skincare Changes

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Dr. Day explains that changes in our skincare routine, whether we’re adding or minimizing our regular regimen, can unbalance our skin and trigger breakouts.

“When we’re stressed, we may go to one extreme of stopping our regular skincare regimen, which has been doing so well to keep our skin healthy and beautiful.” So, even if you’re wearing less or no makeup, you still need to follow a consistant skincare routine that will help remove dirt or excess sebum, while ensuring it’s getting the daily hydration it requires to stay healthy. Ask any derm, and they’ll tell you maintaining a consistent routine is the cornerstone of healthy skin.

Dr. Day adds that on the other end of the spectrum, “Some people are trying so many new products at once and consequently, irritating the skin or using products that may be overly occlusive and acnegenic.”

To avoid overwhelming your skin with too many potent formulas, create a skincare schedule: This will help you determine where and when to add new products to your current regimen and help you keep track of how often you’re using them. For example, if you’re trialing an at-home peel, you should avoid exfoliating for around a week prior and post-peel to prevent over-exfoliation. And never forget: before trying out a new product, always do a patch test.

5. Lack of Exercise

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It’s totally understandable if your exercise routine has gone out of the window. We’ll be real, motivating yourself to complete an at-home workout is a lot harder than going to a class with your girlfriend. However, Dr. Day insists that for the sake of your skin, you still need to maintain at least 20 minutes of movement each day: “Exercise improves circulation and metabolism, which can have an important effect on our skin. Even if you’re not going out, find ways to get moving at home. There are great apps that are free that you can do right at home.” Check out our fave at-home workouts here.

If you’re struggling to keep up with your (at-home) workout schedule, find a workout buddy and try to do a virtual workout together. It’s actually a lot more fun than you may think. And if all else fails? Put on your favorite playlist, and have a dance party.

For more helpful tips, check out our ultimate guide to soothe acne-prone skin.