Stress can hit hard, especially during these unprecedented times. Even if you’re meditating each morning and streaming Modo Yoga classes by night, the effects of the current climate can affect more than your mind; stress can also take a toll on your complexion. “Any type of stress can manifest in your skin, since it’s the largest organ in the body,” says New York City plastic surgeon Lara Devgan, M.D. “Stress can increase cortisol levels which in turn increases inflammation,” she explains. In turn, inflammation can exacerbate whatever your underlying skin conditions may be.
As a general rule of thumb, Devgan suggests bringing your routine back to basics and eliminating any products with excess fragrance, colors or dyes. “Sometimes, products can begin to irritate your skin during a time of extreme stress,” she says. Devgan also warns against wearing heavy makeup: “It’s a good time to give your skin a little break,” she says, underlining the importance of letting your complexion breathe without foundation for at least 6 to 8 hours a day. And don’t let your skincare routine feel like homework: “Find products that bring you a little joy,” Devgan says. Here, more expert tips for dealing with concerns that come from stressed skin.
If You’ve Got Redness
If you are prone to rosacea, Devgan suggests pairing your routine way back and adding simple, hard-working solutions. First, eliminate any products that may cause irritation, and consider using a retinoid. “Retinol increases the rate of cell turnover in the skin,” she says, “making it great for a variety of concerns but specifically, normalizing the equilibrium of skin that’s acne or rosacea prone.” While the topical is known to cause two to three weeks of peeling or dryness, now may be an optimal time to start. “It’s a good opportunity to accomplish something that’s been on the back burner,” she says, and recommends Differin’s solution, since it may cause less flaking than other over the counter retinols.
Next, Devgan recommends adding an emollient moisturizer into your lineup. Look for “any kind of facial cream that’s not going to be too heavy or rich, one that will bring back the barrier protection of your skin,” like CeraVe’s healing formula. Should your redness turn into hives or extreme irritation, consider using a hydrocortisone cream, but also get professional help. “You should always tele-consult with your doctor or dermatologist,” she says. “Bumps or a rash may mean something else.”
If You’re Breaking Out
According to Devgan, acne and oily skin are the most common side effects of stress. For immediate relief, she recommends using a clarifying cleanser twice a day and avoiding over exfoliation. “Even though most will want to scrub their face, it sometimes can lead to an overproduction of oil in the skin,” she says. For blemishes, “look for a spot treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid.” Rather than hydrating with a regular moisturizer, switch to something lighter only once a day. “I like to hydrate with a hyaluronic acid serum, since it’s generally less comedogenic,” she says. But for those who are extremely oily, apply every other day.
If You’ve Got Dry Skin
Those who are on the drier side should aim to wash their face only once a day with a cream cleanser. “If you have extreme peeling, a microdermabrasion scrub is great to exfoliate the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin,” Devgan says, since those extra layers could prevent your moisturizer from penetrating your skin. The pro suggests using a hydrating peptide-infused eye cream and a moisturizer that’s packed with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, or nourishing and soothing Vitamin E. “Avoid over-traumatizing the skin,” she warns, keeping your routine straightforward and simple.
If You’ve Got Dull Skin
Should your skin need a little boost, Devgan suggests adding a Vitamin C serum into your routine. “This is for those people who don’t have a major skin concern, they’re just feeling like their skin is not as good as it could be.” The tool can help fade brown spots and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. “When combined with Vitamin E, Ferulic, and B12, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that prevents free radical damage and improves the luster of the skin,” she says. Look for a serum that’s formulated with at least 15% Vitamin C, like Skinceuticals’ brightening formula.