Is Your Skin Breaking Out More Than Normal During COVID-19? Here's Why

You’re stuck at home, trying to adjust to your new normal and then you look in the mirror and things are anything but that when it comes to the appearance of your skin. At times like these, acne may be the least of your concerns—there are definitely much more pressing issues to be worried about. But, how you feel about your skin is important for how you feel in it. And if you find your skin is breaking out right now or more than you're used to, it might be….well….”getting under your skin”.

Especially if you’ve been using this time to give your skin a breather and skip the makeup and focus on self-care and DIY “spa” treatments, you may be throwing your hands up in the air thinking, “wtf”! Isn’t skipping makeup supposed to squash breakouts? What the heck is going on? 

So you stopped wearing makeup, but zits keep popping up right now.

No doubt about it, there are lots of benefits for benching your makeup bag and giving your skin a break—one of them is fewer clogged pores, which is a trigger for breakouts. So if you find yourself with more breakouts right now you might be wondering what's going on.

That being said, it’s important to start with what's not going on: You might be wondering if it’s because of “skin purging” a process that is talked about all over social media that when you first stop wearing makeup, your skin will "purge." But here’s the thing, “skin purging” only happens as a result of using an active ingredient that is increasing skin cell turnover rate, such as a topical retinoid. As skin cell turnover speeds up, and skin starts shedding skin cells faster than normal, the debris deep in your pores is moved to the surface at a faster pace. 

So even if zits are popping out more now, it's not being triggered because you stopped applying makeup. So here’s what might be happening instead:

1. Stress triggers breakouts:

Here’s the stone cold fact: stress is a significant trigger for acne and right now there is no shortage of things to be worried about---from the uncertainty about the economy to the uncertainty of the availability of toilet paper. What we do know for certain is that there’s intimate and intricate connection between your mental health and your skin health, known as the brain-skin axis. When you are stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol. While in acute situations, like when you are in harm's way, a surge of this hormone is helpful, known as the “fight or flight” response. But when it comes to your skin, increased cortisol levels can stimulate your oil glands, trigger an inflammatory response and disrupt the balance of your skin microbiome, all of which can cause breakouts or worsen breakouts in individuals who are predisposed to acne already. 

 Why does this happen? Your skin is both an immediate stress perceiver as well as a target of the stress responses. This is why the presence of acne not only contributes to a feeling of stress, but acne is more common in those who experience a higher intensity of stress from life events.

2. Your diet is wonky:

With your routine being turned upside down, it’s understandable that your usual patterns of eating and what you eat may be turned upside down as well.  And similar to the connection between your brain and skin, your gut and skin are connected as well and what you eat has an effect on your complexion. It all comes down to inflammation. Foods that you eat can create an imbalance in your gut microbiome which results in inflammation and hormonal shifts throughout the body, which can then show up on your skin. Add to that foods like dairy and added sugars that not only stimulate your oil glands to produce more oil which can clog your pores, they can also contribute to formation of oxidative stress and a cascade of inflammation throughout the body which contributes to not only breakouts but can also show up as onset or exacerbation of other inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and rosacea as well.

3. It’s been hiding in plain sight:

If you’ve been in the habit of wearing makeup for a long time, you’re used to blemishes being out of sight out of mind. But now, the absence of wearing it may be offering opportunities to pay attention to your skin in new ways. Now that you don't have that all-day cover-up, when you look at your reflection or see yourself on Zoom, Skype or Facetime throughout the day, you’re more likely to notice subtle changes in your skin or new breakouts appearing. Because you are spending more time on screens, you’re also spending more time looking at your reflection than you might be used to. It’s very possible that you’re not breaking out more than normal, rather you’re eyes are drawn to what’s been hiding in plain sight under the makeup until now. 

The bottom line…

If you feel like your skin is sabotaging you right now with more breakouts or irritation, there are some good explanations as to why it’s happening. The most important thing is that you cut yourself some slack, take some deep breaths and know that what’s showing up on your skin is simply an invitation to get curious about what’s happening beneath it. Get curious about your stress levels and incorporate ways to manage it, nourish your body with foods that fuel you rather than inflame, and above all, as best you can, show yourself some love because this too shall pass and your true beauty isn’t determined by the appearance of your complexion. 

That being said, if you need help getting your skin back on track, let’s set up a time to chat.

You don’t have to do it alone. Use this LINK to schedule a call.

Resilient Health Institute

Gig Harbor, WA, USA

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.