It's not just breakouts, either; in fact, chronic stress can exacerbate multiple skin disorders like a rash or rosacea "as well as their symptoms of itching or burning," said board-certified dermatologist Roy Seidenberg, MD, of the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. The additional layer of this pandemic is that rising unemployment rates mean people are no longer able to pay for skin-care treatments. Plus, "when someone loses their job, they may lose a sense of purpose, importance, power, identity, or self-esteem," he said.
Managing your stress can be exceedingly different during these unprecedented times, but the silver lining here — and we promise, there is one — is that people sheltering at home means the likelihood of being seen by others drops significantly.
"One would imagine that people will be more comfortable letting [their skin breathe] if they are out of the public eye; one small reward, perhaps," Dr. Seidenberg said. "People will always want to look good and be seen without acne, but there will probably be a collective understanding, or empathy, in these times."
How to Save Your Skin (and Your Sanity)
The most important part of self-care in the wave of a pandemic is being kind to yourself. Understand that your breakouts are not anything you did wrong, and instead, redirect that energy to tweaking your skin-care routine for your specific concerns now.
That means washing your face with a gentle exfoliating cleanser to keep excess oil at bay, managing hormonal breakouts with an effective spot treatment, and trying (hard as it may be) to not react to your flare-ups. If you feel anxious or embarrassed showing your skin on video chats, know that it's OK to turn off the camera feature.
Also important? Since most states are requiring you wear facial coverings outside, make sure you keep yours clean to avoid "mask acne" by washing the fabric as much as you would your face — every day.
"Masks should be cleaned every day in hot water with a mild, fragrance-free laundry detergent and white vinegar (which has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties) and dried on higher heat settings in the dryer," said Elizabeth Mullans, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Uptown Dermatology in Houston. "I recommend having multiple masks in case the fabric wears out from washing and drying with heat. Since repeated washing and drying may cause fabric masks to deteriorate faster, and because some people are sensitive to fragrance, I like the Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free and Clear ($8)."
To manage any stress or anxiety that has popped up amid the current circumstances, Dr. Guirguis suggests you introduce a few coping mechanisms to your day-to-day. "That could be learning relaxation exercises, using cognitive behavioral techniques, engaging in physical activities, meditation, and so forth." You can also seek psychological treatment from a professional via teletherapy, which, for patients with skin conditions, "often leads to an improved sense of well-being," he said.
The one thing Kamath is most looking forward to post-lockdown is what's been thrown out of whack for everyone: her routine. Well, that — and friends, college, and "getting to a dermatologist to take a look at my skin."