How to NOT Ruin Your Skin During Flu Season
So, it happened. You tried your best to prevent the flu by washing your hands, marinating in Purell, and braving your fear of needles to get the shot (like a responsible adult!). But, despite your best efforts, you can feel the telltale aches, fever, and congestion that come during flu season.
You've got a lot to worry about, and the last thing you want is dry or stressed skin. "Having the flu can wreak havoc on your skin," said Dr. Michele J. Farber of NYC's Schweiger Dermatology Group. "The skin gets dry and irritated, eyes look puffy, and it's prime time for cold sores and other skin issues."
But in the midst of your illness, you're going to feel achy, woozy, and just not about that leaving-the-bedridden-life in general. We wouldn't blame you for letting your skincare slide.
However, once your symptoms subside, you'll want your life — and skin — to go back to normal, stat. That's why we asked three top NYC dermatologists how to save your skin during your sick days. Don't worry, their tips are all realistic — no one's going to tell someone with a 100-degree fever they need to be doing a 12-step routine.
Ahead, find all the ways they recommend doing skin care while you're under the weather. This cold and flu season, may the odds be ever in your favor.
Wash Your Hands . . . the Right Way
You know the drill: wash your hands as often as you can during flu season. It's a tip that's only taped onto every public bathroom mirror we've ever looked at. However, according to Dr. Mona Gohara, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, this good practice can also go bad. "Nothing has replaced good old hand washing when it comes to germ protection, but this can also lead to dry hands," she said. So what's a sicko to do?
Dr. Gohara suggested using a moisturizing cleanser "and lubing up with a cream after each visit to the sink." We love Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash ($39), which is so gentle, it feels like a treatment rather than plain old suds. If you want to feel a little fancy when you have the flu, follow up with the hydrating (and oh-so-chic) Claus Porto Cedar Poinsettia Hand Cream ($25).
And Don't Forget the Rest of Your Body
Just as your hands need washing, so does the rest of your fine self. Dr. Michele J. Farber of NYC's Dermatology Group urges you to stay hydrated. Sure, drinking tons of water means that you'll have to run to the bathroom when all you want to do is cuddle into your comforter, but it's well worth it. Farber said, "Water hydrates your skin from within and prevents cracking around the nose and mouth that can increase susceptibility to infection."
While you might want your shower to be as steamy as your humidifier, Dr. Joshua Zeichner advised against it. "We love long, hot showers, but our skin does not. This can strip the skin of essential oils, leading to irritation," he said. If you just cannot bear the thought of cold water raining down on you, Dr. Zeichner said that lukewarm temperatures are OK, as long as the shower is "short — 10 minutes or less."
As for the type of products you should be using during these lightning-speed showers, Dr. Zeichner recommended a "soap-free cleanser that's pH-balanced." We like Dr. Hauschka Skin Care Almond Soothing Body Wash ($20) because it's gentle but creamy, and it has an uplifting scent to remind you of better, less-sniffle-filled days.
Blowing all that gunk out of your nose feels great — until you look at the Rudolph-red splotches tissues leave under your schnoz. Unfortunately, this look can be hard to avoid, but there are a few ways to try to curb it. Dr. Zeichner advised not to "skimp on the tissues . . . avoid the scented ones as the fragrance may lead to irritation or allergies." He also suggested using tissues that are enhanced with hydrating ingredients like aloe.
And if you do succumb to a red nose, cover-up is always an option. According to Dr. Gohara, "It Cosmetics Bye, Bye Under Eye ($25) — or in this case, under-nose — works like a charm."
Put Down the Damn Exfoliator!
While each dermatologist we spoke with suggests different products to use while you're feeling icky, they all agree on one to avoid like the plague: exfoliator! "Most people don't have the energy to do this, but I would hold off [on exfoliators or scrubs] so as to not add more dryness," Dr. Gohara said.
Dr. Farber agreed: "Stick to a more gentle routine with a hydrating cleanser and cream moisturizer to repair cracked skin."
Alpha and beta hydroxacids, retinol, and microdermabrasion should also be avoided, noted Dr. Zeichner, because these "irritating skincare ingredients can make matters worse."
Don't Freak Out About Breakouts
Dryness isn't the only skincare issue you might run into if you have the flu. Unfortunately, Dr. Gohara said, "Any stress level can lead to breakouts."
Dr. Zeichner added, "As your body attempts to fight off an infection, cortisol levels may rise." Those pesky levels "stimulate your oil glands." Translation: you might get a pimple.
If you want to fight this, Dr. Gohara suggested washing your face at least once a day. You may not feel up for it, but the dermatologist urges you to "do your best!"
Feel better, beauties!