Is there anything to be said for doing less? We’ve never been more distracted, anxious and stressed. While there are arguably more important effects of our mental state than the ones on our skin, the health, comfort and appearance of our skin has significant impact on our wellbeing and can be an indicator of just how stressed we are.
Every dermatologist I have spoken with since the first lockdown has conveyed the same message – they are seeing more skin issues, from acne and eczema to dermatitis – than ever before, and women over 30 are coming to them with mask- and stress- influenced skin problems in unprecedented numbers.
Consultant dermatologist Prof Niki Ralph is the woman I look to when a skincare routine needs to be rethought from the foundations up. Since January traditionally involves a dearth of money, enthusiasm and glow (inside or out), it is the ideal month to go entirely back to basics and consider whether your cleanser and moisturiser are giving your skin what it needs.
Prof Ralph says that overdoing the active skincare (retinoids and exfoliating acids) can exacerbate the problems you’re trying to tackle, causing what we may think of as standard “breakouts” but are really a sign that we’ve compromised our skin’s barrier – “Sometimes too many actives can irritate the thin skin of the face and neck, resulting in flares of acne, rosacea, dermatitis and psoriasis. Stripping it back to bland moisturisers . . . can recreate that delicate skin barrier resulting in more soothed skin with less redness, dryness and flares of facial skin conditions.”
While endless choice in skincare may be exciting for those who love to try new products and ingredients, everyone can benefit from keeping things simple. Prof Ralph advises that, “If one suffers with any facial skin condition the ideal moisturiser should be ‘bland’, meaning it contains minimal ingredients and is certainly free of added fragrances, alcohol, SLS and parabens – all of which can further dry and irritate the skin. It will often have added ingredients such as niacinamide which soothes the skin and has anti-inflammatory effects on the skin.”
If we can get cleansing and moisturising right, we’re meeting our skin’s basic needs and helping it to tackle environmental stressors like masks and temperature fluctuation better. “Wash your face nightly with a foaming or gel cleanser for those with oily-prone skin or a cream-based cleanser if one has dry or sensitive skin to remove build-up of oil, dirt, debris and bacteria which accumulate on the skin’s surface over the day,” advises Prof Ralph.
“Apply a hydrating moisturiser both morning and evening, especially to create a barrier between the skin and wearing of a mask, to prevent flares of acne, rosacea and dermatitis. But the most important daily product to use on the skin is a broad-spectrum SPF to be worn each morning all year round to protect the skin from UVA/UVB damage and ultimately skin cancer, as well as the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.”
TRY. . .
La Roche Posay Dermallergo Crème (€21 at pharmacies nationwide)
La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid SPF50 (€20 at pharmacies nationwide)
Omorovicza Cushioning Day Cream (€145 at omorovicza.co.uk from January 23rd)
Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Cream (€40 at Brown Thomas)
Caudalie Vinoclean Instant Foaming Cleanser (€9 at cultbeauty.com)