Don’t let the pandemic stress your skin out
COVID-19 has brought about many changes, and some people are seeing them in their appearance. From constant virtual meetings to excessive handwashing and overall stress – there is no denying that the past year has affected some people’s skin.
If you find that your skin has formed new lines and wrinkles since last March, a dermatologist at Baylor College of Medicine offers tips on how to prevent and treat signs of aging even in the midst of a pandemic.
Several factors can lead to wrinkles, but stress often is a common source, explains Dr. Helen Malone, cosmetics director of dermatology at Baylor.
“Stress causes inflammation and hormones that can cause changes in the skin, allowing people to age prematurely,” Malone said. “Eating a balanced diet, exercising and getting enough sleep not only helps manage stress but can also lead to better skin.”
Adjust camera settings
Virtual meetings during lockdown might play a part in the way people see their appearance, Malone said. Because people are constantly staring at themselves on camera, there are higher chances of noticing imperfections. To correct this, she recommends adjusting the angle and lighting of the camera.
“People tend to have unflattering lighting that doesn’t offer an accurate depiction of how they actually look,” Malone said. “Make sure the camera is looking down on you instead of straight on or from the bottom, and that there is light coming in from the front and not from the back because that highlights the wrinkles. Also, check the settings – there is a filter that can soften some of the fine lines.”
When it comes to preventing signs of aging, Malone said the most important product to use every day is a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. She recommends using one that is physical blocking, which means it contains zinc or titanium or a combination of the two.
“Sunscreen is by far the most important thing that everyone should be doing for their skin to prevent not only wrinkles but also skin cancers and scars from those surgeries,” Malone said.
Try Vitamin A derivatives
Topical retinoids are some of the most effective and researched products for antiaging, Malone said. These vitamin A derivatives treat several skin conditions such as pores, acne, fine lines, discoloration and melasma. While retinoid creams are given by prescription through a dermatologist, weaker versions like retinol are available for purchase over the counter.
Malone advises to start retinoid products slowly since they tend to cause irritation at first. If you have sensitive skin, try using a retinol instead.
“I advise starting with a pea size amount for the entire face at night once a week with a moisturizer on top, and then slowly work up to using it more often," she said. “It’s important to remember that topical products like retinoids are not safe to use on women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.”
While it is important to moisturize your face to prevent wrinkles, your hands are another part of your body that
can suffer from signs of aging. Frequently sanitizing and washing your hands is an essential way to curb the spread of the COVID-19, but it also can cause them to become severely dry.
Malone explains that excessive dryness can cause inflammation, which can lead to premature aging due to stress on the skin.
“To help prevent dryness, immediately put a moisturizer on after you wash your hands so you can lock in moisture,” she said. “Keep in mind that there are different kinds of moisturizers and that they work differently – ointments work better than creams and creams work better than lotions.”
If ointments feel too greasy for daytime use, she recommends using them at night and putting on a cream or lotion during the day. To make moisturizers more effective, try leaving a warm wet washcloth on the area for about 20 minutes to help the product soak in. Remember to use products that are free of fragrances and other allergens to prevent further irritation.
“If it gets to the point where moisturizing at home is not helping then it’s time to visit the dermatologist,” Malone said. “They can provide topical steroids that can help get things cleared up.”
Consider cosmetic treatments
Treatments can go further than topical products when it comes to antiaging. Laser treatments and fillers help diminish fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin. In addition, Botox injections can help both prevent and treat signs of aging.
While there is not an exact age it is suggested that people begin Botox, Malone advises not to consider it until your face begins to form static lines, which are lines that remain on the face even without making facial expressions. She recommends consulting with a board-certified dermatologist to discuss options on which treatment works best for your skin.
“When you get to the stage where you are starting to have fine lines then you can consider preventative Botox to prevent them from becoming deep wrinkles in the future,” Malone said. “We don’t want wrinkles but we do want facial expressions – there is a healthy balance between allowing for nonverbal communication and looking old.”