En español | "Don't touch your face!” That's our new and constant mantra. But our faces are kind of hard to ignore when we're looking at ourselves on FaceTime and Zoom all day long. Throw in big-time stress, comfort eating at and between meals, less exercise and a change in routine, and we're faced with skin that looks a lot different from the way it did back around New Year's Eve. Here are 10 ways to keep your skin calm, healthy and glowing right now.
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PHOTO BY: Cecile Lavabre/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
1. Stick to a daily a.m./p.m. skin-care routine
It's easy to slack off just sitting around indoors working, watching TV, reading and eating day and night — but don't. A morning and evening skin ritual gives your day structure, and doing something positive for your looks provides emotional support. The three basic and most important items for all of us (and this includes guys) are cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen, and all can be found at affordable prices at drugstores and mass retailers in unscented versions for unisex use. That said, treating yourself now to a special skin-care item — the one you'd normally consider a splurge — also can provide a much-needed emotional boost.
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PHOTO BY: Clinique (2); Garnier; LANEIGE; Peter Thomas Roth
2. Try a skin-care kit to get back on track
Even with consistent product care, your sheltered-in-place skin can start behaving strangely. It might seem extra dry, blotchy, ruddy, rough and uneven in texture, or experience a few breakouts. This is due to a combination of things: easy access to the fridge and snacks, an increase in the stress hormone cortisol and a lack of your usual exercise (necessary for healthy circulation and nourishing of skin cells). You could eat sensibly, try to meditate and learn some dance routines on TikTok, but why not also opt for a prepackaged skin-care kit that focuses on restoring glow, moisture or a calm, even complexion. Trial-size kits are a good way to test a new regimen, too.
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PHOTO BY: Que Bella; Andalou Naturals; Lancôme; Mario Badescu
3. Keep up the exfoliation
If your skin feels drier than usual or has lost its glow, or the pores around your nose and chin look “dirty,” be sure to exfoliate twice a week. Slowed cell turnover (a normal thing for mature skin) is usually the culprit behind grownup skin that's parched, dull or dingy. It also prevents your moisturizer from penetrating and doing its job. Mild exfoliant cleansers with chemical sloughing ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or vitamin C, and masks with gentle papaya or pineapple enzymes, are the easiest and safest way to get rid of dead cells lingering on the surface of your face. They won't irritate or create micro-tears like more abrasive physical scrubs with particles. No scrubs available? Just use your usual cleanser and massage your wet sudsy face gently with a clean wet washcloth.
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4. Treat troubled skin with soothing products
Though dryness is the biggest concern after age 50, an increase in sensitivity and redness during high-stress times does happen. The body's response to anxiety is to amp up cortisol (the stress hormone I mentioned), which in turn causes an uptick in inflammation and sometimes oil production. This may cause a usually well-behaved complexion to turn fickle and look blotchy. If you're also eating more sugary or spicy foods and carbs now or have allergies or underlying conditions like eczema or rosacea, these can exacerbate the angry state of your skin, too. Skip the retinols, Retin-A or Renova, hold the exfoliating products and focus on calming things down with simple, gentle products that contain soothing ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, niacinamide (also known as vitamin B3), soy or aloe.
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5. Change your habits
The shelter-at-home idea has loosened up our self-imposed guidelines about diet and control. If your skin is dry, try drinking more water and lay off the extra glass of wine to “relax” and the additional cups of caffeine. Both have a dehydrating effect on your skin. Make sure you apply moisturizers to damp skin immediately after washing and blot to enhance absorption. Don't smoke or get back in the habit due to anxiety. Not only is that a fast track to lung and oral cancer, but smoking causes your skin to sag and wrinkle.
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PHOTO BY: Deciem; The INKEY List; IT Cosmetics
6. Treat pimples like an adult
Refrain from popping the occasional pimple or squeezing blackheads. It just makes the problem area worse, and your 50-plus skin is thinner so it tears and marks easily. Instead, apply a product designed for us (not a maximum-strength pimple cream for oily, rebellious teen skin) with ingredients like niacinamide and zinc, alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid (BHA) or tea tree. Eat skin-healthy — I know chips, cookies and bake-at-home cakes beckon, but nibble on defrosted veggies and fruits (if you don't have fresh) and choose omega-3 fatty acid foods like salmon and sardines.
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PHOTO BY: Vichy; Honest Beauty; Bobbi Brown Cosmetics; Garnier
7. Be safe, not sorry
Watch your experimental mixing and matching of moisturizers, masks, serums and treatments (this is why I usually suggest sticking to one brand, one line). Some ingredients can cause severe reactions and irritation. Never mix vitamin C or retinol with AHAs, BHAs or one another. Avoid layering vitamin C and niacinamide together, too. But, know the humectant hyaluronic acid goes with everything, so rely on products that emphasize that for a trusty skin fix that'll plump up lines and give you a fresher, dewier look.
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8. Keep your glasses and phone clean
These high-touch surfaces have constant skin contact with your face and hands all day long and attract germs and bacteria. Sanitize your cell phone and case with a disinfecting wipe twice a week, and clean your glasses and sunglasses more often with a mild dishwashing liquid and water, paying attention to nose pads and ear pieces as well as frames. Dry frames with a microfiber cloth (or a clean T-shirt) — not paper towels or tissues, which can scratch the lenses. Never use household cleaner, bleach or abrasive scrubs on these items.
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PHOTO BY: AVEENO; La Roche-Posay; CeraVe; Coppertone
9. Make sure you apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses
Whether you're popping out to walk the dog, taking a brisk jog around the block, riding your bike around the neighborhood or sitting on your deck, protecting your face from ultraviolet (UV) rays with sunscreen is important. Unprotected exposure puts you at risk for continued pigmentation damage (seriously, who needs more brown spots and broken capillaries?), skin cancer and cataracts or ocular cancer. Don't worry: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, you'll still get enough vitamin D to pump up your bones. When wearing a face mask outdoors don't forget to add sunglasses, since squinting over your mask just boosts crow's feet. And remember that UV rays penetrate glass, so when working in front of a window you still need sunscreen on your face, hands and neck. A nongreasy physical formula with zinc oxide reflects the sun's rays (instead of absorbing them like a chemical sunscreen) and works well for all — including those with sensitive skin.
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PHOTO BY: Aleksandr Zubkov/Moment/Getty Images
10. Clean your makeup tools and makeup
Dirty brushes, sponges and sponge tip applicators can cause blemishes and harbor bacteria. While we're not actually wearing much makeup these days, we do apply a little for our self-confidence on Zoom and FaceTime appearances. To clean brushes use a mild soap or shampoo to make suds in a small, clean dish. Dampen brush heads under the faucet and swish them around in the liquid, but don't get the handle wet. Rinse in warm water, and wash other tools the same way until clean of all makeup residue. Lay brushes and tools on a clean towel with brush heads hanging over the sink to dry.
A final word: If you are concerned about changes in moles or suspicious growths at this time of isolation, please ask your dermatologist for a virtual office visit to assess your individual situation. We have more to worry about than looks at this time, but the truth is, if we look good on the outside we feel better on the inside, right?