Dealing With Quarantine Skin? Here's Why—and What You Can Do to Fix It

We're all living in weird times—and my skin has definitely noticed. 

Let's talk about quarantine skin. I've basically ditched my makeup entirely and hiked up my self-care routine to include a bounty of face masks—and yet my face is patchier and drier than normal. I find a bit of solace in knowing that I'm not alone; according to an unofficial poll of my friend group, a lot of us are experiencing a host of skin afflictions in quarantine. You would think that staying at home would help your skin detox, but even though most people are going makeup-free, we're experiencing mad breakouts, eczema flareups, dull complexions, and/or dry skin. So, what gives?

Well, a lot of things, according to Marnie Nussbaum, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. Apparently, there are a lot of in-isolation factors at play, and even though quarantine has eliminated a lot of skin stressors (Pollution! Sun damage! Makeup!), there are newfound reasons that could be making your skin patchier or bumpier. But we're not just here to lament over our skin grievances—we consulted with Dr. Nussbaum to decode all the reasons why your skin may be freaking out (and how to get a handle on it).

01 of 05

Less exposure to Vitamin D

The problem: The sun has a bad rap when it comes to skincare, and we all slather on layers of SPF in order to protect ourselves from its harmful rays. This is absolutely a practice that you should be following, but we have to give sunlight a bit of credit. Our skin needs our daily dose of vitamin D (which the sun so generously provides) to repair and rebuild our skin. Since we're all inside more than normal, our skin is taking a toll.

The solution: Try to get some fresh air outside whenever possible (while still practicing social distancing!). This can mean taking a walk outside, getting some gardening done, or even just standing out on your balcony for a few minutes. Eating right can also help, adds Dr. Nussbaum: "As long as you're eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and maintaining a well-balanced diet, your vitamin D levels should stay within normal limits. If you do suspect a vitamin D deficiency, always inquire with your primary physician before starting supplements."

02 of 05

Dry indoor air

The problem: There are many reasons why your skin could be dry right now. For one, you're probably washing your hands and face more frequently, which can suck out moisture and disrupt the skin barrier. Your house air is also much drier than the humid climate outdoors, especially if you're blasting the A/C. Cue a whole lot of dry skin.

The solution: For starters, invest in a good humidifier to hike up the moisture levels in your house. "Just as your skin is changing, your skincare regimen must change as well to target your new skin concerns," adds Dr. Nussbaum. No matter what your skin type (even if you're oily!), good skincare is key—transition to thicker serums and moisturizers containing antioxidants and hyaluronic acid.

03 of 05

Lack of and/or inconsistent sleeping schedule

The problem: They call it beauty sleep for a reason. Sleep is when your skin produces most of its collagen and generates the replacement of dead skin cells, which is why your skin looks more youthful and glowy in the morning. More sleep also lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, Dr. Nussbaum points out. Without a consistent, proper sleep schedule, you're depriving your skin of its regenerating cycle, which can mess with your skin's pH levels, spark breakouts, and delete your natural glow.

The solution: Just because your daily schedule has changed doesn't mean that it can't have order. Try implementing a new normal that mimics your usual routine, like waking up at a set time and getting ready for the day even if you aren't going anywhere. This will make it easier to head to bed when you should—remember, seven to nine hours of sleep is the goal!

04 of 05

Poor diet

The problem: Have you been eating more junk food since quarantine started? Yeah, same. It's really easy right now to submit to temptation and gobble hordes of processed food out of boredom. Unfortunately, some foods can cause acne. "Due to the mind-gut-skin connection, poor eating habits (like too much sugar and refined foods) may lead to dysbiosis ('leaky gut syndrome') which can cause an inflammatory skin flare reaction," says Dr. Nussbaum.

You may also be drinking more than usual right about now (noon is the new happy hour, am I right?). Unfortunately, increased alcohol consumption can increase dehydration levels, sparking inflammation, puffiness, and redness due to dilated blood vessels.

The solution: Although cheap, processed foods are an easy out, they're usually packed with unhealthy ingredients, such as hydrogenated fats, artificial colors or preservatives, and added sugars, that take a toll on skin. It's best to limit your consumption of alcohol (to no more than two glasses) and unhealthy junk food as much as possible. If you're having trouble getting yourself to cook every night, try a healthy meal subscription service, like Blue Apron, that includes pre-portioned, healthy ingredients you'll need for each meal. You can also swap out every other happy hour for a yummy mocktail recipe.

05 of 05

High stress

The problem: It's only natural for your stress levels to go haywire during a global pandemic. Increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, is largely to blame for your rampant breakouts. Not only does it stimulate your sebaceous glands to overproduce more oil (leading to acne), "it can also trigger an inflammatory cascade in the body, leading to excess inflammation in many skin types, particularly skin susceptible to eczema or seborrheic dermatitis," says Dr. Nussbaum. Your body will also experience a decreased rate of skin cell turnover, leading to a buildup of dead skin that results in a dull complexion.

The solution: I know—reducing stress is easier said than done. Try meditation apps, yoga, or even just listening to music to quell your mind. In order to treat stress acne, Dr. Nussbaum recommends a gel-based cleanser containing salicylic acid or fruit enzymes (mild exfoliants) twice daily to remove any excess oils, dirt, and dead skin cells.

Retinoids can also help. "SkinBetter Science has a great one, AlphaRet Overnight Cream ($125;, which is a fantastic multitasker," says Dr. Nussbaum. "It contains encapsulated retinol (less irritating than traditional retinols), alpha-hydroxy acid for mild exfoliation, niacinamide to reduce redness, and ceramides and hyaluronic acid for hydration."

RELATED: How to Start Meditating at Home for a Quieter Mind

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