The past few weeks have been stressful times for most of us in this country. As we hunker down and exercise extreme precautions when at work to avoid spreading COVID-19, many of us have to get adjusted to a new way of day-to -day living. I have the sincerest love and respect for the healthcare heroes on the frontlines battling this war for the country. Those who are fortunate enough to be on the sidelines of this battle, have other challenging rhythms of life to adjust to. Some of us end up with much more time at home, spring cleaning our house and skincare products. Some of us are confined to work from home and have to cope with juggling life at home and trying to meet productivity expectations from the past. And many of us wash our hands, use cleaning solutions and irritating antibacterial agents in exponential-fold times more than we normally would.
All this means a lot of stress to cope with in each of our homes. So as a board-certified dermatologist, I assembled a few SELF CARE tips that hopefully can help make things easier for us all while we stay at home to protect those on the frontlines.
- During this COVID-19 season, what can I use to help with my hand dryness if I tend to get eczema on my skin from all the handwashing?
First and foremost, before worrying about your hands turning dry, I have to remind you that it is better to have dry itchy hands from frequent handwashing, than it is to have soft hands but washing your hands infrequently and having an increased risk of contracting Coronavirus infection. One in 6 patients infected with the coronavirus infection will end up with severe symptoms, which may lead to hospitalization. Dry hands, though bothersome, does not have such a dire statistic.
That being said, I recommend hand moisturizers that contain 1) barrier ingredients or occlussives 2) repairing ingredients – ceramides and humectants (draw water content into the skin) and for the right skin type… 3) exfoliating ingredients
Barrier ingredients or occlussives prevent or slow down the water loss from your skin. The traditional occlussive moisturizer ingredient is petrolatum. Petrolatum fills in the cracks in the skin and smooths out dry skin, however leaves behind a greasy residue. A runner up to petrolatum is dimethicone. Dimethicone-containing moisturizers leave behind smoother skin, and does not leave the skin as oily as petrolatum. Ceramide rich moisturizers are some of the best on the market. Ceramides are organic fatty molecules that help “glue” together the upper layers of the skin and increases the hydration of the skin. Exfoliating ingredients like lactic acid breaks down dead skin cells and promotes new skin cell formation. It also aids in the retention of water in the skin. Other great ingredients to look for in moisturizers include triglycerides, squalene, glycerin and water.
Great over the counter moisturizer in these categories with a sensible price tag includes Cetaphil moisturizing cream, Aveeno Eczema care (occlusive, emollients), Cerave moisturizing cream ( ceramides), and Amlactin ( humectants, exfoliants)
- What ingredients should I avoid for face and hand moisturizers?
I recommend finding a good moisturizer that is free of irritating ingredients. Look for the buzzwords that says “hypoallergenic”, non-sensitizing, and non-comedogenic when used for the face. I do not find the words “clean” and “natural” to be of an advantageous descriptor on skincare products. Many molecules such as ceramides are synthetically made and does a great job moisturizing. On the contrary, when I see the word “natural”, I associate that with the insertion of many botanical or unprocessed molecules , that may end up as irritants to the skin.
I also recommend staying away from fragrances in the ingredients of moisturizers as they can become irritating to sensitive skin. Beware of the phrase “scent-free” as it may indicate the presence of a masking scent in the product. The phrase “fragrance free” is a better one to find as it means exactly what it says: the lack of perfume or fragrance in its ingredient list.
Another thing to avoid: dirty hands when applying your moisturizer. Make sure your hands are clean when you put on your moisturizer. When washing the hands, I recommend a 20-30 second count to ensure the clearance of coronavirus from your hand surfaces. Washing your hands with soap is better than using a hand sanitizer for cleaning viruses from your hands.
Remember also to clean other surfaces that your hands often touch . Coronaviruses can persist on surfaces for:
3 hours in aerosolized form / airborne
4 hours on copper
24 hours on cardboard
48 hours on stainless steel
72 hours on plastic
- Which supplements should I take to help my skin and body during this COVID-19 season?
Some supplements that can help boost your immune system from viral infection includes taking supplementation of Zinc, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. Beware that you do not overdose on these vitamins. More is not always better. Too much Vitamin C beyond 4 grams daily has been reported to put one at risk for bloating, gastrointestinal discomfort, and even kidney stones!
With most of us confined to staying indoors during the COVID-19 season and staring at tablets, TVs, and smartphones as we Zoom and Facetime all day, we may not see the outdoor sun as much as before. Despite the lack of sunlight, those battling melasma may still want to keep that sunscreen on daily. This is because visible light emitted from indoor lights and tablet lights still contribute to aging changes in our skin. A supplement I recommend considering for melasma prone skin would be Heliocare or Heliocare Ultra. These supplements contain antioxidants from a fern plant extract and the latter contains additional pomegranate extract as an antioxidant boost.
- What effects does all this stress do to my skin ?
Stress takes a toll on our skin. Any chronic condition of the skin gets worse with stress. As we feel a surge of stress, our body kicks in a release of steroids that mediate inflammation. This can manifest in worsening of eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, or other immune mediated skin disease one may be predisposed to.
When we are under a “fight -or-flight” stress response, our adrenaline kicks in and a spike in our cortisol level can be observed. Studies have reported a slowing down of gut motility which may result in changes in the gut microbiome. The alteration of gut microbiome in turn can compromise many health processes, including hair growth. This may present in the form of hair thinning, hair shedding, or hair loss.
- What can I do while at home to help my complexion?
Things that you can do for your skin while sheltering in place include maintaining your daily cleaning of the face, be consistent with application of sunscreen and moisturizer in the morning, and include anti-inflammatory ingredients such as antioxidants and niacinamide in your daily routine.
If exfoliating effects are desired for the skin, you can add nightly use of a retinol night cream or tretinoin prescription cream. Weekly at home exfoliating scrubs can be done if tolerated. Occasional use of glycolic acid containing cleansers can also aid in exfoliating the skin if routine exfoliating scrubs leave your skin too dry.
I would advise against experimenting with high strength novel home masks and facials during this COVID-19 time to make up for those in office chemical peels you are missing out on. In the case of a severe irritation or allergic reaction to a new product, you may need help from a healthcare provider immediately. Although many dermatologists are available via virtual visits, you may want to avoid such stressful scenarios by not using high risk products at home. Having to venture out to the local emergency department for a chemical burn on your face is the last thing you need during these stressful times.
For more info or further questions about your skin email us at email@example.com or (810) 355-4300 and please explore our virtual visit appointments for medical concerns.