Do You Have ‘Iso Skin’? Why Your Face Is Freaking Out And How To Fix It

Laura Henshaw is experiencing breakouts while in self-isolation. Image: Instagram @laura.henshaw.

“My skin is getting worse. Red spots, small pimples, bad texture.”

If you thought self-isolation was going to give you gloriously fresh skin, you wouldn’t be the only one.

Many women are seeing an increase in skin-related troubles, from breakouts to dryness and irritation dubbed ‘iso skin’.

What is isolation skin?

Basically, isolation skin is skin that’s changing as a result of our changing lifestyles and emotional wellbeing amid COVID-19. Just as we’re making sense of how coronavirus is impacting our livelihoods, daily routines, work, finances, relationships, and physical and psychological health, our skin is kind of confused, too.

For some, isolation skin looks like angry hormonal acne or pimples in places you don’t normally get pimples. Others will find they keep breaking out in a rash, or their rosacea, redness, or sensitivity is flaring up big time. Maybe your skin feels tight and dry, even though you’re doing All.

Still, suffering breakouts even though your skin is detoxing from daily makeup? This is the real reason why.

While we may have more time to look after our skin and stop the daily build-up of makeup, many of us are still struggling with spots and random breakouts.

Things are just off right now — we’re not eating the same or exercising the same. We’re out of our normal routines and all of that can have an influence on our skin.

This special combination of abrupt mental, physical, and environmental changes may be to blame.


Why is your skin not looking great in isolation?

  1. Stress that you can’t control

Stress and worry can have a big impact on the condition of our skin and considering the current pandemic, it’s understandable that we may be breaking out.

Bad skin is often caused by stress, your body creates cortisol under stress, especially stress you have no control over.

When cortisol is high, oestrogen production is lowered. As our oestrogen decreases, our androgen (male sex hormone) is in abundance and it will send messages to the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Our pores don’t like an abundance of anything, therefore they will swell and inflame, creating a spot.

It is understandable people are stressed during the current coronavirus pandemic, but it’s important for your skin and mental health to take time out to relax and take yourself away from the current pandemic.


  1. You’re Lacking Vitamin D

With most of us spending the majority of our days inside our homes, we may not be getting enough vitamin D into our system, which can cause inflammation of the skin and have a knock-on effect on certain skin conditions.

Skin is the body’s largest organ and vitamin D deficiency accelerates its aging. Not getting enough sun also lowers immunity and increases flare-ups of autoimmune conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.

If you are no longer going outside in the sun as much during these unique circumstances, you could try looking at your diet and incorporate more vitamin D-rich foods. Oily fish like salmon and sardines are good sources but, if you are vegan, you could try mushrooms or fortified foods like cereal and dairy-free milk.

Specialists recommend increasing your intake of vitamin D from food sources and potentially taking a vitamin D supplement (although, please consult your GP before adding any nutritional supplements into your diet).

Products To Try

  1. Changes in our diet

This one’s kind of obvious – staying at home all day, every day affects what we’re eating, which in turn affects our skin.

Stress-eating your way through this pandemic, while understandable, doesn’t help either. Some data suggests high glycemic-index foods like sugary carbs as well as dairy, in particular skim milk, can exacerbate acne.

Succumbing to junk food or snacking due to boredom and for comfort will wreak havoc on our guts, which in turn wreaks havoc on our skin.

What many people do not realize is that the gut and the skin are interconnected, if you are overeating or stress eating this can often lead to eczema and rosacea.


  1. Dehydration

Are you drinking enough water now you’re working from home? And are you drinking the right kinds of liquids? Dehydration can be from two factors, not drinking enough water and drinking too many cups of coffee, tea, or sugary beverages which will dehydrate your skin.

If dehydration is your issue, have a bottle of water by your bed – as soon as you get up to drink it, use a water app to remind yourself to drink water, and don’t ignore it.

Products To Try

  • Bottle with Motivational Time Marker & Straw to Ensure You Drink Enough Water Throughout The Day – Buy it here!

  1. Poor or disrupted sleep

Your sleeping patterns have most likely changed – later wake up calls and later nights staying up binge-watching Tiger King? Guilty. But this all affects your skin.

With limited activity during the day, many people are struggling to get to sleep at night.

Our sleep is when our body and skin rejuvenate. If sleep becomes disrupted, this can also upset skin health and lead to more breakouts.


  1. Wearing a surgical face mask

Wearing a face mask when out on your essential excursions can prevent the skin from breathing properly.

If you are sweating under your mask, make sure you cleanse as soon as you get home or grab a mist to spray on your face when it’s sweaty.

Products To Try

  • Avene Thermal Spring Water, Soothing Calming Facial Mist Spray for Sensitive Skin – Buy it here!
  • Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Facial Mist Toner – Buy it here!

  1. You Might Be Consuming More Alcohol Than normal

When we drink alcohol, our skin becomes dry and can look wrinkly, in addition to causing puffiness in the face. While drinking likely won’t be the root cause of your skin woes, it probably isn’t helping. It’s up to you whether that extra glass of wine is worth it for dry and puffy skin in the morning. But if I’m being totally honest, for me, that extra glass is absolutely worth an extra spot or two right now.


  1. Less exercise

Isolation = less exercise = less blood flow to the skin to reduce inflammation = increased redness, pimples, etc.

It’s one thing to be outside in fresh air, which is great for your skin, but sweating is a way we detox.

When we sweat, blood circulates and comes to the surface, and blood has all the good stuff in it. Exercise is a great way to get oxygen and nutrients to the skin, so if your exercise routine has changed, this could be impacting your skin, too.


  1. Sweat

Just because your class isn’t happening at a gym, doesn’t mean you should wait to shower (or put it off altogether), as sitting sweat can lead to clogged pores.

Sweat can lead to clogged pores, so ensure you take the time to shower afterward and cleanse your skin. You should also disinfect your mat or the floor after your workout to prevent a build-up of bacteria.

  1. Bacteria from our pillows

Our increased contact with pillows could be a key reason why we’re getting spots.

When working from home, we spend more time lounging around at home in bed or on the sofa, which means our face has more contact on cushions and pillows. Oil from your hair, hands, and face can build up over time on the surface of pillowcases, and while this oil keeps your skin healthy and moisturized in normal amounts, rubbing in old oil can clog the pores.

To combat this you can make a habit of washing your linen more than usual as bacteria lingering on fabrics along with friction can lead to breakouts.


  1. Slacking on skincare

You’d think that giving your skin a break from makeup would do it a world of good. But how many of us can say in isolation we’re committing to the same skincare routines we did back when we had to scrub our makeup off at the end of the day? Errr…

We may not be wearing makeup as often, but this does not mean we should forgo our skincare routine. The natural cellular build-up will still be taking place, and this must be exfoliated to prevent clogged pores and breakouts.

The best advice? Wash, scrub and cleanse just as you would do if you’d spent the day wearing a full face of slap.


How to improve your skin during lockdown? How to beat #isoskin

So you’ve broken out. Now what?

Your skin is possibly going through a period of adjustment right now, to a certain extent, your body will adjust to the new normal.


  1. Keep your skincare routine simple, but powerful

Now is an excellent time to focus on building a great skincare routine. The foundations of any great skincare routine are:

A gentle cleanser (avoids foams)

You may not be spending a lot of time outdoors but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still be washing your face in the mornings and the evenings.

Regardless of whether you’re spending your time indoors or outdoors, your skin accumulates oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria throughout the day. Therefore, it’s important to remove all of this debris from your face.

Products To Try

  • Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser Face Wash for Sensitive Skin – Buy it here!
  • La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser – Buy it here!
  • The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser – Buy it here!

A moisturizer

Yes, everyone needs a moisturizer, even if you have oily skin. Pick a hydrating moisturizer that does not contain any irritants. Go for a product that contains hydrating ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerine, and B vitamins.

Products To Try

SPF – Don’t skip sunscreen (yes, really!)

Sun damage isn’t just a treat when you’re outside. This is because UVA rays, which are responsible for the sun’s photo-aging effects, can still penetrate through standard glass windows. So if you spend your days sitting by the window and watching the outside world, you’re putting yourself at risk for dark spots, wrinkles and skin cancer.

Products To Try

  • EltaMD UV Clear Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 – Buy it here!
  • FrezyDerm Sun Screen “Velvet” Face SPF50+ – Buy it here!
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60 – Buy it here!

Serums and/or chemical exfoliants

To suit your specific needs you can choose a serum and/or chemical exfoliant. Here are some ingredients to look for based on your skin concerns:

Vitamin B/Niacinamide

Great for all skin types. It helps with any inflammation, whether it be rosacea or breakouts, and is particularly great for breakout-prone skin.

Products To Try

  • The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% – Buy it here!
  • Naturium Niacinamide Serum 12% Plus Zinc 2% – Buy it here!
  • Paula’s Choice CLINICAL 20% Niacinamide Vitamin B3 Concentrated Serum – Buy it here!

Salicylic Acid

Great for truly oily skin types and can be used to treat acne flare-ups.

Products To Try

  • The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque – Buy it here!
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (30 mL) by Pure Organic – Buy it here!
  • Paulas Choice SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant Buy it here!

Hyaluronic Acid and Squalene

Make great friends with dry skin – anyone can use these ingredients.

Products To Try

Vitamin C or an AHA

Alpha hydroxy acid for pigmentation, chemical exfoliant like Lactic Acid or Glycolic Acid will help to lift pigment and slough it off.

Products To Try

  • Vitamin C serum 22 by Serumtologie Anti Aging – Buy it here!
  • The Ordinary Peeling Solution 30ml AHA 30% + BHA 2% – Buy it here!
  • The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution – Buy it here!

Rosacea and sensitive skins

Suit a minimalist routine – think a Hyaluronic Acid serum and a hydrating moisturizer.

Products To Try

  • The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% – Buy it here!
  • The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA Surface Hydration – Buy it here!
  • Hyaluronic Acid Serum for Skin, L’Oreal Paris Skincare Revitalift Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid – Buy it here!

  1. Use eye cream

Whether you’re working from home or trying to keep up with all the latest news surrounding COVID-19, chances are you’re spending a lot of time staring at a screen. Unfortunately, while this won’t melt your brain, it’s definitely affecting your eyes, causing eye bags and dark circles. The area around your eyes is the most sensitive part on your skin so it’s more prone to premature aging.

A good eye cream can help to alleviate the appearance of wrinkles, dark circles, and puffiness. If you’re still battling with eye bags, you can try natural remedies like and ice-cubes.

Products To Try

  • COSRX Advanced Snail Peptide Eye Cream – Buy it here!
  • Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Hyaluronic Acid Retinol Under Eye Cream – Buy it here!
  • Eye Cream by Olay Total Effects 7-in-one Anti-Aging – Buy it here!

  1. Face masks

Face masks are skincare tools that help to give your skin that extra boost, especially if you’re battling with dullness, dryness, and breakouts.

Products To Try

  • Drunk Elephant F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial – Buy it here!
  • Dead Sea Mud Mask Infused with Tea Tree – Buy it here!

  1. Pamper your hands

With the emphasis on the need to constantly wash your hands, there’s a chance that they may be dealing with some dryness and irritation. Now while hygiene is important and you should be regularly washing your hands, there’s no reason as to why you can’t keep them happy.

You must apply hydrating hand cream after each wash. Try to do so when your hands are still damp as this will allow the cream to trap in the moisture.

You can also use this downtime to give your nails a break from manicures. Chances are every nail salon you know is close so why don’t you use this time, so why don’t you take a more natural approach to your nail care? Be sure to keep them clean and don’t forget to regularly file and trim them. Also, if you can, try using a cuticle oil rich in vitamin E as this will help to hydrate and strengthen the nail area.

Products To Try

  1. Try your best not to touch your face

Touching your face with unwashed hands is one of the easiest ways to spread the coronavirus, but that’s not the only reason you should try to keep your fingers away from your face.

This stressful environment may promote acne breakouts, but do your best not to pick your face.


  1. Clean up your beauty station

Pandemic or not, it’s always important to keep your make-up and skincare products clean as they can be a great breeding place for bacteria. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that 9 out of 10 make-up bags contained bacteria such as E.coli and staphylococcus.


  1.   Sleep

Quality sleep is great for your health, and skin and any disruption can have adverse effects on both.

If you’re batting with getting some quality sleep because you’re worrying about what tomorrow might bring, try a few of these tips:

  • Avoid caffeine after 5:00 p.m.
  • Switch off your device at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Snuggle up with a good book.
  • Try mindfulness meditation while in bed


Regardless if you have or haven’t broken out, take care of your skin by following some simple solutions:

  • Drinks loads of water;
  • Enjoy a balance of fresh fruits and vegetables;
  • Use your time cooking delicious meals that you can store away for when you don’t have an interest in cooking. Slow-cooked meals are great now that the weather has cooled down and will retain all the nutrients to maximize nutritional intake;
  • Make some sugar free treats. There are loads of recipes on the Internet that are sugar-free and use low GI carbs that will help you feel fuller for longer and stop that 3 pm drop in energy;
  • Meditate daily. This in itself will help you manage emotions and help you enjoy more mindfulness in such crazy times. This will also help you feel tired so you can get an early night’s sleep;
  • Get moving. Whether you are choosing to go for a walk outside, get fit with a YouTube fitness instructor, or take part in body+soul’s free LIVE @ home workouts, the choices are endless. Exercise is a fantastic way to improve skin health and balance out the hormones, plus it clears the mind;
  • Finally, if you are experiencing a breakout, try a green clay masque that will detox your skin while watching your favorite show on TV.

It’s important to remember that your skin will adjust, this difficult time will pass and with a little extra TLC, your skin will return to its healthy and glowing state.


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