Iso skin is real. If you’ve been plagued by breakouts while in isolation, you’re not alone. The chance to give our skin a break from makeup and pollution seemed like a rare but wonderful opportunity, but it hasn’t exactly panned out like that for everyone.
We turned to Madeline Calfas, founder of The Wellness Group. Calfas is a nutritionist, naturopath and herbalist and a cosmetic nurse who specialises in IV nutrients, acne treatments (both from healing the gut and topically), peptide therapy, platelet-rich plasma treatments and more.
Basically, she knows skin. Calfas identified the three major reasons why your skin might be freaking out and it’s all too relatable.
Causes of iso skin
☆ Stress: Many of us are under some sort of stress at the moment and it’s showing on our skin. “Stress is perceived by the brain, and when that happens, our bodies respond by releasing stress hormones such as corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), epinephrine (adrenalin) and glucocorticoids,” Calfas tells TheLatch—.
“Skin has been known to be both an immediate stress perceiver, and a target for stress response, which means your skin is sitting squarely in the firing line.
“Stress affects the skin mainly through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and can also inhibit ROS (Reactive Species Oxidation) production, which means we are getting more oxidative damage and an increase of inflammation to our skin than we would during times of no stress. This increase in hormones that affects oxidative damage and inflammation pathways is how stress has a direct impact on our skin.”
☆ Diet: Given the stress of the current situation and the fact that we’re home more than ever, our diets have changed. And, we’re probably indulging in comfort food a little bit more than usual.
“Comfort foods usually have a much higher sugar/carbohydrate/not-so-good fat content to them (because no one ever made themselves feel better by eating a salad), and this plays a role on your skin as it disrupts the microbiome in our gut, which then expresses itself on our face,” Calfas said.
“Perhaps pre-COVID-19, we had a large water bottle at our desk that we would make a point of finishing by the time our workday is done. At home, it is much easier to ignore the water and opt for a coffee hit (especially if it doesn’t involve paying $4.50 each time), or perhaps even a cheeky lunchtime wine because who’s going to know? And it’s not like you have to drive home. We become dehydrated and over-loaded with sugar, and it literally shows on your face.”
☆ Change of routine: Calfas also points to change in routine as having an effect on our skin. “With our lives as we know it being flipped on its head, it is so easy to have our usual routines fall by the wayside,” she said.
“You no longer have to get up at 5.00am to get to the gym for your workout before coming home, showering and getting to work. So perhaps whilst you’re lounging in bed until 8.00am, you get up, get dressed, have brekkie, and totally forget about your normal skincare routine.
“Or in the evening, because you are out of routine, you fall asleep on the lounge at 10.00pm watching Grey’s Anatomy reruns and totally forget about your evening skincare routine. So our skin suffers. Not only are we no longer nourishing our skin through diet, but we are also no longer nourishing our skin from the outside.”
How to treat breakouts in isolation
When it comes to treating iso skin, Calfas recommends identifying exactly what is causing the breakouts. If stress is the culprit, implementing strategies to manage this will, in turn, help your skin.
“Start using the time you would normally be travelling to work to do a 10-minute mindful meditation to help reduce your cortisol levels,” Calfas said.
“Passionflower and lavender are great for helping to reduce anxiety, so see a naturopath or herbalist (virtually) for some herbal remedies that can help if you are still feeling stressed. Sit in the sun. Just 10-20mins three to four times a week will help to stimulate your vitamin D levels, which can have a positive effect on mood and anxiety.”
Otherwise, if you think that your diet is the cause behind your iso skin, have a think about what you’ve been eating. Is sugar the main ingredient in a lot of the foods you’ve been consuming? According to Calfas, it can have an impact on your skin.
“A lot of the microbiome in your gut feeds on sugar, so eating a lot of it (whether it’s fructose from apples or sucrose from a chocolate bar) will actually create an imbalance in the gut,” she said.
“Having a good quality collagen supplement, a greens powder and some fermented foods such as kefir and kimchi are ways to nourish and support a struggling GIT (gastrointestinal system), which can, in turn, have a positive effect on your skin.
“Liver support is also crucial. The main purpose of your liver is detoxification. You really want to ensure that your liver is functioning as best it can so that it can do its job properly. Eating avocados, asparagus, potatoes, watermelon and spinach will provide you with sources of glutathione, which is considered to be the ‘mother of all antioxidants’.
“Ensuring you have a diet with plenty of selenium-rich foods such as brazil nuts and tuna, is also important to support the liver, and cysteine-containing foods such as bananas, sunflowers and legumes, which helps to boost your glutathione.”
If making these changes don’t make a marked difference to your skin, then its time to reach out and ask for professional guidance. Many beauty therapists, naturopaths, nutritionists and herbalists are still working and doing virtual consultations, so get in touch with the one best suited to you.
“Before you go and spend your hard-earned money on skincare, get professional advice,” Calfas said.
“Speaking with a skincare expert is the best way to ensure you use products that are most suited to your skin and your skin problem. Self-prescribing usually ends up with a cupboard full of products that you can’t and won’t use.
“A professional can put you on to the products most likely to be able to help, and it should always be a relatively easy skincare routine — exfoliate on a daily basis, use your serums and moisturisers and sunscreen when you need it.”
And, finally, Calfas has one final message when it comes to treating breakout, and that is to stop picking!
“As tempting as it is, you are only going to spread bacteria around, traumatise the skin and possibly create a scar,” she said. “So put your fingers down, and back away from the mirror.”
Madeline Calfas is the founder of The Wellness Group. BA Nursing, BA Naturopathy, Adv Dip. Naturopathy, Adv. Dip Nutrition, Adv. Dip Western Herbal Medicine, A5M certified.