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How stress affects the skin & acne: Post-lockdown skin problems

Lockdown skin is a thing – experts reveal how to treat it

stress and skin acne
Georgia Brown
Georgia BrownLifestyle Writer
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When the UK went into lockdown for the first time last year, we said goodbye to the grime of public transport and the sweaty commute and welcomed minimal late night socialising, makeup-free months and endless hours of Netflix. So WHY have you broken out? If your skin took a hit over lockdown and you're struggling to get back your glorious skin glow, the secret behind your breakouts could actually be stress – here's why.

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From blemishes to breakouts, adult acne and scarring, even those with enviable pre-pandemic skin were at risk of a changed complexion. As our daily routines drastically changed, it's no wonder our skin did too.

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HELLO! called on the experts at Young LDN to get to the bottom of what has caused our less-than-ideal skin changes.

How does stress affect the skin and acne?

Abbey Conley, Young LDN's Senior Medical Aesthetician revealed that stress can have a huge impact on the skin, even making existing skin conditions like acne, psoriasis and eczema flare up.

"Cortisol, in particular, causes increased sebaceous activity and oil production in the skin, which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. All this can lead to a vicious cycle of stress-induced acne, which can be increasingly difficult to break free from."

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What you might not know, is that our skin works in cycles. Without makeup and the daily pollution of a commute, you might expect your skin to be thriving – but the reality is that stress from up to 90 days ago could be showing up in the form of breakouts now.

According to Abbey: "A skin cycle is the process where a new skin cell is formed at the deepest layer of the epidermis and works its way up to surface of the skin where we can see it, which can take anywhere from 28 days to 3 months."


Wondering why your quarantine routine has left you with angry skin?

Your skin cycle is dependent on your age, hormones, existing skin conditions and stress. "On average, a skin cycle is around 5-6 weeks but this tends to get longer as we age, so it is not uncommon that high levels of stress over the past few months will have an affect on your skin shortly after" Abbey revealed.

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How to get rid of stress-induced breakouts

If stress is the cause of your skin problems, you might be wondering if products will *actually* work, or if you need to work on your mental and physical wellbeing to crack the breakout code.

According to Abbey: "products will help to balance the overactive sebaceous gland and remove the clogged dead skin -therefore preventing and helping to stop, fight and heal any acne lesions or under skin congestion."

However, remember the key to unlocking radiant skin is patience. No matter what products might promise, overnight results are unlikely and working towards a flawless complexion takes time.

Best products for stressed skin

Skin expert Abbey said when selecting ingredients for stress-related acne, you should consider using active ingredients to combat oil secretion and exfoliate the skin, as well as calming and hydrating products. "Using too many harsh products will create a secondary issue of dehydration."

To combat breakouts, a routine that combines salicylic acid with retinol can help to encourage skin cell regeneration. Pairing these active ingredients with hyaluronic acid and botanicals can help to soothe sore skin and get your glow back.


Clinisoothe+ Skin Purifier, £14.95, FeelUnique


Clinisoothe+ is a stressed skin saviour. Loved by leading dermatologists and their celebrity clients, a few sprays of this powerful hypochlorous formula cleanses the skin without causing any irritation - ideal for calming breakouts and soothing redness. 

face mask bodyblenz

2 in 1 Mask + Scrub Exfoliating Capsules, £11.51 / $15.99, BodyBlendz


Packed with natural goodness from a mix of organic essential oils, these capsules contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and anti-aging properties that helps promote smoother, clearer skin.

skinceuticals blemish age defense

SkinCeuticals Blemish & Age Defense, £90, LookFantastic


Investing in skincare that works is often worth it. SkinCeuticals' unique formula is a high potency serum that targets blemishes whilst improving the appearance of fine lines and uneven skin tone. Win, win. 

inkey list hyaluronic acid

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid, £599 / $7.99, Cult Beauty


A cult beauty favourite, incorporating hyaluronic acid into your skincare routine will help to bring moisture to the surface of your skin, getting you one step closer to a post-lockdown glow. 

paulas choice retinol

Paula's Choice Retinol 1%, £53 / $58, Cult Beauty


If you're not yet using a retinol, it's a really powerful skincare ingredient that could be the secret to clearer skin. Retinol targets deep beneath the outer layer of skin to your dermis. Once in this middle layer of skin, retinol helps promote the production of elastin and collagen - helping to get a more even skin tone.  

hey bud oil

Hemp Face Oil, £27, Hey Bud


Hey Bud formulations are inspired by a hemp plant’s ability to stop the sebaceous glands from producing excessive sebum, leading to a reduction of acne. The range is super hydrating and contains high levels of Omega 3 and 6 to aid collagen production, too.

skiclear elixir

Botanycl Skin Clear Elixir, £24.99, Holland & Barrett


Incorporating a botanical-based supplement into your diet can drastically improve your skin from within. Botanycl's formula naturally contains vitamin A and vitamin C, which both help to promote radiant skin.

faace skincare

Period Faace, £24, Faace


Periods can be a stressful time for your skin, so this Period Faace skincare product has been created specifically to help you to step off the seesaw of temperamental hormonal skin. Clever!

Most importantly, hang in there. With summer approaching and our Vitamin D levels more than ready for a sun-soaked top up (with SPF of course!), our days in isolation are soon to be a thing of the past – and our skin will likely thank us. Post-lockdown skin won't last forever. 

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