Covid is a fact of life for all of us now, either we have had it or we may get it in future.
There is a huge variation in how people experience it, and so we are seeing some clients who have seen a big impact in their skin, others not so much.
I want to talk about some of the things that you may, or may not, see, after Covid.
I want to note that I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice, but my experience in working with skins on a daily basis for 20 years, pre and post pandemic. I am qualified to work with skin, but not Covid, and in fact there is currently very little known about Covid & the skin, as the research focuses on the wider health implications right now. For now, hands-on therapists like myself and my team, are on the ‘front line of skin care’ if you will. We see skin daily, many skins which we have known for decades, and we know if they are behaving differently.
Here is what we are seeing….
1. We are seeing more clients than ever before with dermatitis around the mouth. This is quite a simple one really.
There are myriad things living on our skin, bacterias, mites, all things that are part of the natural eco-system of the skin and are not ‘wrong’ they are simply part of us.
These populations live in relative harmony because they each need and use different things to survive.
For example, certain bacteria cannot survive, or find it harder to survive, in the presence of oxygen. Oxygen merely flowing over our faces from the air around us, keeps them under control. If the makeup of the gas in the air close to the skin were to change, we could expect those populations to be affected.
For example, if we were to have a mask on, breathing out into an enclosed space, and with less fresh air touching our faces, we could expect some change.
Such changes can lead to an increased proliferation of certain bacteria, mites, etc.
This is why we are seeing more dermatitis in the creases around the mouth and around the mouth in general.
A note: this is not to say that we are not getting enough oxygen in our bodies. Not at all. Mask wearing does not have any discernible impact on how much oxygen you get inside you. You should definitely wear a mask to keep yourself safe whenever possible, because mask-wearing works. We are talking about the composition of the air directly underneath that mask, and the potential for it to change the populations on the skins surface.
So what can we do?
It is important to support the skins natural eco-system, the natural barrier function which is made up of lipids and other skin secretions, as well as keratinocytes, those surface cells people always mistakenly call ‘dead’ cells. (They’re not dead. Not till the second they fall off your face).
You must use skincare that supports this layer.
Do not overly remove the barrier. Use cleanser that is correct for your oil flow, as suggested by your skin therapist at Natashas.
Do not overly exfoliate the barrier. Use exfoliants that are correctly smooth or rough for your skin thickness, as recommended by your skin therapist here in the clinic.
Do not allow the skin to accumulate buildup that can be visibly seen on the surface, because this means micro-spaces where things can hide - such as p.acne’s bacteria, who hate oxygen & thrive when they can hide from it.
There are other bacteria which if allowed to over-grow, will cause dermatitis and that general redness that tends to follow the crease from nose to the corner of the lip.
This advice isn’t carte blanche permission to exfoliate the hell out of your skin. On the contrary - you must ask your skin therapist what is the correct exfoliation method for your unique skin thickness and health. We have exfoliants which use ultra gentle enzymes to ‘soften’ the bonds between the old cells, so they fall off a little sooner than they might have without our help. We have exfoliants that use chemical peel formulae to ‘melt’ those bonds instantly. Plus of course the exfoliants you know - the scrubs - which can be made of super-gentle shredded coconut flesh, or intense micro-beads which prepare you for serious regenerative procedures.
There are so many, we would never suggest you try to choose yourself. There is so much thought that goes into why we are choosing one exfoliant over another, and how often you’ll need to use it.
2. We are seeing more inflamed skin
I want you to think of inflammation as quite an umbrella term. It is not what first comes to mind when I say ‘inflamed’. It does not necessarily mean that the skin is swollen, red, sore.
Inflammation is your skins very clever response to many things.
The presence of irritants, poisons or foreign substances
Normal things like walking into a room with a different temperature, or taking off a sweater.
Your skin actually inflames constantly. You don’t see it though, because it constantly uses anti-inflammatories, produced inside you, to clean it up.
There is an endless dance of ‘inflame > disinflame > inflame > disinflame.’
So for the most part it happens and you never know.
The problem comes when there is something that is truly wrong with the skin such as bacterial overgrowth, which can be on the surface such as in dermatitis, or mite overgrowth, such as inside the oil folllicle with rosacea, or infection actually ripping through the side of the follicle, such as we see with pustular acne.
These conditions and many others require the skin to truly set off an inflammatory response and keep in that inflammatory response in order to isolate the infection, fight it, and break down the old damaged skin.
In such cases, inflammation is your best friend. You need it.
But when the emergency is over, healthy skin switches that off. It does so using self-manufactured anti-inflammatory hormones.
Your pimple is done, the skin calms down. Or it doesn’t, and you go into an inflammatory cycle that keeps your skin swollen, hot, dry, dull, and eventually causes more breakout, redness, and even pigmentation.
What you need to understand is the ‘how’ of making anti-inflammatories.
While a thousand papers can be written on this, we are about practical advice that you can implement at home.
The most simple thing you need to know is this:
You eat dietary fat: omega 3, 6 and 9.
You convert them, let’s say to a ‘pool’ of base building blocks
Once converted, you will use them to control skin inflammation.
But there are challenges.
1. You need to draw on the ‘pool’ to build other things, like stress & excitement (adrenal) hormones. In times of increased excitement or increased stress, you will have an emptier pool to draw from. This is why your eczema, acne, rosacea, dermatitis gets worse when you are stressed - but also when you are preparing for the best days of your life, such as a wedding or graduation ceremony.
2. Some people are genetically not very good at this conversion process and will tend to run short a lot easier
3. A vast number of people don’t eat enough of the right omegas to get the volume needed in the first place.
What to do about that?
We have all heard for many years the benefits of fish oil. I personally am not a huge fan of fish oil as the best solution, because I come from a commercial fishing family and I know my grandfather died with a deep concern for the future of our oceans. He was a man who made his fortune from fleets of fishing vessels and the sale of shellfish and fish of all kinds. He felt that the seas were being overfished, to our peril. There are benefits to using fish oil, and for those who choose tablets, it will help your skin to build anti-inflammatories. But we have other options, so I think we can do better.
The other reason is the meta-data analyses on fish oil use, are sketchy. We can always find a study to support what we want to say, it’s the nature of research that you’ll often find what you go looking for, so the scientific method has a way around that: once a large enough body of data exists across many studies, some clever person may collate it as if it was one data-set and see what it says. On balance, fish oil is often found to be a bit ho-hum.
I believe you can improve your fish oil intake by purchasing the entire fish from the market, preparing it at home, even if you simply ask the fishmonger to slice a salmon into steaks, and eat that.
To get your omega levels up to where I really see skins improve, I have always seen the best outcomes with plant-derived oils. Safflower oil is my all-time favourite, it seems to liquefy the skins sebum secretions very quickly and make them less sticky. In the pursuit of skin health we are not seeking to stop skin from secreting oil. Oil is liquid gold. We are looking to ensure the oil you do make is thin, flowing and healthy. Safflower oil gives us this within a few weeks, and I’ve seen beautiful outcomes on blackheads, swollen acne and irritated skin simply from adding Safflower oil to a diet.
Flaxseed oil is another oil that will boost the omega’s and help calm & heal skin. I like the organically farmed Flaxseeds from Waihi Bush in New Zealand, because I’ve been there, seen the production, and I know the soil in that area is rich, healthy and the air is clean. Waihi Bush is in itself a brand of oil, which I highly recommend, and you’ll see our favourite stocked brand Bestow Beauty also includes the Waihi Bush flaxseed oil.
Evening Primrose Oil is a great oil to help with the hormonal impact on skin. Traditionally women have used it to try to ease the symptoms of breast tenderness, peri-menopause and pre-menstrual syndrome. You’ll find it in our Beauty Plus oil blend for this reason, and for how it helps your body build skin anti-inflammatories.
3. We are seeing more people with pimples
It is impossible to quantify this because we have always seen many people with breakouts. I personally suffered acne which drove me to become a skin therapist, so it’s in the Natashas Skin Spa DNA and we get many referrals for it.
But what I notice about the clients coming into the spa post-lockdown is that they have damaged their acne with home treatments a lot more than what we used to see, and they are less willing to do what we ask them to.
People have become more aware of treatments that can be done to help with acne, they have had far more time watching YouTube, and investigating acne treatments online.
But at the same time they have invested in some other products & solutions which for whatever reason they believe are worthwhile, and they don’t want to stop them. This poses a really strange situation for a skin therapist, to have someone come to you saying ‘I have been unable to fix this on my own, what do you advise me to do’. And then to say ‘I will continue to try to fix this on my own, despite you advising me not to’.
We know we will get half the result and our own reputation will be compromised, so we have had to be a bit firmer with people and decline them treatment if they want to keep using the products they are using, which are clearly not working.
You could call it ‘Tough Love’. We can’t condone things we know will hurt you in the long run, and it hurts consumers to be investing in products that don’t work and taking advice from people who don’t know what they’re talking about full stop. Sadly I was in the GP office right here in this suburb a few weeks ago watching a waiting room short education clip on Acne. The video recommended ‘washing your face twice a day with ordinary soap.’
Soap will solidify the oil deposits inside your pores and cause more micro-comedones which lead to more breakouts. The video guy didn’t care about that. He was selling you into prescription meds, so why would he care about that?
This is what we are up against, so we are firm in the advice we give.
What to do about it?
Take a tablespoon of Beauty Plus Oil daily in your food. Don’t heat it, store in the fridge once it’s opened, and always, always mix it into eating-temperature food.
Eat oily fish more than you currently do. Once a week is useless, if you have a lack of omegas, and you’re doing once a week, clearly it’s not enough right? So up whatever you eat now and see what happens. Obviously if you have received medical dietetic advice to the contrary, follow that first as some people shouldn’t have too much fish.
Most of us could eat it three times a day with no problems.
Eat oily nuts like brazils, pecans and almonds, in small quantities as a snack.
Have your skincare recommended at your professional facial appointment in our Southbank skin clinic. There is no way around this, nothing replaces many years of education in skin science, no amount of product reviews will help you choose for yourself.
Use what your skin therapist suggests and you’ll see a major change.
4. We are seeing more pigmentation
Pigmentation is to be expected after the years we have had.
Pigment is not just made by the sun, it’s made by hormones, inflammation and medications. It’s made by livers not working properly, being ill, and many other things.
If you can see more pigment on your face, I want you to get a consultation where you’re going under the Observ Clinical Photography device. These devices see underneath the skin, not in the skin, UNDER it.
Pigment that sits in the top is visible to the naked eye. This is easy to treat. But pigment that sits in the deeper skin can’t always be seen. We need to know if there is anything there at that depth, because it changes the treatment options.
Deep pigment should never be touched by a laser, RF or any type of heat.
It will make it worse, and it’s a waste of money.
I am never one to knock younger or less experienced skin clinicians, because many of them are very good, however this is one thing I want you to remember:
The skin industry has been in a lockdown for the better part of the past 2 years. We lost a HUGE number of our experts. They have not returned to the industry.
This leaves the industry with a dearth of experienced professionals leading the clinics, and many clinics/salons/spas are being led by new grads, without the years of experience. It takes a lot of training and the right equipment to determine pigment depth.
Add to this that many clinics were not as lucky as us during the lockdowns. City of Melbourne gave us lots of support. However lots of skin businesses are playing catchup and this means ‘selling what is on sale’.
There is a greater risk than usual that you may be sold what is being promoted, rather than what is right for your skin, especially when it comes to pigment treatments this is one area where the wrong treatment can cause irreversible damage.
What to do?
Book an Observ skin consultation with our skin experts.
This will include clinical photography that sees under the skin, to determine where in the skin this pigment really sits, and therefore what to do about it.
Ask your skin therapist if you need SPF indoors. Screen time matters, fluorescent lighting matters.
Ask your therapist if you need a pigment regulator. These are serums that slow pigment overproduction and calm inflammation which is always a contributor to pigment.
Don’t book things because they are promoted as ‘the treatment to fix’ xyz.
Your skin is unique, and needs unique personalised advice.
That’s wraps up a lot of what we are seeing in the spa’s clinical rooms after Covid. We are happy to be able to wind back the years with our beautiful clients again, and to advise them on the path back to beautiful, healthy skin.
If you are booked in for a facial soon, we can’t wait to see you.
If you would like to try our skin treatments, simply book a Skin Consultation and Facial to be Decided on the Day appointment.
You are so welcome to relax at Natashas, you’ll be in very good hands.