Lockdown ageing: What is it and how to reverse the damage

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  • Lockdown ageing is a new (and frankly unwelcome) addition to our beauty lexicon alongside other pandemic-induced beauty problems like ‘maskne’ and ‘Zoom face’.

    The phrase lockdown ageing refers to the school of thought that the last year has had a significant impact on our appearance. And as we consider news of the roadmap out of lockdown in UK, it’s becoming an increasingly pressing concern for some.

    What is lockdown ageing?

    Lockdown ageing is a term that refers to the affect that living through the pandemic and multiple lockdowns in the UK has had on our appearance and mental wellbeing. Closed salons, increased stress, more time looking at screens and an unhealthy relationship with the biscuit tin are just some of the reasons why most of us are emerging from the pandemic feeling far from fresh-faced and bushy tailed.

    According to a survey by cosmetic treatment firm Uvence, 36% of Britons feel they have visible signs of stress and premature ageing, and 14% feel they look at least 5 years older as a result of the stress of Covid-19. 

    Of course, all of this is amplified by the hours spent studying our faces on a seemingly unending stream of video calls. Yes, it could be a case that those fine lines and dark circles weren’t there before the pandemic – or were we simply too busy having fun to notice?

    Whether your concerns are new or not, to reverse the signs of lockdown ageing, we need to identify which triggers are having the biggest impact on your appearance.

    How to reverse lockdown ageing

    How to reverse lockdown ageing caused by stress

    Did you know, a high stress lifestyle can make you look 3.5 years older? Triggered by everything from trauma to an overwhelming to-do list, “feelings of emotional distress lead to the release of a stress hormone cortisol,” explains Dr Alia Ahmed, a consultant dermatologist part of the psychodermatology team at The Royal London Hospital. 

    “Cortisol makes the skin less able to defend itself, drives allergic responses, delays healing and disrupts the skin’s natural barrier. The effects seen on skin can vary, including feeling dry and itchy, as well as the formation of lines, wrinkles, pigmentation and dull skin.” 

    Essentially, with the body put into ‘fight or flight mode’, it prioritises oxygen and blood flow for your vital organs, sending skin to the bottom of the list.  Stress can also show in your hair, causing it to thin or fall out in patches. It also isn’t a myth that hair can go grey from stress.

    The solution

    The phrase ‘self-care’ may have become overused, but the sentiment remains an important one. Taking time to care for your skin and hair in a calm, peaceful way – think putting on a hair mask and reading for 10 minutes while it works it’s magic, or even taking 1 minute to massage in your serum before bed – will lower your cortisol levels in the process. 

    When it comes to dealing with stress, it’s also important to find relaxing activities to try like yoga, deep breathing or going for a walk outside in the sun. You can also try these relaxation techniques for stress and learn how to destress your whole body over time.

    Products to try:

    Garden of Wisdom’s Neurophroline Serum

    Garden of Wisdom’s Neurophroline Serum

    A hero ingredient on the rise, neurophroline works wonders on frazzled complexions. As cortisol spikes, it destroys collagen, leaving fine lines and wrinkles in its wake. Neurophroline counteracts that, breaking down cortisol to return skin to its former glory. With a few weeks commitment this will leave skin softer, smoother and firmer.

    VIEW NOW – £18 | Victoria Health

    Keys Soulcare Be Luminous Exfoliator

    Keys Soulcare Be Luminous Exfoliator

    With our bodies busily looking after our vitals, skin cell turnover slows when we’re anxious. And with dead skin cells building up, skin loses its luminosity. This water-activated powder used tiny granules in a satisfyingly creamy foam to buff them away. It smells amazing too, helping your mind to unwind.

    VIEW NOW – £22 | Cult Beauty 

    How to reverse lockdown ageing caused by increased screen time

    Remember a time when we didn’t just move from one screen to the other without a decent break? Most of us use computers for work and a TV to unwind, with snatches of spare time in between spent scrolling on our phones.  

    “The widespread and increasing use of smartphones, tablets and laptops have led to a significant increase in exposure to short-wavelength visible light – specifically blue light, on skin,” says Aesthetic Nurse and Etre Vous expert Anna Baker.

    “This is an area of evolving research in terms of understanding the extent to which this may damage skin. To date, we understand that blue light triggers oxidative stress which damages healthy cells, contributing to visible signs of ageing. Equally, there is growing evidence which suggests that blue light may worsen or trigger hyperpigmentation in skin of colour.”

    The solution 

    Of course, the best thing to do is to minimise screen time, but if that’s not a practical (or appealing) solution, there are other things you can try. Shield your skin from blue light in the same way you would protect it from the sun, by using targeted creams to create a barrier between your skin and the screen. 

    Products to try: 

    Indeed Laboratories Hydraluron + Moisture Mist

    Indeed Laboratories Hydraluron + Moisture Mist

    Antioxidants are key in the battle against blue light, and this is moisture mist has plenty of them. Spritz on during the day as needed to protect skin from your screens.

    VIEW NOW – £24.99 | Boots

    Bad Habit Daily Dose Multivitamin Moisturiser

    Bad Habit Daily Dose Multivitamin Moisturiser

    We love a multi-tasker, and this aptly-named moisturiser is brimming with benefits. Alongside a vitamin-packed formula it contains red rice extract, an ingredient known for it’s anti-pollution and anti-blue light benefits, forming a shield against daily stressors.

    VIEW NOW – £24 | Morphe

    How to reverse lockdown ageing caused by less time spent outside

    With government restrictions on exercise keeping both social contact and time to work out to a minimum, it’s no wonder most of us have experienced something akin to hibernation over the past few months. 

    Although a step back from pollution-filled commutes is a welcome bonus for most, working from home, homeschooling and rarely leaving the house comes with its own problems. Stifling central heating and a lack of sunlight does not make for a happy complexion, and is likely to leave skin dry and lacklustre instead of youthful and glowing. 

    The solution

    Getting outside and moving your body – even just by going for a gentle walk – whenever possible will improve both your physical and mental health. It will also reduce the appearance of lockdown ageing  – putting colour back into previously sallow cheeks. When it comes to skincare, a chemical exfoliant will whisk away the cobwebs (read: old skin cells) clogging up and dulling down tired winter skin. Or, fake it until you make it with tinted moisturiser, a slick of fake tan or a pop of blush.

    Products to try:  

    Garnier Organic Rosy Glow 3-in-1 Youth Cream

    Garnier Organic Rosy Glow 3-in-1 Youth Cream

    See your skin through rose-tinted glasses with the help of this radiance-boosting moisturiser. It harnesses vitamin C to brighten and rosehip oil to nourish.

    VIEW NOW – £8.99 | Feel Unique 

    No7 Lip & Cheek Tint

    No7 Lip & Cheek Tint

    Powdery blushers will only draw attention to signs of lockdown ageing, by settling into fine lines. For a more youthful option, try a liquid blush instead. This one is easy to apply with fingers, and can double as a lip tint too.

    VIEW NOW – £10 | Boots

    How to reverse lockdown ageing caused by lack of sleep 

    Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Everyone should aim for at least 8 hours a night of uninterrupted sleep, but we know that’s not always possible. Especially with many of us experiencing vivid dreams and more nightmares during lockdown.

    “There are studies that show that chronic lack of sleep, which disrupts the circadian rhythm, can lead to an acceleration of the signs of ageing,” says Dr. Meghan O’Brien, Global Consulting Dermatologist at Kiehls. It’s most likely to show itself in a sallow complexion, puffiness and dark circles. 

    The solution

    We’re always on the lookout for ways to get a good night’s sleep. Alongside this viral sleep hack, limiting screen time and taking steps to unwind before bed will increase your chances of nodding off. Rituals like spritzing a relaxing pillow spray can help too, helping your mind to associate particular scents with a sense of calm. If you’ve been tossing and turning all night, a targeted eye cream will get rid of dark circles come morning.

    Products to try:

    My Clarins Re-Fresh Roll-On Eye De-Puffer

    My Clarins Re-Fresh Roll-On Eye De-Puffer

    Glide the metal applicator over puffy skin to instantly soothe. The fresh gel texture, made up of coconut water and alpine rose, is a joy to use.

    VIEW NOW – £17 | Boots

    Child’s Farm Baby Bedtime Pillow Spray

    Child's Farm Baby Bedtime Pillow Spray

    Not a fan of traditional lavender scents? No problem. Thus one uses a soothing citrus aroma instead. Even better, it’s safe to use for both you and your little one.

    VIEW NOW – £7.99 | Boots