Skin care tips from TheDorchester's super-facialist Adeela Crown
by Alessandro Ferrara
The good and bad skincare habits we have developed during the lockdown and how to rectify them
The skincare landscape has changed since the pandemic and grooming habits have shifted. With trending hashtags being #selfcare #lockdownskin #homespa - the at-home DIY versions of beauty products, devices and tool use continued to increase as the pandemic wore-on. This prolonged isolation forced us to take skincare matters into our own hands, leading to some good and some terribly bad skincare habits. We called upon arguably the world's best 'super-facialist' Adeela Crown, in residency at The Dorchester, to snap us out of our bad skincare habits.
The cause: With lockdown came a new era of video conference calls. Cue staring at blurry images of our own faces, and a realisation that we need to put our best face forward. With no access to professional treatments for a year we’ve been left to our own devices to trim, maintain, exfoliate, mask and tan.
When the option of popping along to your monthly facial appointment was suddenly taken away, we all had to learn to get creative at home and brush up on our own beautician skills. With a wealth of (and often confusing overload of) information available on the internet most resorted to self-diagnosing to treat their own skincare issues. Where in the pre-covid world most people would have made an appointment with a professional aesthetician or dermatologist to first analyse, diagnose and then treat their skincare issues with the help of a trained eye, most are now self-treating at-home without that valuable guidance.
Result; Buying strong peels online unsuited to skin types and using at-home without a prep solution or neutraliser, leading to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or worse burning skin tissue by leaving peels on for longer than recommended time for different skin types. Overzealously using Retinol and other actives, without understanding how to build skin’s tolerance, over-exfoliating with home cleansing devices causing micro-tears in skin, leading to infected pores or spread of acne. Over-using BHA solutions to self-treat acne, causing chronic inflammation. The list is long and worrying. Inevitably leading to long-term skincare issues for the professional facialist/aesthetician to deal with and try and fix post-lockdown.
The solution: Though the physical doors of the beauty industry have been closed most facialists and dermatologists have kept their virtual doors open. Where being an international facialist with global residencies I personally only ever held virtual-consultations with my overseas clients, I suddenly saw a big surge in virtual 1-2-1 skin consultations and my Skindance face massage tutorial bookings from both regular and new clients.
Virtual consultations are much like a face-to-face consultation, just without the touch aspect. Through a trained eye and knowledge us professionals can coax skin secrets from you and decipher their causes and give guided solutions in the shape of tailored at-home skincare routine, appropriate products with the correct ingredients your skin is lacking in. So treat it like a support network. You are not alone in your skincare journey, you have a virtual skin-guide there to help.
Book a Virtual Consultation or #Shelfie skin-health check-up with Adeela Crown
Over or misuse of actives
The cause: Being forced to adapt and maintain skincare practices at home has turned daily skincare into a more personal and private experience. The upside is that we are suddenly more interested in self-care and feel rewarded when we see positive skin results. The downside is that armed with our newly-googled internet knowledge and to make use of this extended downtime available at-home, we rabidly started buying products containing strong active ingredients. This eagerness to use actives like Retinol or stronger Retin-A for resurfacing, Vitamin C, hydroquinone or kojic acid for lightening, AHA/BHA/PHA acids for peeling has ushered-in a rise in misuse and inevitable side-effects. Trial and error and mix-and-match of these actives can cause serious skin damage as most actives are designed to alter skin’s pH, work on different layers of the skin or can even cancel each other’s effectiveness if used in the wrong order, or concentration.
The solution: The skin doesn’t enjoy being overloaded, on the other hand some problematic skincare issues like textural imperfections, pigmentation, melasma and acne scarring can only be addressed using specific active ingredients. Follow my 5-step plan when delving into the tricky world of active ingredients.
Start by booking a virtual consultation with your Facialist/aesthetician to work out your at-home skincare game-plan.
As a rule of thumb, don’t use more than two actives on your skin on any given day.
Thirdly, don’t mix, blend or layer actives. For example, if using Vitamin C in the morning, use another active like a light Retinol or AHA at night. (Retinols or AHAs shouldn’t be used every night – skip days and swap them with hydrating serums & creams) Start slow with a low concentration retinol containing 0.25% - 0.5% max.
Most importantly, actives make the skin more vulnerable to the sun than usual, so always apply SPF – even if you spend most of your time indoors (more on that later).
Once a fortnight try at-home microneedling – a resurfacing treatment that increases absorption and efficacy of your active ingredients. Usually associated with downtime which otherwise needed to be planned around your work, social, weekend commitments, you can now carry out without the worry of not being able to face the world whilst the skin heals and repairs itself.
The cause: Having been home-bound for so long we are not eating the same or exercising the way we used to. Our work/business/earnings have been affected causing stress. When we’re anxious the body ramps up cortisol production, causing inflammation and can also result in an increase in oil production in the sebaceous glands, eventually leading to breakouts. Lack of cleansing and hygiene also plays a role in breakouts.
Since resuming appointments I have been seeing a rise in scar tissue and pigmentation on my client’s skins left by DIY extractions of pimples, blackheads and whiteheads. Though popping that new angry pimple on your face may be super-tempting and rather satisfying, it’s important to remember that even the slightest bit of over-pressure, lack of disinfection before and after or using internet-bought extraction tools will leave the skin with the kind of scarring that’ll take a long time to heal and repair afterwards.
The solution: Not all pores are created equally, so the first rule of facial extraction is to realise that not all pores should be squeezed. When you squeeze the skin and ‘burst’ the pimple, you’re creating a tear in the skin, which then needs to heal and can leave a scar. Avoid any deep or painful pimples, like cysts, completely. These tend to look red and lumpy with no visible head.
Steaming skin is also essential to soften the contents of pores. Do this by taking a shower, applying a warm compress, or simply hanging your face over a bowl of hot water. Next, wash your hands thoroughly. This helps prevent dirt and bacteria from being transferred back into your pores during extraction. While you can use your bare fingers, a better bet is to wrap them in tissue, wear gloves, or use two cotton buds (dipped in a skin-friendly disinfectant) to press.
I’m a huge advocate of blue light therapy for the treatment of spots and acne – this is because it targets one of the root causes of the problem, killing the bacteria that causes problem skin to develop. Invest in wearable LED masks. These sci-fi looking gadgets may be very instagramable but the diode technology has profound skin rejuvenating benefits. A blue light LED session of up to 30 mins 2 -3 times a week will neutralise p.acnes bacteria and also rev-up your skin’s cellular engine to give you a healthy lasting glow. Home-use LED masks have become lightweight and are wearable, allowing you to multi-task whilst you work from your desk.
CURRENTBODY– LED Light therapy Mask - £265
HEV & SPF overlooked
The cause: Facing your phone and devices is ageing your face! Blue light (HEV) – high energy visible light is one of the silent agers of our generation. Electronic devices emit a blue light (HEV) light that can lead to elastin and collagen damage, pigment changes and ultimately photo ageing. Evidence suggests that daily exposure can penetrate deeper into lower layer of skin compared to UVA and UVB sunlight.
During my virtual consultations and treatments a worrying fact has been highlighted that whilst working from a home desk, set up near a window, during isolation most of my clients have not been wearing SPF indoors because they feel they’re not exposed to the sun. Wrong! Glass may block the high intensity UVB wavelengths responsible for burning, but the skin damaging and ageing UVA light still gets through.
Both HEV and sun ray damage is not immediately visible on the surface of the skin. I don’t doubt that we’ll be seeing long term effects of this lapse in daily indoor sun care for months and years to come.
The solution: To reduce HEV exposure to skin, when WFH connect headphones to answer calls so your phone isn’t near your face. Setting a nightly timer to automatically switch your device to night mode will disable blue light in favour of yellow light. It’ll benefit your skin and improve your sleep too.
Daily application of SPF doesn’t just shield your skin from photo-damage when you’re outdoors. A study conducted in 2015 showed that constant use of SPF30 over the course of a year also reversed the signs of photo ageing. So, if applying a sunscreen seems like yet another skincare step then start blending an edamame bean-sized amount with your daily moisturiser in the palm of your hand. It’ll seamlessly become a part of your daily routine.
New-age antioxidant boosters are serum-like topical skin supplements that can be blended to your nightly serum or moisturiser to strengthen your skin’s defence barrier against environmental stressors like pollution, infrared, HEV damage.
Netflix nights - lack of sleep
The cause: Netflix and other streaming platforms have reportedly seen a surge in subscriber numbers this year, as lockdowns around the world kept people at home where they wanted to be entertained and distracted from their sofas. Having such a wide selection of content at our finger-tips is a double-edged sword. Studies so far have shown that people who binge-watch report poorer sleep, increased levels of insomnia and greater fatigue the following day. Electronic screens emit broad-spectrum light, including HEV blue light. Night-time exposure to the blue light also disrupts the circadian rhythm, our body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.
Binge watching can create a drug-like effect on our brain, triggering similar feelings to addiction. During binge-watching sessions, we are immersed in worlds and storylines that we find enjoyable. This immersion leads our brains to release dopamine, the hormone associated with pleasure. So our brain tells us to keep going as it feels good. Similar to drug-use your body becomes addicted to any activity or substance that produces dopamine.
The solution: Prolonged sleep deprivation cause a break in skin barrier function and mucous membranes. In fact, the reduction of sleep time affects the composition and integrity of various brain and body systems, which in turn impairs skin’s integrity to repair and defend itself.
Set an alarm the old-fashioned way at least 30-60mins before bedtime to remind yourself to switch off the TV and devices. Read a book. Brew a calming tea containing chamomile, rose, and fennel to soothe senses. Take a sleep supplement. Not to be confused with sleeping pills, sleep supplements normally contain herbal adaptogens with neuroprotective properties for restfulness, in capsule or powder form to take with your bedtime beverage.
Stress eating & sugar leading to glycation
The cause: A host of skin afflictions in quarantine arise from the over-indulgent ‘stress-eating’ at home. Stress increases free radical regeneration, oxidative stress and raised levels of cortisol which degenerates collagen. Stress is also a major driver behind you comfort-eating high GI foods like cakes, biscuits and crisps. Weight gain isn’t the only issue to worry about as sugar is also responsible for a skin deteriorating process called glycation.
Glycation is a process where sugar molecules attach themselves to other molecules, for example proteins and fats. One of these affected proteins is collagen, which results in loss of the skin’s elasticity. It doesn’t end there, glycation also causes free radical formation, oxidative stress and inflammation, all of which accelerate ageing.
The sugar and refined carbohydrates cause a surge of the hormone insulin, which can lead to increased levels of testosterone and in turn can contribute to acne. Secondly, as it can stimulate sebum production leading to clogged pores and inflammation.
The solution: Get more sleep to reduce body’s insulin sensitivity and glucose dependency. Look out for fructose found in juices, salad dressings and sauces as it causes more glycation than glucose. Stress less. Though there’s is no one size fits all when it comes to stress management – the secret really is about finding out what works for you and building it into your daily routine. This could be exercise, meditation, journaling, listening to music, yoga, talking to your friends, walking your dog, dancing around your bedroom – whatever brings you joy.
We should use this forced hiatus and the extra time suddenly available to us to practice a 5mins nightly facial massage with your favourite oil or even a mask (for both hydration & slip). Use a Gua Sha massage tool help drain and soften lines & furrows. The enhanced blood circulation will boost your immune system & increase lymph drainage. The happy side-effect is firmer skin and sculpted facial muscles!
P.S. I always tell my clients that if all of my clients practice a 5mins face massage at home 2-3 nights a week, they’d all have such positive skin benefits that I’d probably see 50% less clients!
To book a treatment with Adeela Crown visit The Dorchester Spa