Covid-19 has changed 2020 to be a year that we will forever remember. However it has also taught us important hygiene practices and emphasized how important it is to take care of our health. One of the most important aspects to our overall health and well-being is our skin health.
According to Dr Alekya Singapore, Consultant Dermatologist, Cosmetologist and Trichologist, Apollo Clinics & Apollo Cradle, Hyderabad says that our skin acts as the front-line barrier to infection and its health is something that many unfortunately overlook. Losing this barrier is detrimental to our health and increases the risk of developing infection, she warns. She also adds that due to pandemic conditions prevailing outside, stress can also cause flare-ups of autoimmune conditions that affect the skin.
According to medical experts, there are a few simple steps we can all implement to maintain our skin health.
Hand-washing and Moisturizers
As recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), vigilant hand-washing and the use of alcohol-based sanitizers is one of the most important ways we protect ourselves from Covid-19 and infectious diseases.
Dr Alekya Singapore, Consultant Dermatologist, Cosmetologist and Trichologist, Apollo Clinics & Apollo Cradle, Hyderabad cautions that nevertheless, it must be remembered that sanitizers do not substitute hand-washing; we recommend our patients to always wash their hands whenever possible. Furthermore she also warns the patients to note that frequent hand-washing and sanitizers not only removes bacteria or viruses from our skin surfaces, but also the moisture content from the superficial layers of our skin. This result in dry, dehydrated and fissured skin that can also lead to eczematous dermatitis, she says. It is therefore of great importance that we remember to regularly apply moisturizer soon after hand-washing, she advises.
Moisturizers hydrate the skin and prevent it from drying and infections. Apply moisturizers that are rich in ceramide content and those that are thicker in consistency. Avoid products with fragrance, artificial flavours and parabens. It is always better to apply a moisturizer on a damp skin as it helps to retain the moisture for longer hours.
Effect on Vitamin D
Exposure to sunlight is of great importance to our body’s physiology and in particular the activation of vitamin D. During these periods of isolation and limiting ourselves from going outside, our bodies’ levels of vitamin D will lower and can affect our skin, hair.
According to Dr Alekya Singapore, Consultant Dermatologist, Cosmetologist and Trichologist, Apollo Clinics & Apollo Cradle, Hyderabad “Low levels of Vitamin D can also affect your bones, kidneys, absorption of other minerals, and mood”. She advises those staying indoors for longer periods to try their best to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D and one of the most efficient ways is to use vitamin D supplements. Our body’s requirements for vitamin D increases as we get older, but it is generally recommended that adults take 1000 units of vitamin D daily, she suggests.
Stress, Skin and Hair conditions
Already many of us face the daily stresses of work and family; Covid-19 has further added to this. Stress can cause flare-ups of certain skin and hair conditions as it directly affects immunity, particularly conditions like - psoriasis, acne, rosacea, and eczematous dermatitis. Managing each condition will be based on the individual, but recognizing the early symptoms of a flare and consulting a certified dermatologist will be extremely beneficial to prevent further damage or complications.
Stress also has its effect on various hormone levels. It can cause our sebaceous glands to secrete more oils, making our skin and hair oily and greasy resulting in acne breakouts and development of dandruff leading to hair fall. In times of severe stress or disease, our bodies automatically adjust to a mode of survival and divert nutrition away from our hair and to our vital organs. In such circumstances, this may manifest as thinning of hair, alopecia, or severe hair fall.
Maintaining Healthy Skin and Hair
Dr. Dr Alekya Singapore, Consultant Dermatologist, Cosmetologist and Trichologist, Apollo Clinics & Apollo Cradle, Hyderabad says that the first step for a healthy skin and hair begins with good maintenance. Following simple and basic rules like using mild soaps while bathing daily, applying moisturizer immediately after bath and applying a good sunscreen with at least a SPF 30 on exposed parts is important for healthy skin, she advises. Healthy hair is achieved by washing your hair regularly with a good and mild shampoo and Supplements can also aid in the maintenance of healthy skin and hair, she suggests. Further she says that for skin, I recommend vitamin C and omega 3 fatty acids as daily supplements to achieve a healthy, hydrated skin and Hair can also be supplemented with biotin and topical protein serums.
Healthy skin and hair is vital for our body’s protection from infection. During this COVID-19 pandemic, changes in lifestyles such as regular hand washing, staying indoors and the general new stresses of being in this time of uncertainty can cause flare-ups in chronic conditions and increases the risk of developing infections. Learning to incorporate regular washing of skin and hair, moisturizing and using supplements are some simple ways to best maintain the health of our skin and hair. Managing stress by being close to family and seeking counselling can reduce the risk of flare-ups developing. As always, seeing a certified dermatologist can allow treatments and supplements to be tailored to the individual, and provide the best maintenance care.