Is Coronavirus (COVID-19) Stress Affecting Your Skin, Hair & Health? Here's Advice From the Experts by Belinda Lichty Clarke
It’s been widely reported that the coronavirus (COVID-19) quarantine is having a significant impact our emotional well-being. But there are physical responses, too, stemming from the stress of being relegated to our houses and the constant barrage of scary statistics and grim forecasts.
I tapped Dr. Sheg Aranmolate for his thoughts on how the stress of quarantine and being indoors affects our skin. Dr. Aranmolate earned his bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BSc) with a minor in Psychology from the University of Maryland, a master's degree in Applied Molecular Biology (MSc) from the University of Maryland, a master's degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Texas, and a doctorate in Medicine (MD) from the University of Tennessee. He is the founder of Leovard, a natural skin-care brand.
Photo: Dr. Sheg Aranmolate, founder of Leovard
“Social isolation and the lack of continuous social stimulus gradually takes a toll on our minds and health, and results in the activation of stress signals in our body,” says Dr. Aranmolate. “Stress is the body’s response to harm, either real or perceived, and this results in the activation of our ‘fight-or-flight’ mechanisms. Hence, during times of stress like physical illness, starvation, excessive physical strain or mental unease, our body releases and activates several stress response chemicals that are intended to help us overcome the undesirable events.”
Dr. Aranmolate explains that the integumentary system or the human skin, which is the largest organ by surface area, is not invulnerable to the effects of prolonged stress. Activation of stress hormones increases our blood sugars and lowers our immune system, which in turns makes us more susceptible to infections. This can lead to increased skin problems like acne, eczema and other times of dermatitis. Stress also leads to a dysregulation of our metabolism, and this often causes us to find comfort in eating unhealthy and high-caloric foods like fats and sugars, he says. “Stress also causes changes in our mood and behaviors, and this often disrupts our skin care routines and hygiene, resulting in the aggravation of several skin issues.”
For stressed-out skin, Dr. Aranmolate offers two key products from his Leovard line, the Leovard Lip Luster, for cracked lips, which can happen with stress, and Leovard Oil Fusion, an all-over body treatment that uses hemp seed oil, avocado oil, pure jojoba oil and other natural ingredients to soothe.
As for “bad for you” food cravings, Dr. Michael Rogowski, senior nutritionist for Plexus Worldwide, says stress eating is particularly detrimental to any sort of diet plan because it’s associated with cravings for and consumption of calorically dense foods. “No one is reaching for broccoli in the middle of an existential crisis. A helpful tip to prevent overeating, even when you are stuck in an environment in close proximity to food is to make the act more inconvenient and increase the level of conscious burden. For instance pre-portioning servings of foods in containers and placing it out of sight. You’re less likely to eat a sleeve of Oreos if they are packed in 15 different snack bags of a serving size of just two cookies.”
He adds that setting up a few habits to curb the snacking can help, such as brushing your teeth after you eat. “The flavor of the toothpaste doesn’t go with sweet snack foods and it is inconvenient to have to brush your teeth again,” he says. According to Dr. Rogowski, cooking from home is probably the most important tool in helping to maintain a healthy weight, because it goes hand in hand with the primary aspect of calorie restriction, which is portion control.
“For the most part, restaurants provide portions that are far beyond what you might select for yourself, let alone what you actually need to meet your caloric needs, because restaurants want the consumer to feel like they are getting a lot for their money,” he explains. “You might think it’s not a big deal, that you can just not eat the whole thing, but people have a tendency to eat what is served to them. Research shows that when presented with larger portion sizes, people’s caloric consumption increases.”
Finally, Dr. Rogowski offers this advice for maintaining a fitness regimen, keeping in mind that many of us are confined to small apartments. “A cheap and simple way to get a relatively intense workout in minimal space is to do circuits with calisthenics. Cycling between simple movements like pushups, squats, jumping jacks, high knees, and burpees can get your heart rate up quite a bit. A typical circuit would be 30 seconds of activity, alternated by 10 seconds of rest, until you’ve done 10 to 30 minutes, or alternatively one minute on with 30 seconds of rest. To make it harder, you increase the activity interval and/or decrease the rest interval.”
Finally, let’s talk about how the toll the quarantine is taking on our hair. Eva Proudman is a clinical trichologist (hair scientist) who works with CEL MD, a hair-care company that was created to combat hair loss with natural ingredients. “Stress can cause the hair to move from the growing phase into the resting phase, in huge numbers,” Proudman says. “A few months after a stressful period and the hair that has been resting suddenly sheds, and that’s when you see the excess hair."
The good news, she says, is that the hair loss when associated with stress is reversible once stress levels diminish. To help with hair thinning and hair loss, Proudman recommends the CEL Advanced Hair Supplement (you take it like a vitamin) and the Microstem Hair Stimulation Formula with biotin, ginseng and keratin.
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