Did Covid-19 Damage My Skin?

Once I look back at photos of myself, I’m furious with myself for wasting a lot time and energy examining every pore. Despite my critical inner monologue that likes to think things like, ‘Ew have a look at that brow wrinkle,’ the actual fact is, I’ve had good skin my entire life. Because I’ll spend the remainder of this story complaining, let me get this out of the way in which: I’m lucky! After all, I’d get a breakout occasionally, but on most days my skin could chug along like an enthralling middle child, needing no attention because the opposite kids (my hair, my body, my nails) were the issue children, all the time demanding something from me.

After which, almost exactly a yr ago, my favorite, easy middle child decided enough was enough. It began with a painful breakout on my chin (considered one of those deep-rooted, invisible pimples that suuuuuck), and by the point it healed, something was happening on my cheek. After which my other cheek. After which my chin again. Out of nowhere, after twenty-four years of being near-perfect, my skin threw a fit.

I’m a beauty editor, which comes with a number of pros and cons. Cons: I spent months trying to recollect which products I’d been using in December, when my skin still loved me. My friend Isabel spent the Holidays with me, so I texted her: “That is going to sound so silly, but whenever you were here for Christmas, do you remember what skincare products I used to be using? I’m attempting to work out why my skin was higher then, but I can’t remember what I used to be testing.” She didn’t remember but suggested I keep a skincare journal to maintain track.

text messages

It’d sound melodramatic, but the reality is, I panicked. I became absolutely obsessive, taking photos of my skin day by day, writing down every product I used (which I probably should’ve done earlier anyway), and diagnosing myself with various skin diseases on TikTok. I washed my pillowcases continuously, I swapped out my hand towels, and I modified my food regimen and my skincare routine on a whim. And nothing I did made a difference in any respect.

I sat my then-boyfriend (now fiancée) Willem down for a war council. “Okay,” I told him. “We want to go over all the pieces that happened between December and February and work out what modified.” We discussed laundry detergents, stress levels, flights, and expired makeup. After which Willem looked up at me with a dawning expression and said, “In January we got Covid.”

in january we got covid

Lucky, again: Covid wasn’t bad for me. The morning after Recent Yr’s–January 1st, 2022–Willem got sick. About per week later, I caught it. I used to be very congested, much more anxious, but overall, it was nothing to write down home about. We recovered quickly, and I didn’t think much about it. And I definitely didn’t think it could possibly be the cause for my recent breakouts. Is that even possible?

The link between pimples and the pandemic isn’t recent. “On account of increased contact with personal protective equipment and excessive personal hygiene, some conditions which have emerged are contact dermatitis, itchy or irritated skin, pressure urticaria, and exacerbation of preexisting pimples and dermatitis,” says Dr. Dendy Engelmen, a dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon working in Recent York City. But beyond “maskne,” could the virus actually be triggering long-lasting skin conditions?

Covid is recent. And the actual fact is, it’ll probably be years–a long time–before we fully understand its impact on our bodies. “We all know that Covid has larger effects on the body beyond the initial lung issues that we don’t completely understand,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, Associate Professor of Dermatology and the Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Recent York City. “I actually have seen a wide range of rashes likely related to Covid, but after the infection resolves, many patients proceed to complain of issues like recent onset pimples or rosacea, or eczema-like rashes or hives.”

tatjana skin before covid

For the moment, the link between skin reactions and Covid isn’t definite. But doctors are seeing it an increasing number of often. “I actually have seen many recent and worsening cases of psoriasis and eczema for instance in patients after they recovered from Covid,” says Dr. Karan Lal, a double-board certified pediatric and cosmetic dermatologist based out of Scottsdale, Arizona. “Considered one of the most important complaints I actually have heard post-Covid is dry skin. I actually have also had many ladies complain of latest onset hormonal pimples on their chin and jawlines which they never had before. Interestingly, there are also patients which have lost their ability to reply to Botox and other neuromodulators.”

It’s not only skin, either. People tell me about their thinning hair, changes with their menstrual cycles, or unexplained weight changes. “We all know Covid is related to long-term changes in our immune system,” says Dr. Lal. “I believe it’s the shift within the immune system and skin microbiome that’s accountable for a few of these changes.” And yet, a lot continues to be unknown. “We just don’t understand why some people’s immune systems react more strongly to the virus than others,” says Dr. Zeichner. “This is very true of other manifestations that we’re seeing related to exposure to the virus. It’s as if the infection sets off the chain response we don’t fully understand, resulting in changes within the skin.”

My initial suspicion was that Covid one way or the other messed with my hormones. “We all know that androgen hormones in our bodies impact the Covid infection, perhaps explaining why men are typically more affected than women,” Dr. Zeichner adds. Androgen hormones are the fellows accountable for sebum production within the skin. “It’s unclear whether the infection ultimately has any long-term effects on hormone production. Anecdotally, I can inform you that in testing hormone levels of my patients coming in with recent pimples after Covid, I personally haven’t seen any uptick in hormonal abnormalities. Perhaps any recent onset pimples could also be related to a change within the immune system, reacting more to pimples, causing bacteria on the skin.”

So let’s say Covid could possibly be the cause. How long till my body re-calibrates? For Dr. Zeichner, he’s seen patients who’ve experienced changes “For months, and even years.”

skincare routine

Notes on skincare routine.

skincare routine notes

The professionals of being a beauty editor: I actually have access to a few of one of the best experts in the sector. “If you happen to are experiencing recent or unexpected changes in your skin, one of the best thing to do is to see your dermatologist to resolve what’s occurring, and discuss ways of managing or treating any skin issues,” really useful Dr. Engelmen. My dermatologist, Dr. Lal, prescribed Twyneo, a new-ish prescription pimples cream that mixes benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin to dramatically reduce breakouts. My favorite aesthetician, Biba de Sousa, helped me eliminate comedogenic ingredients from my skincare routine together with her Pore Clogger Checker, and I vastly simplified my skincare routine into just a delicate cleanser, moisturizer, SPF, and my prescribed topical medication.

In December, my skin became stable enough to stop applying Twyneo on daily basis. Right away, I’m keeping my routine easy (and consistent) with a cleanser, SPF, and Rhode Skin–an unexpected endorsement, if I’m being honest. It’s been about two months since I’ve had a pimple and my fingers are crossed that perhaps my skin is returning to normal after a yr of nonstop breakouts.

skin after covid, starting to heal

Obviously, there are far worse repercussions from Covid than developing pimples. However the psychological impacts of breakouts can really be traumatic. I do know I felt an immense amount of panic and shame–and people feelings were made a lot worse by the indisputable fact that I couldn’t understand what caused it. Now, I’m cautiously optimistic. This past yr sucked–truly sucked–but armed with more knowledge than ever, I can begin to trust my skin again.

Headshot of Tatjana Freund

Beauty Commerce Author

Tatjana Freund is ELLE.com’s Beauty Commerce Author, covering makeup, skincare, and haircare products and trends. Previously, she worked at Marie Claire. She has bylines with Town & Country, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazzar, and more. Tatjana is an advocate for Latinx representation in the sweetness industry. Her work has been featured on the Drew Barrymore show. She’s a fan of whiskey neat, podcasts that give her nightmares, and one time Zoë Kravitz laughed at a joke she made.

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