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If you’re wondering whether the past year of in-and-out lockdowns has aged you, you’re not alone. Sure, we all are a year older – and perhaps a bit wiser – but there may be another reason you aren’t looking as fresh as you once thought: so-called “lockdown face”.
And it’s no fault of your own. A year spent cooped up indoors, a lack of vitamin D, poor sleep, staring at screens, and even that cranked-up heating through the long winter has left us with dry skin, puffy eyes, and maybe even breakouts.
When the topic of “lockdown face” came up on a HuffPost UK Zoom call, many of us could relate. We pondered why our faces, at times, looked a little off – especially when we were all in a video meeting at 8.30am each morning.
Dr Hiba Injibar, consultant dermatologist and founder of Dermasurge, tells HuffPost UK the issue of ‘lockdown face’ is “fairly common” at the moment. “Many people believe that the absence of vitamin D, lengthy enforced periods of heating and permanently looking at our computers or televisions has had a detrimental effect on our complexions and general skin health,” she explains.
Injibar says people are complaining about breakouts due to stress – whether that’s homeschooling, work pressures or general anxiety.
“This kind of stress can cause a corticotrophin-releasing hormone to drive up the skin’s oil production, which can cause spots,” she says. “And for the same reason, many of my patients have complained their skin looks older since Covid hit… that their key ‘wrinkle areas’ of around the eyes, the forehead and lips are far more beset with fine lines. In some people, an excess of alcohol has had a damaging effect – it dehydrates and makes your skin duller and less ‘plump’.”
Dr Injibar’s advice is to drink plenty of water, sleep more, exercise and reduce your screen time. “Up your vitamin D with some time outdoors (always remembering your SPF) and eat fish or seafood rich in vitamin D,” she adds.
In terms of skincare, she advises to cleanse morning and night using products that are non-comedogenic (ie. that don’t block your pores) and to try salicylic-acid cleansers for any breakouts.
Prompt enough for us to try some products – five to be exact, handpicked for their well-rated reviews online – to see if they made any difference to “lockdown face”. We tried them over the course of three days minimum – some for up to a week – to see if we could see any difference. Did the products actually work – or just feel nice?
Reviewed by: Rachel Moss, Life reporter
“The Ordinary’s brightening serum is designed to wake up the skin and reduce signs of ageing, but the forehead wrinkles I’ve acquired during lockdown are still alive and well after three weeks, yes weeks, of application. The skin across my face does feel slightly tighter and marginally more hydrated, but there’s little visible difference. My face is also left feeling a tad sticky and shiny after use – my boyfriend asks whether the same result could be achieved with PVA glue.
“A bit harsh, I think, and important to note there’s plenty of positive reviews online from other people, even if it doesn’t hit the spot for me personally. One plus, is that it hasn’t actually irritated my eczema-prone skin at all. For under a tenner, it’s also decent value for money as you only use a tiny amount of liquid on each application. Still, I wouldn’t personally buy it again.” 2/5
Reviewed by: Amy Packham, Life editor
“Puffy eyes during morning meetings have been starting to get on my nerves – I felt like I didn’t look like myself. This sheet mask aims to tackle the problem: it promises a ‘refined appearance’, leaving skin ‘invigorated and refreshed’, while reducing signs of puffiness and fatigue. I first use the mask in the evening, after staying indoors all day (it happens). It’s so soft and gloopy, and easy to put on and mould across my face. It’s cooling, then warm and even tingly in places. I happily leave it on for the 20 minutes, then pat my skin when I take it off.
“Is there much of a difference? There’s a glowy dew to my skin, it’s incredibly soft, and I notice – right under my eyes – the once, slightly greasy patches look a little.. smoother? My face feels alive and alert, simply because it’s been cooled for a while. When I use it in the morning, before my work meeting, I appreciate the benefits more – mainly because it makes my tired face feel more awake. I’m left with a slight shine, which feels better than my usual appearance. Can I notice a world of difference? Not hugely. But it’s a treat and felt amazing.” 3/5
Reviewed by: Angela Hui, Life reporter
“Lockdown has aged me horribly. I keep looking at before and after photos of myself from the start of the pandemic to now. So, in the hope of looking less Michelin Man, I turn to the ancient Chinese practice of Jade rolling.
“I’ve heard rave reviews, but am sceptical about its claims to reduce facial tension and aid lymphatic drainage. You’re meant to store the dual-ended facial massage tool in the fridge before use and as soon as my skin comes in contact with the roller, I yelp in anticipation of how cold it’s going to be. But it’s soothing and strangely relaxing. I close my eyes and pretend I’m standing on a Fox’s glacier mint, while someone is stroking my face. Used with the SkinHit Protecting Serum with it, it helps my skin drink and soak up the product.
“After a few days, my face does feel both tighter and silkier, though I’m not sure it’s doing its job yet to reduce puffiness. There’s a lot of rolling involved – and by the end of my daily skincare regime, my right arm is pathetically trying to hold itself up. But with the words of Limp Bizkit in my head, I vow to keep rollin’, rollin’. Hey, I might even get a hench right arm from it, too. Win, win.” 3/5
Reviewed by: Adam Bloodworth, features writer
“I love the nourishing sensation I get when I use eye serums, and this one from Vichy definitely makes the skin around my eyes feel great. The idea is that the product smooths and brightens the eye area and while there is a little darkness still lurking after a few days’ use, I don’t expect miracles.
“My eyes definitely look fresher and smoother and less like I’ve not left my lockdown setup in forever, so that’s a big win, especially as I start making more social plans. But as ever with these products, the fun is really in the routine of applying it, which feels luxurious. For £15, I suspect this serum – in a cute little blue bottle – will provide me with a satisfying morning and evening routine for a good few months, with or without perfect results.” 4/5
Reviewed by: Tasha Hinde, Life reporter
“At six months’ pregnant, I’ve been waiting for that pregnancy glow to kick in for a while now. Reader: I’m still waiting. The past year has taken a toll on my face – my forehead is dryer than the desert and more pronounced frown lines have appeared between my eyebrows. Recently, I moved to a hard water area and found my skin was even drier than normal. My everyday moisturiser wasn’t doing the trick on its own anymore.
“I’ve been trialling this facial oil for over a week now and noticed a difference, but only when I’m wearing it – if I give my face a day off, I’m back to square one. The oil is described as “rehab for your skin” – rich in antioxidants and omegas 6 and 9, it’s meant to “nourish and balance” your skin “while restoring a youthful glow”. I wouldn’t say I’m glowing, but my flakey face is a little more dewy. My cheeks have a nice sheen to them (they were very ‘matte’ before).
“The only issue is my forehead, which was the reason I wanted the extra help in the first place. When I apply my moisturiser and the oil, small spots appear. The oil does the trick on the rest of my face, leaving it feeling smooth and like I’ve had a facial. At £61, it’s expensive but I can see the appeal. As for my lockdown face, it’s looking much better – but I’m still on a quest for something that’ll quench my problematic forehead without causing a breakout.” 4/5