Create a routine that feels good and includes products that you enjoy using. For example, don’t underestimate the impact of gently massaging skin with a warm washcloth to cleanse, taking extra time to smooth a silky moisturizer on your face, or applying a mask. You can even turn this into an evening event like Melanie Moreno, head of aesthetics at Mario Tricoci in Chicago, does: “Caring for my skin during quarantine has definitely given me something to look forward to. My significant other and I like to set the mood when we do at-home facials by lighting some candles, having a glass of wine, and playing some relaxing tunes while we let our mask sit,” she says.
Now that many people are experimenting with at-home facial treatments, like masks and peels, Joyce Davis, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, recommends sticking with a mask if you’d like a more concentrated skin treatment. “Masks are safer at this time. There is more of a risk of experiencing a skin reaction to a peel, and at this time, you can’t rely on going to a dermatologist to get you out of a problem,” she says. Generally, masks are gentler and can help temporarily plump the skin to give you a youthful, refreshed appearance.
The experience of an at-home facial or treatment is certainly comforting, but you also get a lot of fulfillment just planning for it. “Anticipation of happy events releases feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain,” says Traube. Expecting positive events has also been shown to activate a certain area of the prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with a sense of well-being, according to a study published in January 2018 in Frontiers in Psychology. It’s a natural little high for something so simple.
This is one reason why baths are so inherently calming. First, you expect to feel relaxed as you lower into one, and second, the warm water is naturally relaxing to muscles. “Physical relaxation sends your brain the message that it’s time to be calm and mellow, reducing the fight-or-flight stress response,” says Traube.
To make your bath an act of self-care that improves your skin health at the same time, add oatmeal to the water, suggests Dr. Davis. Look for packets of colloidal oatmeal, which eases irritated skin in eczema, psoriasis, and generally dry skin. Soak for 10 minutes, she suggests.
Skin Care Provides a Chance to Bond With Loved Ones — and That’s a Boon to Mental Health
Moreno and her partner are onto something with their mask routine. In general, spending this concentrated time with loved ones pursuing hobbies and enjoyable activities is linked to greater levels of happiness, according to a study published in May 2018 in the journal Psychological Science. In a time when it may feel as if you’re too close for comfort with the other members of your household, you can carve out meaningful time together that will bolster your sense of personal satisfaction and family bond.
Dr. Ilyas has seen this play out in her life, too. “One key step to this process lately for me is sharing this routine with my teenage kids,” she says. “I find that at this time, with less direct social interaction, spending my self-care time with my kids is so much more effective in achieving the ultimate goal of self-care — a balance of physical and mental well-being,” she says.
You can make this a fun experience for everyone, too. There’s no need to purchase a case of new products. Instead, focus on those that you already have at home that you love. Or, you can hunt for some skin-friendly ingredients in your pantry for a DIY mask, like coconut oil, mashed avocado, or a milk compress and turn this into a fun, bonding event.