One of the more destabilizing parts of life in New York during COVID-19, I’ve found, is the loss of control. Almost overnight, any semblance of structure in my day or the world writ large was washed away—and replaced with an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty and fear.
On a broad scale, I fear for the first responders, risking their lives for us. I worry for those who cannot work from home, those who have lost their jobs, the immunocompromised, the elderly, and those experiencing homelessness. I know how lucky I am to be in my position of relative safety, and I do not take my privilege lightly. And yet personally, I ache for my friends and family and wonder when the next time I’ll see them again might be. I long for the outdoors yet do not know when I’ll be able to leave my home comfortably. And all of it is out of my control.
But here’s one thing I can control: Every morning I wake up, get out of bed, wash my face, and complete my skin care routine.
How skin care took on a new role for me in times of distress.
Perhaps you, too, have some small thing in your day that means a little bit more now: a running path, brewing your favorite brand of coffee, a yoga flow, or a dinnertime routine. It’s a sliver-thin moment of comfort, a cracked door opening into a past life. Caring for my skin is that for me. Even as a teen, I never skipped washing my face. It was a moment of effortless clarity—a 1-2-3-step regimen—during the messy period of young adulthood. And at every moment of emotional strain thereafter, or even just on the mundane bad days, there is a nighttime skin care routine to put it all to bed.
But skin care during times of stress is a practical choice too. Skin is extremely sensitive to internal triggers. Stress wreaks havoc on the skin (learn more about how and why stress and skin are connected here), triggering breakouts and inflammation. Not to mention the sleepless nights can turn a complexion sallow. And while no one is really seeing these stress-induced skin changes, it still matters to me. No matter what I’m wearing or how long it’s been since I washed my hair, I still want to feel good in my skin.
And so that’s why every day, morning and evening, I carry on with my routine. If it’s the morning, my routine includes stirring mbg grass-fed collagen+ powder into my cup of coffee. Especially as I go through these periodic stress-induced flares of inflammation, I need all the help I can get internally. Not only does this collagen supplement contain hydrolyzed collagen peptides (which are better absorbed by the body and can promote your natural collagen production), but it contains major anti-inflammatories like vitamin C, vitamin E, and curcumin.
Next up is cleanser, followed by a light mist of my lavender water toner. Then I apply two squirts of a vitamin C serum onto my fingers and gently rub it into my skin. At night, I replace the vitamin C with a lactic acid treatment. I follow with a scoop of medium to light moisturizer and seal it all in with a few drops of oil. Most days, not all, I take a few passes with my rose-quartz facial roller.
This was my skin care routine before this all started, it will remain during, and I will continue it after.
This routine bookends a day filled with what-ifs, breaking developments, questionable new WFH habits, longing looks out my window, and the oft-used phrase “new normal.” So I desperately cling to it as the one aspect of my life that was part of my old normal. I cannot control much in these times of uncertainty, but I can control how I treat my skin.
How self-care can act as a means of control.
Right now, self-care probably seems like a challenge, as we’re removed from all the things that used to make it easy: There are no gyms, yoga studios, or workout classes to attend; even running outside provides its own risks. When we need comfort from those we love the most, we can only do it at a distance. The restaurants and coffee shops we used to turn to for nourishment, both socially and nutritionally, are no longer available to us. We can’t travel, visit museums, and attend shows to fill our souls and curiosities.
So instead, we look to what we can do. And even on the days when I can’t bring myself to do much of anything, I can still bring myself back to the sink, back to the cabinets of skin care products, and find comfort in the routines that have sustained me—and my skin—all these years.