What To Do When Your Skin Freaks Out

close up of woman's forehead with acne breakout issue and how to take care of skincare freakouts as part of K-beauty inspired holistic skincare habits and rituals

By Minji

  • Recently, I experienced a full-on breakout in my skin, my first in 20+ years!
  • Looks like they were the result of stress and related changes to my regular wellness routines
  • Read on for details on how to effectively combat a skin freakout!

Although breakouts aren’t at the top of my list when it comes to skincare concerns these days, I do know what it means to struggle with severe acne.  In my early 20s, I had a period of months where my breakouts were so prominent, they drove me to engage in self-inflicted social distancing.  In my 20s, I clearly didn’t have the thick skin I have today and felt self-conscious and embarrassed to go out into the world with my pimple-filled face.  Thankfully, I had an aunt who was a skincare expert and ran her own facial spa at the time. With diligent treatment from her, I recovered and never looked back.

Literally – since that episode 20 years+ ago, I’ve never struggled with broad breakouts…until now.  A week or so into the Coronavirus sheltering, I woke up one morning to find my entire forehead covered with tiny red bumps!  They weren’t huge, but they were everywhere (photo above so you can see for yourself!).  My skin was freaking out and I could feel the irritation.  These tiny bumps covered my entire forehead, the sides of my face and parts of my cheeks.

At first, I couldn’t believe it. I looked again and again…not only were they there, but I could also feel the sensations of itchiness and inflammation so it was hard to deny.  Then I thought it must be hormonal – I wondered if menopause might’ve come early for me.  I’ve had one or two angry bumps appear in my chin area ever since I turned 40, so I thought this could be a continuation of the hormonal transitions I might be going through, now that I’m headed into my mid-late 40s.  However, if these were hormonal, the breakout would likely be in the “beard” section.  Also, these bumps looked totally different from those hormonal pimples – these looked tiny, fresh and sassy….and there were soooo many of them.

I dug deeper.  What had changed in my life recently?  Well, the answers were pretty obvious.  I’m pretty stable and at peace with the pandemic now, but when we first started locking down and it seemed like this might not have an end, I started freaking out internally.  I was stressed out thinking about all the “what ifs” – this mental stress translated into “comfort” eating and abandoning many of my self-care staples, such as exercise, maskitation sessions, meditation, etc.  It dawned on me that instead of hoarding toilet paper, I had been hoarding chocolate!

I sent Dr. Yoon a picture and asked him about it and he agreed it would be most important to decrease aggravating factors in my environment.  In addition to making sure I was getting plenty of beauty sleep, he recommended that I stay away from hair products and makeup on my forehead that could clog pores, like foundation, overly rich serums or sunscreen.

So I went back to the basics.  Instead of caving to the immediate temptation of looking for a quick fix and plastering my forehead with acne treatment products, I examined my current routine and made adjustments for where I was failing.  First of all, I recommitted to my daily multi-step routine, morning and night, with a minimalist twist.  Intuitively, I felt it would be good for my inflamed skin to be able to breathe more so I cut out face oil from my face and only used it on my neck and hands for a week or so.  Second, I held off from face massages and other skincare gadgets to let my skin concentrate on just healing, similar to my 14-day skincare cleanse.  Third, this was even more motivation for me to stop touching my face – the chances of further breakouts coupled with Coronavirus risk was  enough to stop this bad habit once and for all. Lastly, I reset my broader intention of “health.”  My workout routines had been thrown off with all the shut-downs so I rebuilt an at-home workout and meditation routine.  I went out for hour-long daily walks with my family to reconnect to nature and feel the support of the broader universe. I tried to cut out simple carbs, dairy, and sugar from my diet as I much as I could manage. I drank a lot of water, I focused on sleep…I tried to let the stress go and surrender knowing that it would all work out.

You know what, it worked!  In a week or so, the bumps started to clear up and now they’re almost gone.  Hard to imagine that just a few weeks ago, they were freaking me out like that!  I think the biggest lesson learned is realizing that my skin is also going through life's ups and downs and will inevitably have moments where it gets thrown off and freaks out.  In those moments, I just need to remember to take a deep breath and recommit to my holistic skincare habits and rituals to bring my skin, and my sanity, back home.