How to care for your skin after a cold

Last Updated on 26th January 2024

Colds wreak havoc on your health, and your skin isn’t spared the fallout. Dry, dull, and patches of flaky, painful skin are all remnants of a cold.

We can try our best to maintain our skin regime in the midst of illness. But on those days where we can’t summon the energy to get out of bed, let alone wash, tone, apply serum and moisturise, it’s impossible. And while we’re sipping lemon honey drinks, eating chicken soup and boosting our immune systems,  it’s easy to forget about your skin.

How does a cold affect skin?

When you think of cold symptoms, they all affect the skin. Blowing your nose, watery eyes, that exhaustion. They can leave you skin sallow, dull and dry.

Colds often make sleeping difficult, with breathing a struggle. Because sleep is when our skin cells renew and regenerate, you’re missing out on that essential rest time. This means your skin may be more sensitive than usual, you may have puffy eyes, and see fine lines and wrinkles developing at an alarming rate.

The most common problem during a cold is the irritation around the nose caused by tissues and handkerchiefs. Even aloe vera infused tissues still feel like sandpaper once you’ve used a whole box of them. You may find your skin is red, chapped, highly sensitive, and you may notice more blemishes like pimples and blackheads, caused by the increased contact.

Finally, a cold saps the moisture from our skin. Even if you’re hydrating to the max, your skin can start to look dry and dull. This is partially because of the illness, but also due to some medications we take to combat the illness.

What can you do to help your skin?

Sore nose: The only thing you can do is be incredibly gentle with the area. Try not to scrub or irritate sensitive skin. Avoid piling the makeup on (it comes off when you blow your nose anyway). Use a gentle cleanser at the end of the day and apply with a patting motion. Then, apply a rich, healing moisturising cream.

Hydrating: As well as drinking a lot of water, you need to apply moisture from the outside. Amp up your normal skincare routine and use a richer moisturiser than you would normally. Although there’s huge temptation to have a hot shower or bath to melt away the cold, this will make your skin more sensitive and will dry it out further. Use a gentle, oil based cleanser to avoid stripping the sebum you have left.

Brightening: Treat your skin from the inside. Eating nourishing meals are great, but give yourself an added boost. Zinc supplements are a double-whammy, as they not only decrease the length and severity of a cold, but it’s great for skin to help avoid breakouts. You also want B vitamins to help calm your rough, inflamed skin.

Give your skin a treat: Now is not the time to scrub and exfoliate: Instead, a moisturising, cooling mask is the ultimate. You can make one at home using things like honey and yoghurt or buy one ready-made which can delay the need for botox.

How to fake it

If you have a meeting or something you need to look good for, there are some quick fixes to make you look better, even when you feel like going home and crawling under your duvet.

Red, puffy eyes: Eye drops will take care of those red, irritated eyes. For puffiness, a facecloth and some iced water applied for a few minutes will make the whole area feel refreshed and bring that swelling down.

Red nose: If you must, a dry concealer patted on around the nose will last longer than anything else. Some ultra-moisturising serums or treatments will help the area, giving it the moisture it needs.

Give yourself some life: A bit of blush on the cheeks will make you look awake and healthy, even if you don’t feel it. Fair skinned people should opt for a sheer fuchsia or bright pink, darker skinned people will find a deeper raspberry colour works best with their skin tones.

Overall, avoid heavy makeup, which will settle into those fine lines and creases that have appeared. Stay away from shimmer and glitter, which can accentuate the puffiness. Also, pinkish eyeshadows will simply exacerbate the problems, so browns or cool greys are the way to go.

It’s not easy, trying to get better as fast as possible, look after yourself, while feeling like you’ve been run over by a bulldozer. Rest, drink water, avoid alcohol, eat lots of nutrients, and take some time to treat your skin.