Here’s the thing: Living through major changes hasn’t been kind to my mental health and it shows in the amount of crying I’ve been doing for the past eight months. While I don’t find shame in expressing my emotions, I do have to wonder if it’s been taking a toll on my skin—especially since I find my skin breaking out more often after a crying spell.
While there isn’t anything in your tears that can clog your pores, what you do with tears might contribute to your skin flaring up. Here are some things you need to know:
Pat the tears away
You read that right: It’s time to start patting—not wiping!—your tears after a cry.
Rubbing your eyes can cause acne mechanica, which are breakouts triggered by excess heat, pressure or friction. Your tears also contain salt like potassium and sodium, which can irritate your skin if it gets rubbed in.
Experts recommend blotting your tears off before they get to your skin. “Tears are salty and salt can be irritating to the skin, especially the delicate skin around the eyes,” suggests Dr. Marie Hayag, assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The tissue paper you use to blot away your tears can also affect your skin. Instead of turning to scented or moisture-infused wipes, experts recommend using two-ply facial tissues—these are gentler on the skin.
After blotting your tears away, what you want to do next is reduce puffy eyes. These are usually caused by nearby blood vessels dilating to increase blood flow to the eye area.
To minimize puffiness, experts recommend splashing your face with cold water and applying a cold compress to the eye area for 10 to 15 minutes. “A cooling effect is all that is required to have a constricting effect on the blood vessels,” adds Dr. Hayag.
If your eyes are still red, refrigerated cucumber or potato slices are the way to go. They both help relieve the swelling. Placing cucumber slices over your eyes and replacing them with potato slices after five minutes can also help reduce dark circles.
“Cucumbers contain powerful antioxidants that reduce irritation, while potatoes contain a skin-lightening enzyme called catecholase,” says Dr. Justin Bazan, a medical adviser for the Vision Council.
Don’t forget to hydrate
A good, long cry doesn’t just get rid of sad emotions—it can wash away some moisture from your skin, too. If you find your skin feeling tight and dry, or if you feel a headache coming after you’ve bawled your eyes out, it’s time to drink water. Lots of it.
After rehydrating, clean your face with a moisturizing face wash. You can either use gel products that give your skin a fresh base without it feeling greasy, or a light lotion with hyaluronic acids to help boost hydration.
If you find yourself crying a lot, you should also consider getting a new face wash. According to Dr. Mona Gohara, an associate clinical professor at Yale, harsh ingredients like sulfates can irritate your skin and cause breakouts—especially if combined with the friction from rubbing your eyes.
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Writer: ANGELA PATRICIA SUACILLO