Clouds of cigarette smoke, endless black coffee and not one open window… I wonder how Olivia Pope and Joan Harris remain eternally radiant despite the shenanigans of their workplaces. At least they get great eye candy in the form of Don Draper… but for us mere mortals, going to work means killing our complexion one skin cell at a time (and that’s not even counting all that stress). Unfortunately though, lounging around on silk-swathed beds is not really an option, so let’s get realistic and figure out what one can do to minimise the beauty damage wrought by office spaces.
1. Frozen? Or fried?
I have yet to work in an office that has the perfect temperature – it’s always either too hot or too cold. According to my last admin manager, it’s necessary to dial up the cooling as all the equipment (computers, servers, lights etc) can make a space pretty hot. On the other hand, some offices (especially mammoth, open plan ones) are cooled unevenly or inefficiently because of the floor size. The result? Both scenarios suck out all the moisture from your skin, leaving it dry, flaky and lacklustre.
Solution: Carry a refreshing spritzer – make your own with these easy recipes or choose between Avène’s Thermal Spring Water and Tatcha’s Hydrating Mist – to rehydrate the complexion. If the cold air leaves skin feeling dry and tight, the spritzer will add much needed moisture. And if it’s too warm, it will help you cool down and relieve splotches.
2. Loser lights
Aaaaaargh… offices have to have the most horrid lights in existence! Stark and fluorescent, they don’t just leave you looking completely washed out but also irritate the skin and make it splotchy. Even that’s not all! Poorly lit workspaces also cause headaches and eye strain, with the latter leading to fine lines and wrinkles.
Solution: Wear SPF 30 every single day – it also protects skin against fluorescent lighting. And consider using an artificial natural light simulator, which produces a combination of wavelengths identical to those of the sun to make you feel healthy and energised.
3. Gross germs
Office surfaces, including desks, printers, phones and even the walls, are hotbeds of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites (after all, you are working with a number of individuals – some with unfortunate hygiene) that can cause skin irritation and blemishes along with a host of illnesses.
Solution: Firstly, begin the day by using a disinfecting wipe to wipe down your keyboard, mouse, phone, desktop, photocopier and other shared office equipment (including door handles). Secondly, wash your hands throughout the day and cleanse your face thoroughly before going to bed. And finally, to keep your face out of harm’s way, DON’T touch it through the working hours – this will minimise the transfer of germs from surface to skin!
4. Bad, bad, bad beverages
Some working days can only be dealt with through a caffeine haze. Unfortunately, your skin doesn’t agree! That cup of coffee or bottle of soda (offices are notorious for stocking these sugary vices) works as a diuretic and causes dehydration. Which, in turn, leads to dry, scaly skin – not a good look on anyone!
Solution: Instead of hitting the coffee machine, head for the water cooler – this will do wonders for your skin. Better still, keep a 2 litre water bottle on your desk so you can reach out for it frequently. Not a huge fan of water? Dress it up with some slices of lemon or cucumber!
5. Squinting at screens
Squinting at your computer screen for 8 hours a day is sure to invite fine lines around your eyes and between the brows. Plus, peering at a computer screen for extended periods of time can cause your neck muscles to shorten, which results in sagging and the dreaded turkey chin. Yikes!
Solution: Get your eyes tested regularly and bring out the prescription glasses if necessary. Besides this, dab on a little eye cream in the morning to maintain skin’s elasticity. And remember to stretch or rotate your neck every hour to tone the muscles. Plus, it won’t hurt to massage a firming cream into your neck and chin before heading for bed.
6. It’s in the air
The dry, recycled air in an office can wreak havoc on your skin, causing dryness, flaking, irritation, itching and more. Besides this, air pollutants like tobacco smoke, pollen and cleaning fumes can also lead to respiratory issues, headaches, nosebleeds and asthma.
7. Sedentary seating
Not only is sitting down all day a potential back injury hazard, it can also play havoc with your weight. Your body burns very few calories while sitting down; couple this with snacking at your desk and the results are obvious.
Solution: Keep a stash of healthy snacks (such as nuts and dry fruits) on hand.
8. Sunny sins
You might think that you’re safe from the sun while sitting indoors. However, experts say there’s more UV damage in our offices than out of them. This is especially true if you sit near a window as concentrated exposure to the sun will increase the potential for hyper-pigmentation and age spots.
Solution: Wear SPF 30 every single day and reapply it every 3-4 hours even if you are not putting as much as a dainty toe out of the building.
What’s your workplace like? A beauty boon or a skincare hazard?