Skin + Me NHS Stories: Holly Noakes

This month, we’re talking to the everyday heroes on the frontline of the NHS about their roles in the COVID-19 pandemic, and their recent relationships with their skin. Today, we’re talking to Holly Noakes, Midwife, about her experience with maskne, and how she’s using Skin + Me to combat it.

Name: Holly Noakes

Job title: Midwife

Location: Central London

Can you explain your job for us?   

Being a midwife involves supporting women and their families during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. We are the lead healthcare professional and contact for women during this time. We are responsible for providing antenatal care and screening, identifying high risk pregnancies, supporting women during labour and birth, and teaching women and their partners the skills to feed and care for their babies. 

How has your job changed due to the pandemic?

When the pandemic started I was in my last few months of my midwifery training. I was given the opportunity to finish my training on a 12 week placement at the hospital. I qualified as a midwife in September and in October I moved from Kent to London and started my first job as a qualified midwife in one of the largest Trusts in central London.

Throughout the pandemic maternity services have tried to run as normal while ensuring the safety of pregnant women, their families and the healthcare professionals. This has meant that pregnant women have had to access services without their partners to keep the number of people attending hospitals as low as possible. During the first few weeks of the pandemic I cared for a woman who had to give birth without the support of her partner. For me this was a defining moment of the pandemic where I realised the magnitude of the situation. Since then I have cared for many women following birth who have had to experience the first few days caring for their babies without the support of their partners. This has been a struggle for many women. It has been a particularly difficult time for those separated from their babies in the neonatal unit and those who have experienced baby loss. Being a midwife during this time has been incredibly demanding as we have had to provide increased emotional support and reassurance. In addition to this, we have experienced periods of understaffing due to staff shielding and isolation, which further increases demand and workload.

The job now involves PPE at all times; this is typically a face mask, eye protection, gloves and an apron. I find this difficult as it feels very clinical and impersonal during such an emotional and important time in that family’s life. I have also had to care for several Covid-19 positive pregnant women.

How has your skin been affected by the pandemic?

My skin is normally quite unproblematic, usually I get the odd hormonal spot and it can be oily at times. I have always kept on top of my skincare-making sure that I cleanse, tone and moisturise in the morning and evening. I often switched up the products I was using. 

Since the pandemic started I noticed a massive change in my skin. In the first few weeks I started getting a lot of spots on my chin and jawline. I also found that my overall skin texture was very bumpy and dry across the whole of my face. It became extremely irritated and sore, particularly during my 12 hour shifts. It had a massive impact on my confidence. I started a new job in London in October and felt grateful to have to wear a mask as I didn’t want my new colleagues to see my awful skin underneath. I tried so many products to try and combat my skin problems, including salicylic cleansers and niacinamide moisturisers, however I found that these further irritated my skin and didn’t reduce the spots at all. 

What are your thoughts on Skin + Me so far?

In October I started Skin+Me. Honestly, I had the intention of using it for a month as it was free and then trying something else. However, it made such a difference to my skin so quickly that I have continued using it ever since. It has completely gotten rid of the spots I had and made my skin so much smoother. 

I am just about to start my fourth daily doser which includes Tretinoin 0.009%, Clindamycin 1% and Azelaic Acid 4%. I have kept the rest of my skincare very simple as recommended. My morning routine consists of the Sukin original cleanser and moisturiser, and an SPF. While my evening routine consists of the cleanser, daily doser and moisturiser. I love that it requires so few products and time. I also love the packaging and how easy it is to use. 

Do you have any skincare tips you’d like to share with other frontline health workers? 

I would really recommend not wearing any face makeup while working, now I tend to just put on some eyebrow products, mascara and eyeliner; anything more than that really isn’t needed as no one is going to see your face all day. I would also recommend cleaning your face while on shift. I have been using the Lush Tea Tree Water, which I spray onto a cotton pad and wipe over my face during my break. Also make sure you change your mask at least every few hours and drink lots of water while on shift! 

If you could give a Skin + Me subscription to anyone who would it be and why?

Many of my friends who work for the NHS have experienced changes in their skin since the pandemic so I would give it to one of my best friends and colleagues. I would give it to her as we have no choice but to wear masks for 12+ hours a day and this is the only thing that I’ve found to help reduce the impact of it. She is an incredibly hard worker and deserves to feel good without the mask. 

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