At some point in our lives, we all have experienced stress; and especially these past few months of living and working in survival mode with a pandemic around us, let’s agree that life hasn’t been easy. While stress can have serious consequences on our health, it can manifest in your skin, after all it is the largest organ of the body.
Let’s take a closer look at this because we may not realize it now, but sooner or later, stress can take different forms and eventually reflect on our skin.
Ways That Stress Can Show On Your Skin
Much of the skin and mind connection comes down to cortisol, the primary stress hormone. An overproduction of cortisol directly has an effect on the skin barrier. Increase in cortisol levels in turn increases inflammation, and this can aggravate whatever your underlying skin conditions may be.
1. Hormonal Acne
Research shows that the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) stimulates oil release from sebaceous glands around your hair follicles. Excessive oil production by these glands can clog your pores leading to acne, whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples.
2. Dry Skin
The outer layer of your skin is made up of protein and lipids that play a big role in keeping your skin cells hydrated. It also acts as a barrier that protects the skin underneath. When your outer skin layer isn’t doing its job the way it should, your skin can become dry and itchy as it slows down the production of natural oils, making the skin dull, dry, wrinkled and dehydrated.
Stress is known to directly threaten your immune system. A weakened immune system, most often, leads to an imbalance of bacteria in your gut and skin. When this imbalance takes place on your skin, it can lead to redness or a rash. This is known to elevate skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, hives, psoriasis and dermatitis.
4. Early Aging
This is true! Stress can cause your skin to age. Research has found that stress increases signs of aging, such as fine lines, reduced elasticity, and uneven pigmentation that causes dark circles and bags under your eyes. Your skin loses shape (collagen), moisture & hydration making it look dull and wrinkled.
5. Flushed face
Oftentimes when some people become stressed, they breathe in short and shallow breaths. Some may even find themselves holding their breath for long periods of time as a coping mechanism. It can take a toll on your skin’s appearance and this change in breathing can lead to flushing and redness of the face.
What Can You Do to Prevent Stress
Managing stress may seem nearly impossible, but what we need to understand is that how we deal with it, is the key.
- Follow your skin care routine even when you're stressed. You don’t need to follow a 10-step routine, keep it simple. Make sure you moisturize your skin twice a day, and use gentle cleansers that soothe your skin. To reduce early signs of aging, wear your SPF, this will help to slow down the process and keep your skin nourished.
- Add exercise to your schedule. Take a walk, go for a run, lift weights, attend a yoga class; keep your body and mind occupied. We know that feel-good workout hormones will elevate your energy, mood, and outlook and most definitely great for your skin.
- Take time for yourself to relax and unwind. Get your steps in, rope in a friend to take part in a daily steps challenge. Read a book, listen to music or a podcast.
- Practice mindfulness, meditation, daily affirmations, and journaling. You will notice changes within a few days. A decluttered mind reduces stress.
- Be mindful of your diet. Alcohol, nicotine, sweets, highly processed foods, are bad for your gut. Focus on eating clean, lean protein, good fats, and antioxidant-rich foods.
- Sleep is important to keep your mind and body calm. Stress can make you look tired and out of sorts, but so can lack of sleep. A good sleep schedule will help elevate your mood, cognition and make coping with daily stressors easier. Aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Turn off social media and your electronics an hour or two before bed. There’s a reason why they say ‘sleep like a baby’.
- Drinking plenty of water helps flush toxins from the body and keeps your skin hydrated. We may sound like a broken record but this one is always important. Avoid excessive caffeine, aerated drinks and alcohol. Use an app to remind you to keep hydrated and if you can’t seem to bring yourself to drink enough, infuse it with berries, mint, and lemon to add flavor.
- Honor yourself and do good by your commitments, but learn to say no. Establishing healthy boundaries is important. Avoid overbooking or overextending yourself. This only creates additional stress. You do not need to make everyone happy, the only person who needs to be happy first, is you. Make sure you find time for at least one thing you enjoy.
- Confide in a trusted friend or family member. Sometimes our worries are all in our minds. When you talk to someone you can trust, they unravel. When out in the open and addressed, your mind may see things from a clearer perspective.
- Get therapy. There is no shame in admitting that you need help and to find a therapist you can talk to, especially if your mental health is suffering. If you’re stressed about money, your marriage, or even your chronic skin condition, it never hurts to seek professional help. You may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy and other stress-reduction techniques to help you cope during high-stress periods. Talking to a professional is always a wise thing to do, they are experts in their fields and we need to rely on their expertise when we need it.
Stress is an unavoidable aspect of life. If you meet someone who says they have never been stressed, run! What we need to understand is that it is temporary and how we choose to tackle it, is where the secret to relieve stress lies.
Managing stress is the best way to keep your skin looking healthy and prevent signs of early aging. The skin and mind connection is evident. Remember, they go hand in hand, one depends on the other, and for both to thrive, they need to be given the love and respect they deserve.