Stress & Skincare

Stress & Skincare

Make “anti-stress” skincare a priority.

“I have aged 10 years in 1 week!” This is a common phrase lately especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you can relate to looking in the mirror and not recognizing the face in front of you, you are not alone. A University of Chicago COVID Impact Survey from May found that roughly two-thirds of Americans had strong negative emotions at least once during the seven days prior to the survey … and this is showing up on our skin.

Breaking out? You may want to check in with your stress levels.

Stress is a physical reaction where certain hormones like adrenaline and cortisol increase in our bloodstream. This kicks our bodies into a "Flight or fight" mode and triggers a response to defend itself. Skin mast cells have emerged as a central player of the skin stress responses. It was proposed as the “central switchboards” of neurogenic inflammation. In skin they are located near SP+ nerve endings and blood vessels, where they are the first-line defense of the innate immune system.

What happens to your skin when you’re stressed?

There is a strong connection between stress and different types of skin conditions such as dry patches, itching, skin bumps and eczema. What we internalize can affect our exterior body greatly. Our skin reacting to stress is quite natural. If you have a constant rush of cortisol it may cause inflammation in the skin which can lead to a weakened skin barrier, and worsen existing conditions such as psoriasis, acne and atopic dermatitis. Stress also slows down digestion, which creates a shift in bacteria that can compromise the integrity of your gut lining. This can cause inflammation throughout the body and lead to acne flare-ups as well as premature aging.

Thankfully just small changes to your skin care routine and lifestyle when stress is on the rise can make a huge impact. Here are some tools:

  1. JUST BREATHE. Download a meditation app and spend 5 minutes a day just breathing. That’s right, breathing. This small moment of grounding can create a ripple effect to slow down your day and stress levels. While meditating your blood pressure can lower as you breathe in large amounts of oxygen. Pause in a stance that will strengthen your mind and body while the weight of the world melts away. Learn more stress relieving techniques here.
  1. STAY ON ROUTINE. For many people, skincare is a form of selfcare, so if you find that your skincare regimin helps relax you, you might want to keep at it, even when you're feeling extra stressed.

Environmental aggressors can also make your complexion freak out. Outside and inside pollutant add layers to your skin barrier with dust and dirt causing wrinkles and clogged pores. Add a brightening toner to your skin care routine to remove dead skin cells, excess oil, make-up debris, and free radical pollution.

  1. EAT WELL. Inflammation and poor gut health may also cause acne, hives, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, rosacea. A high sugar diet produces a chemical reaction in the skin, that makes its surface stiffer and more inflexible. Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows a marked increase in C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. CRP is one of the best measures of inflammation — and inflammation is bad news for acne-prone individuals. White foods and other simple carbohydrates are high Glycemic Index foods that increase blood sugar and may be the main culprit in acne too. This production causes a chemical reaction in the skin leading to premature aging making skin tougher and more wrinkled.
  1. SLEEP WELL. Adequate sleep contributes to overall health and well-being. Surprising benefits of a good night’s rest include a sharper brain, elevated mood, healthier heart and repair to your skin. Stress and anxiety can keep you up at night leading to swollen eyes and dark circles. If you find you are staying up late at night try these home remedies:
  • Drink non-caffeinated nighty night tea.
  • Make your bedroom a device-free zone. Avoid electronics in the evening instead listen to an audiobook, meditation app or read.
  • It's important to not associate your bed or bedroom with a place you spend time awake. Work in your living room and stay out until its time to sleep.
  • If you are feeling anxious, journal all your thoughts onto paper so that it is out of your head and processed.

The National Sleep Foundation released the results of a world-class sleep duration study that took more than two years of research to complete, here are the results:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
  1. STAY ACTIVE. Achieving 10,000 steps a day while staying home can be extremely challenging. Try breaking up the steps throughout the day with short walks. Exercise may help lower levels of stress hormones while taking your mind off what is causing the stress.

To ensure less inflammation try a lifestyle high in antioxidants such as nuts, grains, vegetables and fruits like the Mediterranean diet. It is also important to use anti-aging products daily that maintain a healthy skin pH, have powerful concentrations of peptides, and anti-inflammatory properties to prevent and assist with skin-barrier repair. 

Repairing and preventing stressed-out skin is more a slow and steady marathon than a quick-fix sprint. Check in with a dermatologist whom can help you navigate towards the root cause and what to avoid. Minimizing avoidable causes of stress in your life and learning techniques to manage stress can help you fight against these signs of premature aging.