10 ways your skin reacts to stress… and 19 things you can do to help

stressed skin

10 ways your skin reacts to stress… and 19 things you can do to help

All of us have stress. We have deadlines, money troubles, work pressures, relationship pressures and family pressures. All of these cause stress, and stress impacts our health, including the health of our skin.

I’m sure you’ve experienced skin breakouts before an interview, an exam or an important work presentation. That’s because stress makes us produce cortisol, which helps us to cope with stress. But cortisol also affects the skin:

1. It increases the skin’s oil production, which leads to pimples forming.
2. It upsets the pH balance of the skin, which leads to dehydration. This can increase lines and wrinkles.
3. It makes the skin more sensitive and reactive. This gives bacteria the opportunity to enter the deeper layers of the skin, which can lead to breakouts.
4. It releases sugar into the bloodstream, and if this isn’t used, it is reabsorbed into the skin, causing blemishes.
5. It can affect the mast cells in your skin. These cells secrete histamines, which can make any skin irritations worse, and make you more susceptible to allergies, psoriasis, hives and other types of skin rashes. They also increase your risk of skin infections like cold sores.

Stress has other effects apart from increasing cortisol:

6. When you are stressed, you tend not to eat properly, which unbalances the digestive system. Poor digestion can lead to problem skin such as dryness, oiliness, blemishes and dullness.
7. The facial expressions of stress can cause deep lines that last a long time—even after the stress has passed.
8. Lack of sleep affects the skin’s ability to regenerate. This results in dullness, fatigue, puffy eyes, under-eye circles, eye-bags and bloodshot eyes.
9. Stress often makes us turn to alcohol, smoking and comfort foods—none of which are healthy and all of which can affect the skin.
10. If you’re stressed, you might also take less care of your skin, which can aggravate skin problems.

Experts are calling this new field ‘psychodermatology.’ Psychodermatogy studies how emotions affect the skin. Karen Mallin, PsyD, (an instructor in the departments of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Miami, and Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami) has found that many skin problems have a deeper psychological cause, one of which is stress.

So what can we do about stressed skin?

It’s not easy to cope with stress, but there are many things that we can do to help
1. Don’t neglect your skin even if you’re stressed. It’s more important than ever to use sunscreen and moisturiser when you’re experiencing stress.
2. Take time (even if it’s just ten minutes) to do something for yourself: relax, read a book, take a bath, meditate.
3. Sometimes, you have to say no! You can’t take on everything—give yourself a break!
4. Go out for a walk—take the dog, or just walk along the beach or in the park. Fresh air is excellent for stress relief.
5. Exercise regularly—at least three sessions of cardiovascular exercise a week. Exercise produces endorphins, which counteract stress, and you sweat out some of the toxins in your body.
6. Try some stress-management techniques: deep breathing or yoga.
7. Aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep. Before bed, Don’t watch TV. Do some gentle stretches and deep breathing. This eases the tension of the day. Open your window and allow fresh air into your bedroom.
8. Include plenty of alkalising foods in your diet, such as apple-cider vinegar, green leafy vegetables and non-animal protein. Chew your food well—this helps to alkalise it. You can also take probiotics, which help to balance your internal pH and bacteria.
9. Practise mindfulness. If you feel yourself frowning, or your mouth is turned down, step away from the source of your stress. Be aware of the moment.
10. Give yourself a facial massage. Press your fingertips into the middle of your eyebrows and massage all the way around your eyebrows, then under your eyes and back to the middle of your eyebrows. This relaxes the muscles that cause frowning.
11. Say A-E-I-O-U, while opening your mouth as wide as you can. This relaxes your jaw.
12. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, force yourself to do it. Research suggests that smiling, even if it’s fake, can improve mood and help relaxation.
13. Touch is important. Try therapies like Reiki and massage. Even hugging a friend can help.


Skin Correctives can help your skin recover

14. A lactic acid exfoliant, which hydrates as it removes dead skin cells, is best, says Baltimore dermatologist Dr. Noëlle Sherber. This is followed by an oil-absorbing kaolin clay mask.
15. If you have acne with sensitivity and patches of dryness, Dr Wexler recommends Isolaz, an acne-fighting light therapy, with a salicylic acid infusion to brighten skin and clear acne.
16. Another excellent treatment is an antioxidant-rich glycolic acid peel, such as Vivité, paired with blue-light treatment. “The light waves kill acne-promoting bacteria underneath the skin without causing dryness or irritation,” says Dr Sherber.
17. If your skin is dry, products with ceramides and hyaluronic acid can help. “They absorb water and surround each dead skin cell with lipids, making the cell more able to hang on to water,” says Dr Murad.

18. Vitamin-C treatment. The next step up is a chemical peel to reveal your newer, younger skin below. A fractionated laser treatment can also brighten dull, wrinkled skin and increase collagen production.
19. Sunscreen is even more important than usual, since when you’re stressed, the dead cell layer on the skin’s surface becomes thin, with microscopic holes in it, which can’t protect as well against aging UV rays.

Psychdermatology tells us that the bottom line is that you should tell your therapist about the stress in your life. If the dermatologist and patient are both aware that the stress exists, then they can deal with problems more successfully.

If you think your skin could be suffering from stress-related damage, Contact Karen at Skin Correctives today!

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