Is stress affecting your skin?
One thing that we’ve all experienced in recent months is stress. Between home-schooling, working from home, to lockdown uncertainty, we are all experiencing more stress than usual and unfortunately, our skin is one of the first places to show it. Stress impacts not just our emotional health but our physical health too, including our skin. Whilst we can’t make the stress go away, we can help you to understand the role stress plays in difficult to manage skin and what we can do to alleviate some of this pressure.
The fight or flight response
Before getting into the nitty gritty of how stress shows up on our skin, it’s important to know what’s happening behind the scenes.
When you experience a stressful situation, your brain sends a message to your adrenal glands that’s likened to alarm bells needing to be set off. This is known as your fight or flight response. Despite it being intended for life-threatening situations, it can be triggered at any situation that you deem stressful.
Your fight or flight response signals your adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. This cocktail of hormones is what’s responsible for the physical evidence of stress including an increase in your blood pressure, sweating and skin malfunctions. Too much of this, known as overexposure to the stress-response, can cause severe disruption in the body and to your immunity.
Signs that the skin is experiencing the impact of stress
It is not unusual for stress to cause breakouts as one of the key hormones released during the fight or flight response is cortisol. When an overproduction of cortisol occurs, the skin produces excess sebum and reduces its ability to maintain water. These are the two primary contributors to an increase of breakouts – oil flow and dehydration. Additionally, we often find ourselves enjoying the decadence of sweet treats and convenience food during high stress periods which unfortunately does not positively support the boost in breakouts.
Whilst a natural decrease in stress will support the ease of breakouts, it’s important to follow a decongesting skincare routine during this period to support the purification of pores and easing of inflammation.
Unfortunately, another downside of a spike in cortisol is the process of glycation, where collagen and elastin fibres are destroyed. This is why consistent periods of stress can have us looking older than we actually are. Collagen and elastin are responsible for maintaining the tout and youthful structure of our skin but when they become damaged, thanks to the likes of stress, the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles arise. With stress causes the skin to become more dehydrated, their appearance can become more obvious as the skin is lacking that plumpness it once had.
Another skin response seen frequently from bouts of stress is rashes. Commonly referred to as a “stress rash”, it is induced thanks to another hormone released during the fight or flight response known as Norepinephrine. This hormone reduces the blood flow to the skin which triggers the undesirable lumps, bumps and redness that can be found on any part of the body. If not treated, by soothing and cooling the irritation, it can worsen into more complex skin conditions.
However stress is presenting on your skin, they all have one thing in common – the healing process can be slowed down significantly. Therefore, it’s vital to manage the signs of stress long-term to prevent the recovery of blemishes, rashes, and dehydration from taking much longer than it should. If you’re finding that you’re experiencing one or more of these conditions and they just don’t seem to disappear, it’s a sign your body is experiencing the unfortunate effects of stress.
Ways to reduce stress in your everyday life
In these recent times, it is much easier said than done to reduce stress from our everyday lives but there are small habits that when consistently implemented, can support our stress management in the long-term.
Foremost, sleep. Sleep is regularly one of the first daily habit to be impacted by stress but can also be the gateway to managing it. Getting quality sleep at night can significantly support your stress levels as when you’re in a deep sleep, your cortisol levels will naturally decrease. This is not only a win for your mind but your skin too! Sleep is your skin’s time to repair and regenerate so with naturally lessened cortisol, it has a proper chance to do this.
Secondly, as much as we don’t always want to hear it, exercise and moving our body is a fundamental habit for managing stress. In fact, there is science to back it up! Even just 20 minutes of daily movement can release endorphins, aka the happy hormones, into your system which can work to override the stress-inducing ones you’ve been living with. Regular movement will also support you to have a better quality of sleep.
Finally, to reduce stress and its impact on your skin, it is time to develop your own self-care routine. Now, this doesn’t need to be complicated and a million steps but rather something that brings you solace and relaxation everytime you do it. The art of self-care slows down your heart rate, calms the mind and activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the system responsible for rest.
Whether it’s applying a face mask and having a warm bath, meditating outside each afternoon, or laying in a quiet space and listening to your favourite podcast, however you celebrate self-care, your mind and body are seriously thanking you for it!
We hope that today’s blog supports you during this stressful time. If your skin is experiencing the impact of stress, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.