There isn’t a single one of us who can look back at the past six months or so and say, “Hey, that was a breeze!” Life is too stressful as it is, but when you add a terrifying pandemic to the mix, let’s just say we could all use a massage and a beach vacation right now.
Stress is never fun, but unfortunately, it goes far beyond emotional discomfort. It has a serious impact on your health and on your appearance too. Let’s take a deeper dive into stress and how it affects my personal area of expertise: skin care.
Irritating Pesky Skin Conditions
Millions of people live their lives with chronic skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. These conditions are always there in the background, but the symptoms come and go in the form of periodic “flare-ups.”
Stress has a way of making those flare-ups come back with a vengeance. Your body does through a variety of hormonal reactions when you feel stress because our bodies are designed to respond to stress in a fight-or-flight way. After all, when our ancestors faced stress, it usually was a physical danger that they had to flee from or fight, and that requires extra energy.
Our bodies release hormones to give us the energy we need and to respond to the stress in other ways, and those hormones have side effects. Namely, they can trigger flare-ups for many chronic skin conditions.
Drying Your Skin
Dry skin is a serious drag. It’s uncomfortable and itchy, and it looks flaky or even powdery. If you’re slathering on one layer of moisturizer after another, you might have stress to blame.
Your skin has a natural moisture barrier that keeps it hydrated on a daily basis. Some studies suggest that stress and the hormones that come with it can make that moisture barrier more effective. That means your hydration evaporates and your skin gets noticeably dry.
A skin moisturizer can help to replace your natural moisture barrier. Still, you’ll see better hydration if you can manage your stress while also using your moisturizer on a regular basis.
Pushing Up Pimples
There are rumors everywhere you turn about what can and can’t affect acne. Some people say certain foods trigger breakouts, others say it’s just a matter of luck. There is one rumor that’s true, though: stress does often cause breakouts.
One of the hormones your body releases during times of stress is called cortisol. Cortisol triggers a chain reaction within your body that eventually results in overstimulating your skin’s oil glands. That extra oil can clog your pores and lead to acne.
In other words, it’s not a coincidence that you always seem to get pimples when you have an important event on the horizon. The stress of anticipating the big day is probably bringing on that dreaded breakout. On top of managing your stress, make sure you’re using an acne cleanser daily.
Adding Years to Your Face
Have you ever seen those before-and-after pictures of US presidents, comparing the way they look when entering the office to leaving the office? One thing is for sure, they age by far more than 4-8 years. To skin care professionals, that’s no surprise.
Stress actually ages your skin in multiple ways. For one, when your body is under stress, it can make the proteins in your skin less effective. Those proteins, like collagen and elastin, happen to be the reason your skin stays firm, thick, and lifted when you’re younger. As a result of stress, your skin loses some of its elasticity and starts to sag.
Stress also tends to lead to sleep deprivation, which makes a giant mess of your skin. A lack of sleep causes puffiness and bags under your eyes, which makes you look older. Poor sleep also causes more inflammation throughout your body, and that makes your wrinkles, lines, and other signs of aging more pronounced.
On top of all that, sleep deprivation can make it more difficult for your body to grow new cells. A slower cell growth rate means your skin ages more quickly.
Amplifying Expression Lines
Wrinkles form in a variety of ways, usually from a combination of causes. Let’s take a look at expression lines for a moment, like frown lines, forehead lines, and crow’s feet.
When you make facial expressions, you’re contracting the muscles in your face. When you keep making the same expressions over the years, the muscles stop fully relaxing between expressions. They stay partially contracted, and this pinches the skin above them which creates expression lines.
Of course, your skin’s elasticity plays a part too. As you get older and your skin ages, it’s less able to withstand the pinching pressure so it’s more likely to show those expression lines.
If you’re like most of us, you make certain facial expressions more when you’re stressed. You might frown, squint, furrow your brow, and so on. The more you make those expressions, the more quickly you’ll see expression lines forming and becoming more pronounced.
What to Do About Stress-Induced Skin Problems
If your stress is showing up on your skin, there are a few ways you can approach the problem. Your first option is to invest in skin care products that address your specific struggles, like a rejuvenating night cream for premature aging.
The second option is to find ways to reduce your stress. Try meditation, aromatherapy, blocking out time to specifically relax, or whatever helps you ease the burden.
Your third option is the ideal, though: do both. Treat the skin concerns you have while also reducing your stress to improve your overall health, inside and out. Go forth and find your peace, my fellow over-stressers!