Ahhh stress - a 6 letter word we are all too familiar with. The World Health Organization defines stress as being worried or concerned from a difficult situation in your life. Everyone experiences stress in their life in one way or another. It is a natural response our body undergoes when we are feeling challenged or even threatened. Way back when it was a way to help us survive danger; think caveman and saber-toothed tiger. You may also know it as fight or flight. However, in today’s world, this fight or flight response, while natural, is not as needed in our everyday lives as it once was.
The Physical Toll of Stress
When we are stressed, we feel it in our body both mentally and physically. Physically, stress can take a toll on our bodies. It can show up as shallow breathing, increased heart rate, and headaches to name a few. But, where else does stress show up physically? The answer - in our largest organ, the skin. You may be wondering how stress affects skin? Below are three of the more common ways of how stress affects skin.
How Stress Affects Skin
Skin Irritations - Acne, psoriasis and eczema. These are some of the more familiar skin irritations that show up when stress affects your skin. How does stress affect your skin in this way? It all starts with a hormone - cortisol. Cortisol is a naturally occurring steroid hormone in your body. When you are stressed, excess cortisol gets released into your bloodstream. While it does have important functions as I mentioned above, like helping you respond to danger (“flight or fight”), too much can impact your skin and make it more sensitive. This increased sensitivity from stress and excess cortisol can cause flare-ups of skin irritations like acne, psoriasis and eczema. It also can make your skin more fragile and slow the healing process of those flare-ups.
Dry Skin - The outer layer of your skin is called the stratum corneum. It is made up of proteins and lipids that play a critical role by acting as a barrier to keep your skin cells hydrated. When you are stressed, even minimally, this outer layer of your skin can stop functioning properly. When it is not functioning as it was meant to, your skin can become dry and itchy and even become rashy.
Premature Aging - Like the saying goes, with age comes wisdom; but also with age comes changes in our skin. As we age, our skin changes. The collagen in our skin breaks down reducing our skin's elasticity and we notice fine lines, wrinkles, furrowed brows, and bags under the eyes. Stress can start this earlier than we would like, aka premature aging. So, if stress is getting the better of you, you may see those fine lines, wrinkles, furrowed brows, and bags under the eyes earlier than you would like.
How to Help Your Skin Feel Less Stressed
While we would love to be able to kiss the stress in our lives goodbye, it’s unlikely to stay away. How can we combat how stress affects our skin? Here are some tips to help you combat the stress in your life.
- Stress Management - Managing your stress can look like practicing meditation, finding quiet time to be by yourself, incorporating breathwork or maybe taking a yoga class.
- Take Time for Yourself (self care) - There are many different ways for you to take time for yourself. If you didn’t read my blog on tips for self care, take a peek here Self Care for Busy Moms: Why is it Super Important to Do.
- Adequate Sleep - When you sleep, your body is still working and repairing. If you have a lot of stress and are not getting an adequate amount of sleep, the effects of stress, especially on your skin, will flare up more. Aim for on average 8 hours of sleep per night (this will vary with each person).
- Hydration - Drink that water. Staying hydrated helps with your skin elasticity and combating dry and itchy skin.
- Exercise - Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. Exercising also lessens your body’s hormonal cortisol response and can help take your mind off things.
- Food - Eating a healthy and well balanced diet helps to combat stress more than you may realize. Think outside the box when it comes to your diet to help lessen stress. Check out this interesting article on how food can help with stress. Diet for Stress Management: Carbs, Nuts, and Other Stress-Relief Foods (webmd.com)
- Connection with Family and Friends - Being able to talk to someone whether that be a friend, family member or a mental health professional, can help immensely with lessening your stress.
Your Skin Care Routine and Stress
Not only can you combat the effects of stress on your skin with the above tips, but you can also help by keeping up with a regular skincare routine.
- Try your best to keep a regular skin routine and be consistent with it.
- Practice a skincare routine in the morning and evening.
- With your morning skincare use a lightweight moisturizer with SPF.
- Use a cleanser for your skin type and skin needs.
- With your night skincare, make sure to remove any makeup before cleansing.
At the end of the day, stress is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it seems each year we read that the percentage of people with more stress in their lives increases. We don’t always have control over when and how stress shows up in our lives, but we can work to equip ourselves with the tools to lessen the toll it takes. Stress takes a toll on us mentally and physically and hopefully after you read this, you can feel better prepared to help you and your skin feel less stressed.