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What does Stress do to the Skin?

When your stress levels go through the roof, the appearance of your skin suffers.


The stress hormones, most notably cortisol, disrupts your endocrine system, and endocrine imbalances lead to a number of undesirable physical effects. Stress can show up on your face, hair, nails and body, and in ways that will make you less than happy. While you may not be able to avoid all the stressors in your life (If an early retirement is not in the cards for your future, you’re not alone!), you can get a handle on it. If you don’t, you may just discover first-hand six evil ways stress can affect your appearance.

Skin Stress Indicator #1: Dryness

If your skin has flaky and/or scaly patches, feels tight (especially when you wiggle your nose or raise your eyebrows) or looks dull, you are seeing and feeling the effects of dryness.

Why It Happens: Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” negatively impacts your skin’s ability to retain water, leaving your cells parched.

What You Can Do about It: You can nourish dry skin from inside and outside by:

  • Consuming adequate amounts of water to give your body the raw materials it needs to replenish moisture. (Tip: eating your water in fresh fruits and vegetables more effectively replenishes moisture at the cellular level.)
  • Washing your face with a gentle (i.e. neutral or alkaline pH) cleanser.
  • Washing your face with lukewarm water to minimize evaporative water loss at your skin’s surface
  • Moisturizing your face while skin is still damp to lock in moisture

Skin Stress Indicator #2: Fine Lines

Why It Happens: The hormones involved in the “fight or flight” stress response increase blood sugar levels to provide more energy to muscles. However, the increased blood sugar levels also increase the rate of glycation —the process by which sugar molecules bond to other compounds, like collagen and elastin fibers. The breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers means that your skin is less plump, firm or resilient.

What You Can Do about It: You can diminish fine lines by fighting the glycation process. Antioxidants like vitamins A (retinol), C and E bind to sugar compounds, rendering them harmless to your collagen and elastin fibers, helping your retain your skin’s natural firm texture and fullness. Serums, like our Vitamin C and Ferulic Acid serum, and thick moisturizers usually make the best antioxidant delivery vehicles.

Skin Stress Indicator #3: Redness

A flushed face is a flustered face. Stress has even been shown to exacerbate rosacea.

Why It Happens: Because the stress response involves increasing blood flow, capillaries below thin skin, like the delicate skin on your face, are near-bursting (or possibly even bursting) with the rush, making you appear ruddier.

What You Can Do about It: Incorporating calming skin care products into your daily regimen can help relieve some of the redness. Look for moisturizers with aloe barbadensis, licorice root extract, oatmeal and/or other naturally soothing ingredients.

Skin Stress Indicator #4: Acne

Acne can take many forms from easy-to-cover blackheads or whiteheads to more painful (and, unfortunately, more noticeable) cysts.

Why It Happens: Cortisol and other hormones released as part of the stress response are pro-inflammatories—they increase blood flow to damaged tissues to speed healing. But when you are under chronic stress, your body is over-taxed and just finish the work of repairing damaged tissues or fighting off pathogens.

What You Can Do about It: Adult acne is proving more difficult to treat topically, meaning effective and lasting treatment has to come from the inside out and may require more intensive stress management strategies and/or nutritional consultation to balance hormones. However, you can minimize exacerbating acne with a skin care regimen that effectively but gently exfoliates. Salicylic acid encourages quicker cell turnover and, as a pro-drug to aspirin, is naturally anti-inflammatory. You can also limit poor-clogging potential by using non-comedogenic skin care products.

Skin Stress Indicator #5: Tired Eyes

Why It Happens: Sleep gives our bodies the time to rejuvenate. Without it, our tissues are not able to repair themselves, replenish moisture and nutrients, and for skin as sensitive and delicate as that under-eye, the effects of compromised restoration become visible much more quickly.

What You Can Do about It: The best solution is to get more (and more restful sleep). But to minimize the appearance of sleep deprivation, eye creams or gels that help tone and thicken delicate under-eye skin can help you appear more bright-eyed. (However, visible results from eye creams are often not seen for a few weeks.)

For questions about these or any of our other active ingredients, please contact us online or call us today at 1-800-951-7005.
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