We all know that too much stress is bad for our health. A 2012 study, for example, found that stress increases risk of depression, heart disease and infectious diseases, and increases inflammation throughout the body—which, by the way, increases skin aging, as well.
When we’re stressed, we’re also less likely to eat right, get enough sleep, or stick with our exercise routines. That affects our overall health, but also our appearance. The skin fails to get the nutrients it needs to repair itself. You can tell by that inconvenient acne eruption or psoriasis flare up.
It’s hard to escape stress completely, however, so the best approach is to take steps that will help your skin to resist the negative effects of stress.
How Stress Affects Skin
People with compromised skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea know that stress can trigger uncomfortable and embarrassing flare-ups. But even people without these skin conditions will note the affects of stress on their skin.
Dermatologist Flor A. Mayoral, MD, FAAD, spoke at the American Academy of Dermatology’s SKIN Academy in 2007, and had this to say: “In treating hundreds of patients over the years with skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis, I have seen firsthand how stress can aggravate the skin and trigger unexpected flare-ups that, in effect, create more stress for patients.”
When you’re dealing with stress, your body releases the stress hormone—cortisol—into your bloodstream. This causes an increase in oil production, which can lead to oily skin, acne, and rashes. A study in the January 2001 Archives of Dermatology found that stress had a negative effect on the barrier of skin, resulting in water loss and a reduced ability for the skin to repair itself. Stress can also increase hair loss and brittle, peeling nails.
Methods to Help You Cope
How can you reduce the effects of stress on your skin? First of all, try to use coping techniques like exercise, meditation, calming music, and more to reduce your stress levels. In addition to that, increase your attention to your skin with these methods to help you reduce your risk of acne, flare-ups, and other issues.
- Avoid hot showers and baths. They strip your skin of moisture. Use lukewarm instead and moisturize immediately after your shower.
- Wear sunscreen. Though sun exposure can be helpful for some skin conditions, it can also cause flare-ups and increase the look of aging. Wear sunscreen even in the winter.
- Eat a healthy diet. Your skin really reflects your diet. During the holidays, do your best to continue to eat healthy foods like leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats like olive oil.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep helps recharge your body and make it more resilient to stress. Lack of sleep shows up as those ugly circles under your eyes. Try to stick to a regular bedtime and do something relaxing beforehand like yoga or aromatherapy.
- Keep your hands away from your face. Bacteria from your hands can stimulate an acne outbreak, especially when you’re stressed.
- Hydrate. Drink enough water to flush impurities from your body, which can help keep skin clear.
- Throw away the magnifying mirror. We’re already hard enough on ourselves—we don’t need to be examining our skin up close for flaws. Reduce your stress and put the magnifying mirror away for the holidays!
- Exfoliate. Getting rid of those dead skin cells helps your newer cells show through, which increases the glow of skin. Try a natural exfoliator like Zia Natural Skin Care Pumpkin Exfoliating Mask.
- Try an herbal facial. These can perform double duty—relax you and relax your skin. Try some of the natural herbal facials found here.
- Commit to a daily skin-care regimen. During the holidays it’s easy to forget our regular skin care routine. You feel rushed, or maybe you’re too exhausted at night to put in the time. Just five minutes morning and night to cleanse, tone, and hydrate can make a big difference!
Do you have any tips for fighting the effects of stress on the skin? Let us know.
American Academy of Dermatology. “Feeling Stressed? How Your Skin, Hair And Nails Can Show It.” ScienceDaily, 9 Nov. 2007. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.
Sheldon Cohen, et al., “Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk,” PNAS, April 2, 2012, http://www.pnas.org/content/109/16/5995.