Stress is a part of life. Whether your stress is small or large, it can impact both your mental and physical well-being - especially your skin. While you can’t remove stress completely from your life, you may want to adopt some mind, body techniques (also known as relaxation response techniques). These focus on your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs to help control stress and combat the negative effects it has on your body.
Physiological Effects of Stress
To restore optimal skin health one needs to understand the physiological and biological processes of the cells when chronic stress is present. Let's offer you some information to help you identify the physical problems that arise on the skin that are linked to stress.
Let’s begin with a brief (albeit somewhat sciencey) overview of the physiological components of stress. When the brain senses stress or a threat, a message is sent to the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland responds and sends a message through the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands, respond by releasing cortisone and cortisol. Stress-related substances such as adrenaline, cortisone and cortisol are synthesized by the adrenal glands. When cortisol is released, other hormones and systems take a back seat until the threat or source of stress dissipates. Your central nervous system is in charge of this “fight or flight” response. In your brain, the hypothalamus gets the ball rolling, telling your adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rev up your heartbeat and send blood rushing to the areas that need it most in an emergency, such as your muscles, heart, and other important organs (but less to your skin). Enzymes, melatonin, sex hormones and insulin functions are all influenced during these stressful times. Since blood flow (carrying vital nutrients) is restricted from less vital organs like your skin, this makes skin more vulnerable to aging, acne and inflammatory responses.
Stress is a normal human reaction that happens to everyone. In fact, the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. When you experience changes or challenges (stressors), your body produces physical and mental responses. That’s stress.
Stress responses help your body adjust to new situations. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated and ready to avoid danger (fight or flight). For example, if you have an important event coming up, a stress response might help your body work harder and stay awake longer. But stress becomes a problem when stressors continue without relief or periods of relaxation.
There are two main types of stress:
Acute stress. This is short-term stress that goes away quickly. You feel it when you slam on the brakes, have a fight with your partner, or ski down a steep slope. It helps you manage dangerous situations. Everyone experiences acute stress at one time or another. Short-term (fight-or-flight) stress response is nature’s fundamental survival mechanism that enhances protection and performance under conditions involving a threat or challenge. Short-term stress may also enhance mental (cognitive function) and physical performance through effects on brain, and cardiovascular functions. Short-term stress could be harnessed to enhance immune protection, as well as mental and physical performance.
Chronic stress. This is stress that lasts for a longer period of time. You may have chronic stress if you have money problems, an unhappy marriage, or trouble at work. Any type of stress that goes on for weeks or months is chronic stress. You can become so used to chronic stress that you don't realize it is a problem. This is the stress that can wreck your skin. If you don't find ways to manage stress, it may lead to other health problems as well.
The ways stress shows up on your faces.
Chronic stress can show on your face in two ways. First, the hormones that your body releases when you feel stress can lead to physiological changes that negatively impact your skin. Second, feeling stressed may also lead to bad habits such as grinding your teeth or biting your lips. Or even skipping healthy foods or (God forbid) your skincare regime. How does stress show on your face?
When you feel stressed, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is thought to stimulate oil released from sebaceous glands. Excessive oil production by these glands can clog your pores and lead to acne. Prolonged stress also increases inflammation in your skin. This means your skin is more likely to react to increased oil production as bacteria feeds on the oil. Acne is essentially a disease of inflammation. This means those clogged pores are more likely to become inflamed and end up as blemishes. When your skin is under stress, focus on anti-inflammatory ingredients (found in Stress Recovery Spray Azulene Soothing Masque and Seawhip Soothing Lotion) rather than just trying to dry everything up which may exacerbate the condition.
Bags under your eyes
Bags under the eyes are characterized by swelling or puffiness beneath your eyelids or under your eyes. This becomes more common with age since the supporting muscles around your eyes weaken. Sagging skin caused by a loss of elasticity can also contribute to eye bags. Research has found that stress caused by sleep deprivation increases signs of aging, such as fine lines, reduced elasticity and puffiness under the eyes. The loss of skin elasticity may also contribute to the formation of bags under your eyes. This can be a more permeant situation that will require a blepharoplasty in order to be corrected. During sleep is when skin tries to repair itself. Since lack of deep sleep means increased puffiness, try calming and tightening the eye area in the morning. You can do this using an Anti-Puff Gel which employs the ingredient Dipeptide-2. This peptide helps decrease puffiness by gently stimulating lymph to move away from the area. This strategy is even more effective when the gel is kept cold or rolling the cold glass container over the applied area. Our Anti-Puff Gel is conveniently packaged in glass and can be stored in the refrigerator. After applying the gel gently roll the cold bottle over the effected area.
The stratum corneum is the outer layer of your skin. It contains proteins and lipids that play a critical role in keeping your skin cells hydrated. It also acts as a barrier that protects the skin underneath. When your stratum corneum isn’t working the way it should, your skin can become dry and itchy.
A 2014 pair of studies found that stress impairs the barrier function of your stratum corneum and may negatively affect skin water retention. This can slow down the skin barrier’s ability to heal itself.
Deep dehydration in the lower layers can occur and may lead to fine lines and wrinkles. If your skin is dry and sensitive you should consider a richer moisturizer or a protective serum. Niacinamide (found in Ageless and Revitalize Cell Therapy) has demonstrated its ability to repair a damaged skin barrier function.
Dehydration in the lower layers promotes skin aging. Stressed skin exhibits several unfavorable symptoms caused by deep dehydration including depletion of collagen, increased lines and wrinkles, age spots and glycation. Other unwanted skin conditions including rosacea, psoriasis and acne share a connection to gut microbial imbalances brought on by long-term stress. Understanding how stress impacts illnesses and skin conditions is vital, as these conditions arise.
Stress has the potential to weaken your immune system. A weakened immune system can lead to an imbalance of bacteria in your gut and skin (which also has a microbiome) known as dysbiosis. When this imbalance occurs on your skin, it can lead to redness or a rash.Stress is known to trigger or aggravate several conditions that may cause rashes or inflamed skin, such as psoriasis, eczema, and contact dermatitis.
Glycation is the cross linking effect that non-enzymatic blood glucose (sugar) creates when it sticks to proteins like collagen and elastin, making them stiff and inelastic. The result is a thickened yellowish cast to the skin and deeper lines and furrows on the skin. Glycation (also known as AGES - Advanced Glycation End Products) also involves the loss of collagen and elastin (through increased MMPs), dehydration and elevated blood sugar. Due to elevated cortisol levels, stress can also be considered a covert cause of glycation. For instance, insulin is prompted to act when the hypothalamus signals the release of cortisol. Blood sugar is delivered to the muscles through insulin. The body uses this as a means of supplying energy to the muscles. However, due to the insulin response, ongoing stress adds to elevated blood sugar levels and more glycation. The normal formation of collagen fibers is hampered by high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar increases inflammation and oxidative stress and alters the production of strong collagen. The collagen fibers become stiffer and more fragile when too much sugar (glycogen) is present. Hence, when dealing with glycation cases, consider the insulin response brought on by diabetes or long-term stress. Stress may cause you to eat more high glycemic foods causing a detrimental effect on healthy skin.
Dull Lackluster skin.
As previously indicated, when cortisol takes over in reaction to an immediate threat, digestion is significantly slowed down or momentarily interrupted. Malnutrition and malabsorption result from impaired digestion. More severe digestive illnesses can be a result of conditions like SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), leaky gut and microbial imbalances. Poor digestion prevents skin cells from absorbing and utilizing the nutrients they require to thrive. Lack of circulation results in dryness and a dull pale complexion. Dehydration and diminished cellular energy contribute to the loss of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, resulting in the aging of cells. Try doing a bit of massage in the evening when applying your milky cleanser or moisturizer. This will influence blood flow to supply your skin with moisture, nutrients and oxygen.
When hormones such as cortisol are in charge, the other hormones must take a backseat and wait for instructions. Estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, insulin and melatonin will have to shift performances once cortisol is reduced. Keep in mind that there are complicated interactions among and between all hormones. When this is evident it might be time to visit your gynecologist or endochronogest for a medical evaluation.
Depletion of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are vital for protecting our skin from oxidative stress that sensitize and damage your skin. The capacity for intracellular antioxidants is also hampered by excessive toxins or hazardous chemicals (like pollution). Stress can interfere with antioxidant function, harm energy producing mitochondria and prevent cellular respiration. When toxins accumulate and are deposited in the skin, oxidative stress and inflammation takes place. The mitochondria are consequently impacted, which affects how energy (ATP) is produced. Cells that produce less energy or ATP are less able to defend themselves, which makes for the optimal conditions for the buildup of toxins. If your skin has been sensitized or overly exposed to the sun some of this stress can be counter acted by applying a cocktail of super antioxidants. This is particularly helpful when applied just before sunscreen.
Some Ways of Coping with Stress
Schedule time for relaxing activities. Scheduling time for activities that make you feel relaxed may help you reduce stress if you feel overwhelmed by your busy schedule.
Maintain good lifestyle habits. Continuing to eat a healthy diet as well as getting plenty of sleep will help your body better manage stress.
Stay active. Exercise can help you lower levels of your stress hormones and give you some time to take your mind off the cause of your stress.
Talk to others. Talking to a friend, family member, or mental health professional helps many people deal with stress.
Avoid drugs and alcohol. Persisted use of drugs and alcohol can cause additional problems to your stress.
Focus on self care. Taking care of your skin can be cathartic, as well as scheduling monthly facial treatments. Just imagine setting aside an hour or two a month for relaxing while putting your face in the hands of a qualified esthetician.
Stress reduction or daily stress release is an important aspect of skin health. The first step is to recognize and acknowledge that stress is affecting the health of the skin. If strategies are put into place, over time, the body will release and stop producing too much insulin when cortisol levels drop, and increased melatonin levels will stabilize to help you sleep and kick in the skin's repetitive response. After sleep and recovery, balancing effects take place and the skin becomes restored and healthy again.
Elizabeth believes in "Longevity Skincare", the idea that beautiful skin can endure throughout one's lifetime when utilizing the best that science and nature has to offer. LONGEVITY is a science-based skincare line that appreciates skin of all ages. LONGEVITY by Elizabeth Renee provides hydration, nutrition and protection from environmental aging. Your skin will receive high performance ingredients to help energize and repair its cells, resulting in a healthy skin with an enduring, vital glow.