With today’s hustle culture, living a productive and busy life is often seen as a badge of honour. You’re getting things done! You’re persevering in your ambitions! You’re turning your dreams into a reality! Good for you!… But, well, not really good for your skin.
Don’t get us wrong, hard work is admirable. But it does tend to mask the negative effects of such a lifestyle, particularly when it comes to the big S word.
For such a short and concise word, stress has bigger, more long-term effects than many of us realise. More often than not, it manifests in our mental, emotional, and physical states – migraines, mood swings, burnout, insomnia, anxiety, heart disease… Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the research speaks for itself. Stress impacts all aspects of our body! And one such aspect, not many know about:
Yup, you heard it here people: Skin stress is real! Whether we like it or not, stress is not easy to hide. You can still manage a smile, or unwind after work, or spend a fun weekend with friends – but when it comes to your appearance, the skin doesn’t lie! Dark circles, dry skin, dull complexion, an itchy rash, even certain skin conditions like eczema and rosacea – these are all physical symptoms of stressed skin.
Now, before you start stressing out over stress (see what we did there?), don’t panic just yet! That’s why we’re here. In this article, we’re breaking down common skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety and the easy remedies you can do to combat them!
For starters, let’s start a simple – but probably the most important – question: How does stress aggravate skin issues in the first place?
How Does Stress & Anxiety Affect Your Skin?
We often feel stress in our minds and our emotions, but not immediately on our skin. Why is that?
Stress is like a little thief in the night, creeping into our homes – in this case, our skin – and leaving us dry (among many other things) before we even realise it. It triggers a whole set of imbalances and reactions that occur within our bodies and are invisible to the eye. So just because we don’t see the effects right away, it doesn’t mean they’re not happening. On the contrary, it is a slow and steady burn until you one day wake up looking more worn out than usual. Yikes!
At the risk of sounding too science-y and boring, just picture this:
Increase in stress = Increase in adrenaline
When we go through a stressful situation, our bodies naturally release a stress hormone called adrenaline. It increases our heart rate, elevates our blood pressure, and boosts our energy, hence the popular term ‘adrenaline rush’. Basically put, it prepares our body for a ‘fight or flight’ response. Now, once we survive the ordeal, all is well and our bodies go back to normal, correct? Well, ideally. Which brings us to our next point.
Increase in adrenaline = Increase in cortisol
If we continue to experience high stress levels, adrenaline is not enough to keep us going, thus prompting our body to release a second (and the most prominent) stress hormone – cortisol. Its purpose is to keep our senses on high alert, and it does so by facilitating the release of sugar (specifically, glucose) from our livers to our bloodstream. More sugar, more energy, better chances of fighting stress!
So you’re probably wondering – that all sounds fine and dandy, the body is doing it’s thing! What exactly is the problem then?
Increase in cortisol = Disaster!
While stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol sound like faithful servants doing their job to protect the body – and truthfully, they are! – they do come with some downsides. After all, too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing.
High cortisol levels trigger a whole set of other bodily functions, and although we’d love to discuss them in detail, we’re pretty sure you have more exciting plans than learning some Skin 101 lessons with us. In that case, we’ll keep it short and simple!
Too much cortisol in our bodies can cause 2 specific reactions that have negative impacts on our skin:
- Increase in oil production from our sebaceous glands, which can clog our pores and lead to all sorts of skin problems.
- Increase in inflammation, which is a stress response from the brain that helps fight infection and heal the body. However, with continuous stress, inflammation can be extreme, damaging skin tissues and weakening our immune system.
All that said, it’s pretty clear by now that leading a stressful life will inevitably affect the way we look. So if stress is something you’ve been struggling with on the daily, it pays to look out for these 5 skin symptoms!
6 Signs of Stressed Skin:
Have you been plagued with sudden breakouts even if you haven’t made any drastic changes to your skincare routine, diet, or overall lifestyle? Chances are, stress is the culprit!
As we mentioned earlier, stress can lead to excess oil in the skin, which clogs your skin pores and causes blackheads, whiteheads, and acne to appear. And as if that wasn’t harmful enough, people who are stressed tend to show nervous habits – one of them being pimple picking.
It may feel therapeutic for some, but in reality, instead of eliminating acne, picking on your face actually weakens your skin barrier, and – yup, you guessed it! – causes even more pimples. So the next time you’re tempted to get rid of that zit, think again!
2. Dry Skin
As we’ve already established, stress hormones trigger inflammation, initially intended to heal the body from any bacteria, infection, damaged tissues, pain, and injury. But the more stressed out we are, that inflammatory stress response can turn from helpful to harmful!
One such negative effect is the damage it does to your skin’s moisture barrier. Stress prevents the skin from retaining enough water to keep it hydrated and healthy – thus leading to dry, flaky skin!
Now, it’s completely normal to lose more water in the skin during nighttime (yup, that’s why we’re advised to apply thick moisturisers before bed!). However, once you add stress to the picture, imagine what happens to your “already dry skin” when the moisture barrier is not properly functioning. Yup, even DRIER skin.
You can say goodbye to that bright and glowy complexion. Fine lines and wrinkles become more prominent. Plus, dry skin is more vulnerable to injury, poor healing, and so on! Yikes!
3. Skin Rashes
As an effect of inflammation, stress causes a certain protein (also called cytokines) to be released into the skin, tickling the nerves. Hence, the itchy sensation many of us feel when we are in a stressful situation. Apart from scratching and adding to the rashes, it also keeps you up at night and impacts your sleep quality, causing even MORE stress. Stress also suppresses the immune system, which delays healing of any active rashes. What a whirlwind!
For people with rosacea, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema, the skin itching can be even more prominent. These chronic skin conditions similarly affect skin texture, appearing in the form of rashes, redness or visible blood vessels, dry patches, cold sores, and itchiness. While they are commonly caused by genetic and environmental conditions, stress plays a big part in aggravating symptoms.
4. Dull Complexion
More stress also leads to less oxygen on our skin, directly impacting that youthful and radiant glow we all love! Now it’s clear to see why stressed people look dull and almost colourless.
5. Hair Loss
The health of your skin is closely related to the health of your scalp. And so when it comes to stress, you best believe that your hair is affected as well!
Fun fact: Every hair on your head is in a different phase of the growth cycle, so it’s actually normal to lose hair daily. In fact, did you know that we lose between 50 to 100 hair strands every day?! BUT when you’re dealing with chronic stress, this can become much, much more! It shifts a lot of the hair follicles to the shedding phase, leading to massive hair loss.
This can happen after a major stressful event – getting sick, going through surgery, giving birth, and whatnot. Before you worry, just remember that these circumstances end at some point, and so will the abundant hair loss. But if you’re burdened by never-ending stress, then that’s a totally different story.
Plus, as you already know by now, stress triggers excessive oil production, and there are A LOT of oil glands on our scalp. All that oil feeds off a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, more commonly known as dandruff. So contrary to us thinking that dandruff is a case of dry skin, it’s actually due to the opposite – oil and lot’s of it!
Basically put, more stress, more oil, more dandruff flakes, more inflammation, more itching, more sleepless nights, more stress, more shedding. Phew, that was a hairful! I mean, mouthful. So let this be your warning, ladies and gents! Keep that stress in check, we all need our luscious curls.
6. Skin Ageing
People under more stress will inevitably show more signs of skin ageing, in some cases, prematurely. Wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots, yellowing, uneven skin tone, rough skin texture, the whole shebang!
As the cortisol stress hormone causes our blood sugar to increase, that glucose damages our (1) skin tissues and (2) our free radicals in the process, and – surprise, surprise! – the ones most prone to such damage are actually collagen and elastin, the two proteins responsible for keeping our skin flexible, plump, and healthy.
Long story short, skin ageing is the ultimate manifestation of all the skin functions going haywire due to stress – inflammation, impaired skin barrier, damaged skin tissues, weaker immune system, and slower healing.
Wow, enumerating that whole list just stressed us out! In a nutshell: When it comes to stress, everything feeds on one another, affecting our skin and overall well being. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to stop! Luckily for you, we’ve got tips that are sure to do the trick!
7 Easy Tips for Stressed Skin
1. Daily Exercise or Walks
Someone once said, “If stress burned calories, I’d be a supermodel.” Well, friends, this tip will help you burn both calories AND stress, and possibly help you achieve that model-esque body in the process. Win-win-win!
Setting aside time for daily walks or regular exercise can do wonders for your mind, heart, body, and yes, skin. Even 10 minutes can make a big difference! Not only will it help clear your mind from stress and anxiety, but it is also proven to help get rid of inflammation and boost blood circulation. This means less toxins, brighter complexion, and overall better skin health!
The cherry on top: An active lifestyle also leads to better quality sleep, and y’know we’re all here for those extra zzz’s! Speaking of snoozing:
2. Get More Sleep
This tip speaks for itself. More sleep, less stress, better skin! And while you’re at it, do yourself a favour and invest in a humidifier. Adding this to your nighttime routine will help keep your skin naturally moisturised and your nasal passages decongested all through the night.
3. Healthy Eating Habits
People who are stressed out often tend to binge eat – we’re guilty of this ourselves! While we completely understand the urge to find comfort in pizza, ice cream, and potato chips, we’d be remiss if we pretended like all that delicious goodness didn’t have negative effects on our skin. So as hard as it will be, the next best thing would be to channel your binge-eating to healthy (yet still delicious) food instead!
Swap those processed and sugary foods with skin-friendly nutrients from veggies, fruits, and proteins. But more importantly, have fun with it! Research on delicious recipes so that you actually ENJOY eating healthy.
Our go-to recipe: Whipping up a smoothie and mixing in our much-needed veggies with naturally sweet fruits like bananas, melon, and berries. This will allow you to get in your daily dose of nutrients without gagging at how bland and healthy it tastes. Try it out for yourself!
4. Identify What is Causing Your Stress
Although this seems like an obvious one, it’s actually easier said than done. But trust us, if you put in the work, finding out what is stressing you out in the first place can make a world of difference!
As age-old wisdom goes, solve the root cause of your problem and everything else will follow. Now, obviously you won’t be able to eliminate or avoid stress completely, that’s just how life goes. In that case, this next bit will be your best companion:
5. Deep Breathing
This tip is the fastest and easiest in the world, so there’s no excuse for you not to try it. In fact, you’re literally breathing as you read this, so the battle is already half won!
If you can’t manage to squeeze in a morning walk or prepare a healthy meal for lunch, you can surely set aside 5 minutes of your day to take deep, stress-free breaths. This is especially helpful for people dealing with emotional stress or psychological stress.
Deep breathing is proven to stimulate all kinds of positive reactions from the body – from releasing more oxygen to the brain to clearing up toxins in the lymphatic system to better digestion, energy, and immunity. All these benefits from a simple act of intentional breathing? No questions asked, sign us up for a lifetime membership!
6. Daily Skincare Routine
This may not be as easy as deep breathing, but it’s definitely just as helpful – and a lot more fun!
Incorporating these products into your skincare routine will help relieve symptoms of stress – and possibly deliver even more benefits to help you achieve your best-looking skin. Now keep in mind, this doesn’t eliminate stress completely, but at least it helps you look less affected by it!
Our damaged skin barriers (and consequently, dry and dehydrated skin) can be remedied with a good moisturiser. Consistency is key so make sure to apply it every morning and night. You can even invest in a thicker moisturiser made specifically for nighttime use – perhaps an ingredient that restores transepidermal water loss overnight like Hyaluronic Acid.
As for body moisturising, here’s a fun tip! Apply lotion or oil onto damp skin after taking a shower – this will help trap in some moisture from your bath.
Products with Anti-Acne and Anti-Ageing Ingredients
When dealing with stress-induced breakouts, it is best to add anti-acne products into your skincare routine, especially for essential steps like cleansing and exfoliating. Some ingredients you should look out for:
- Salicylic Acid, ideally in cleansers or serums – Helps unclog pores and remove dead skin cells. This ingredient is gentle enough to use everyday, making it a good alternative for sensitive skin!
- Benzoyl Peroxide, ideally as a spot treatment – Kills acne-causing bacteria and dries out active acne. Keep in mind though, this is a stronger anti-acne solution so make sure to consult your skin therapist or dermatologist beforehand!
- Retinol, ideally in moisturisers, serums, or spot treatments – One of the most known anti-aging ingredients that also help with unclogging pores and preventing acne breakouts.
- Vitamin C, ideally in serums or eye creams – Packed with anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce redness and puffiness of stressed skin. For eye creams in particular, avid fans of Vitamin C love it for its brightening benefits on eyebags and dark circles. Pro tip: Figure out if you have dry, puffy, or dark undereyes (or all of the above!) and get an eye cream that is specifically made for that.
7. Regular Facials
Topping our tip list is one of our personal favourites (duh!) and truthfully the most relaxing one of the bunch. Getting a professional facial is – hands down! – one of the most glorified forms of self-care. Not only are they a good way to get in a few hours of pampering and relaxation, they actually alleviate physical symptoms of stressed out skin.
Depending on what type of facial you get, you can expect relaxation techniques and loads of benefits like hydrating, moisturising, lightening, brightening, anti-aging, and many more. Here are 3 types of facials you should definitely check out!
Hydrating Facials offer exactly what it suggests – hydration! Through a mixture of gentle ingredients, skincare steps, and massage techniques, their goal is to retain moisture in the skin and consequently, combat overly dry or overly oily skin, which are common signs of stressed skin. Also, just like any basic facial, they cleanse and unclog pores from dirt, oil, dead skin cells, and other acne-cause gunk.
- Our Hydrating Facials at Lovoir: We have a ton of therapeutic facials to choose from, each focusing on different benefits but all sure to calm and hydrate stress skin! Your options: PRIN Lymphatic Facial, Janesce Holistic Facials, and other Skin Therapy Facials like Deep Cleansing Enzyme Facials, Cooling Cryotherapy Facials, and more.
- How Often Should You Get a Hydrating Facial: Every 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the facial. Our skin therapists will let you know!
Chemical peels are a good option if you want all the skincare essentials of a classic facial, plus the added benefit of target specific skin conditions related to tone, texture, and complexion. They range from light, medium, and deep peels, each offering a different mix of ingredients and concentration of acids. Salicylic acid, in particular, is good for all skin types dealing with breakouts from stress and anxiety.
Whatever the case may be, for stress related skin conditions, make sure to let your skin therapist know the specific skin problem you want to address (dry skin, dull complexion, fine lines, wrinkles, etc) so they can suggest the best peel for you!
- Our Chemical Peels at Lovoir: O Cosmedics Peel
- How Often Should You Get a Chemical Peel: For light peels, every one to two months; For medium peels, every four to six months.
Laser treatments help correct symptoms of stressed skin, specifically when it comes to fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. The cool thing is they target deeper skin layers where cellular damage happens, and they do this by stimulating the production of collagen, which as we all know, is largely affected by stress.
- Our Laser Treatments at Lovoir: IPL Skin Rejuvenation
- How Often Should You Get a Chemical Peel: The ideal treatment plan is 4 to 6 sessions with 3 to 4 weeks in between.
Where To Get Professional Facials in Christchurch
If you’re in the Christchurch area and are looking to destress with a facial and some much-needed pampering, we invite you to visit our day spa at Lovoir Skin Body & Beauty! We offer an extensive range of facial treatments that target all skin types and skin conditions. You’ll find everything from basic holistic facials to skin therapy facials to more advanced skin treatments, depending on your #SkinGoals.
Start by booking a skin consultation with our expert aestheticians, and let’s take it from there! We’ll perform an in-depth analysis of your skin and recommend the best treatment plan for you. We can’t wait to see you at the salon!
If you want to learn more about our salon, you can browse our facial treatments here.
Let The Stress
Begin Be Gone!
We hope this article has given you a much better understanding of how stress is affecting your skin. It’s true, we cannot completely avoid stressful situations, but the least we can do is take care of our bodies and do whatever we can to find a healthy balance for our overall well being. Give our tips a try, and you’ll be well on your way to healthy skin!