Stress is a part of daily life—there’s no getting around it. We can’t avoid our jobs, bills, challenging relationships, politics, or a long to-do list of daily chores. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2017 consumer survey on stress, more than half of Americans say they’re currently experiencing the highest levels of stress they can ever remember. Add to that the fact that 45% are also experiencing sleeplessness every month, and it would appear stress is a having a major impact on our day-to-day lives.
It’s no secret that stress can take a toll on our overall health and make pre-existing conditions worse. But one of the largest organs impacted by stress—and the area that shows the most obvious effects—is the skin. Here’s what stress can do to your skin and how to counteract each symptom.
Expect Dullness and Dryness for Days
Spikes in the stress hormone, cortisol, and a lack of quality sleep are to blame for a seemingly constant dull and dry complexion. In reaction to stress, the body releases cortisol to boost productivity in order to quickly and effectively address whatever is causing the stress and knock it out. Unfortunately, cortisol levels, unlike adrenaline, can take a while to die down. The risk here is that stress later in the day can have a hangover effect when it comes to getting some decent shut-eye at night. Additionally, skin’s lipid barrier is weakened by excess cortisol, which lowers the body’s natural hyaluronic acid production. This means that the skin’s ability to retain moisture declines and you wake up to a dull, dry complexion in the a.m.
The Solution: Start with respecting and protecting your time for beauty sleep—because skin can’t recover without stress-less rest. Work on setting and sticking to a bedtime and creating a cushion between work and sleep to decompress and de-stress. Getting your sleep hygiene in order can be a long process, so in the meantime, there are a few quick fixes you can try to assist skin in its recovery. To help skin retain moisture and strengthen the lipid barrier, apply skin care containing moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid or anti-aging niacinamide (vitamin B3), which boosts free fatty acids while supporting the lipid barrier and promoting cell turnover. Try Venus Skin’s SCT Serum and SCT Accelerator combo for an added anti-aging boost via advanced stem cell therapy technology. You can also make a complexion-brightening mask at home using ingredients in your kitchen. Simply blend together one cucumber, one tablespoon of plain yogurt, and one teaspoon of honey, and apply the mixture to the skin for 15 minutes before rinsing. Follow-up with that moisture-boosting cream or serum for full effect.
Get Ready for Rosacea Flare-ups and Redness
Rosacea is commonly misunderstood to be a result of stress. Rather, rosacea is a chronic inflammatory condition that flares up as a result of a spike in cortisol that triggers a chain of reaction in the nervous system. As cortisol increases in response to stress, the nervous system reacts by releasing chemicals called neuropeptides and neurotransmitters. These are the culprits that affect how the body responds to stress, triggering inflammation and causing blood vessels to dilate. These symptoms are amplified in those with rosacea.
The Solution: Unfortunately, the clear solution to limit the effects of stress on rosacea is to cut out stress altogether—which can be a big undertaking. Making a list of common stress triggers and practicing avoidance may help, but in cases where stress can’t be avoided, consider treating rosacea symptoms with radio frequency skin resurfacing treatments to boost collagen production and trigger skin’s natural healing cycle. Post-treatment, you can get back to crossing items off those to-do lists immediately and return to your regular skincare routine in as little as 24 hours.
Accept that Stress Causes Wrinkles
While good genetics can play a role in delaying signs of aging, lifestyle factors can erase the benefits built into your DNA. This is because the effects of chronic stress build up over time. The longer stress continues, the more intense symptoms will appear, including the development of deep-set wrinkles that are much more difficult to erase with a cream or serum alone. In fact, the root of some stress-related wrinkles is thought to be located within our DNA. Telomeres found at the ends of each DNA chromosome work to sustain DNA’s structure and prevent damage. But with time, telomeres grow shorter. This natural aging process often leads to the fine lines and wrinkles we commonly associate with the passing of years, but stress speeds up this process.
The Solution: Supporting skin’s moisture level is a start for preventing further damage, as well as ultimately getting our worries in check. To help minimize the appearance of damage already done, consider a series of radio frequency anti-aging treatments for wrinkle reduction, which can help trigger skin’s natural repair cycle for smoother, firmer-looking skin.
Acne Breakouts that Just Won’t End
The effects of chronic stress and anxiety causing acne are two-fold: First, cortisol stimulates sebaceous glands in the skin, causing them to ramp up sebum production that can lead to oily skin and breakouts along the jawline and t-zone. Second, stress upsets your microbiome, a sensitive bacterial ecosystem in the gut, setting it off-balance and impacting your body’s ability to fend off acne-causing bacteria, leading to further breakouts.
The Solution: To fend off breakouts, dermatologists may recommend topical spot treatments containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide in combination with stress-reducing therapies to prevent further adult acne breakouts. However, these strategies don’t treat acne-related inflammation. For a one-two punch that fends off future breakouts and current symptoms, consider a custom intense pulsed light (IPL) acne treatment plan. These treatments utilize red and blue light to target acne-causing bacteria and reduce related inflammation for clearer, healthier-looking skin.