Despite how hard you may try to ignore it, eventually, stress stops being purely in your head and starts affecting other areas of your body. You may be able to ignore those niggly aches and pains that start to surface, but there’s simply no denying the effect that stress has on your skin.
Whether you’re under a lot of stress at work or are juggling too many plates at home, your skin will be one of the first places to show the signs of it. Often, we don’t link the two, seeing those fine lines and blemishes as just another untimely thing to deal with, but by dealing with the stress head-on, you can actually improve your complexion along with your mental health.
Believe it or not, stress can lead to premature ageing, causing fine lines and wrinkles to appear. It’s believed that the reason for this is that stress releases a hormone called cortisol, which has been shown to break down collagen. Collagen, as we know, is one of the compounds that help skin elasticity and firmness. So, during times of stress, we really can age overnight!
Acne and Blemishes
Although stress doesn’t directly cause acne, it does trigger some of the factors which lead to breakouts. Heightened stress increases the action in our adrenal glands, the part of our body that produces adrenaline and cortisol. Unfortunately, these adrenal glands also stimulate the sebaceous glands, which are responsible for oil production. Lo and behold, when we’re stressed, our skin becomes oilier, setting the stage for acne breakouts.
And it isn’t only those of us prone to acne that suffer from skin issues during stress. Stress can also increase blood flow and widen capillaries, making skin appear blotchy, red and inflamed. It’s a no-win situation!
You may think that if stress triggers oil production, those of us with typically dry skin will reap the benefits. Sadly, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Those dastardly adrenal glands are once again the cause of skin troubles, this time due to the spike of adrenaline they produce. Adrenalin triggers the eccrine (sweat) glands, causing us to sweat more and risk dehydration. Unless you’re keeping yourself well hydrated (which, let’s face it, falls off the priority list when we’re under stress), your skin will pay the price.
Dull skin? But didn’t we just say that stress increases blood flow? This is yet another example of how our skin bears the brunt of the stress. While circulation does indeed increase during times of stress, that circulation is concentrated around the vital organs as part of our inbuilt fight or flight response. Meanwhile, our skin goes without, leading to a lacklustre, dull complexion which makes us look tired and poorly.
Helping Stressed Skin
So, it’s not just your imagination, during times of stress, you really do like as bad as you feel. You could apply some extra concealer and highlighter and hope for the best, but we’d advocate fixing the cause, not the symptom. Take the time to learn some easy 5-minute mindfulness tricks to help bring down your cortisol levels during the day and ensure you’re staying hydrated for the sake of your skin.
When it comes to your skincare routine, stress can throw a spanner in the works, but you can prevent damage by making sure you cleanse well every evening and use a good quality moisturiser for your skin type.
Stress is unavoidable, we all have to face it at some point. But taking care of yourself is key to coming out the other side of it.