As a mother and new business owner, I am constantly trying to create balance in my sometimes unbalanced world. Juggling my family life and my new business, especially while it is still in its infancy, is both busy and stressful. With my days starting early and ending late, sleep and rest have become a luxury rather than a necessity. This juggling act is not unique to me, as it is what millions of women face every day. This struggle to find balance and manage stress is affecting all of our overall wellness, including our skin health.
Exercising regularly, eating a balanced meal full of veggies and fruits, and staying out of the sun are essential components of a healthy lifestyle. While these three practices are proven to reduce the signs of skin damage and other forms of aging, the emotions we feel and our overall mental health can have an undeniable impact on our outward appearance as well.
Skin is its own organ that can be affected (rather it’s positively or negatively) by both internal and external factors. As our skin renews itself every 28 days, it’s vital to nourish it both inside and out. One of the most well known mental health reasons for damaged skin is stress. Stress can impact the skin in a variety of ways due to the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes everything from severe dryness to fine lines and wrinkles. It can also cause more serious skin conditions such as eczema, acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and vitiligo, and be the source of both new issues and the agitation of preexisting skin conditions. While avoiding stress entirely is almost impossible, there are ways to reverse and manage some of the effects it can have on your skin.
To take care of your outer layer, it’s important to first find a basic skincare routine that works for your skin type. While using skincare products is largely beneficial, it’s important to note that every product isn’t right for every type of skin, and you have to find what specifically works for you. Many moisturizers and creams include some level of SPF protection, which will fight against possible sun damage. However, skin isn’t able to breathe appropriately under the heavy chemicals found in some makeups, creams, and sunscreens, which impedes it from getting necessary amounts of oxygen. To let your skin breathe, always wash your face at the end of the day with warm water and your preferred facial cleanser, and remember to be gentle (no hard scrubbing!). Drinking an adequate amount of water daily (8 cups or more) is also vital when it comes to having healthy skin, as it helps both circulation and hydration.
When it comes to the different types of skin conditions stress and anxiety can provoke, there are specific ways for dealing with each. These emotions can cause your skin to become dry and flaky, because high levels of cortisol impede the skin’s ability to produce hyaluronic acid, a natural moisturizer. To combat this, find hypoallergenic, fragrance free products that work with your skin type. These products tend to have a lower pH, which prevents the skin from further drying out. Don’t wash your face with excessively hot water, as it can strip away the skin’s natural oils, and moisturize while skin is still slightly damp to lock in that moisture. Cortisol can also cause an elevation in blood sugar, which is proven to have a negative impact on collagen and elastin. These two protein fibers are what usually keeps skin smooth and soft, reducing the rate of fine lines and wrinkles. Creams that include retinol and antioxidants will help halt this process, as they facilitate collagen production in the skin.
Facial redness and acne are also caused by stress, and can lead to further issues like rosacea and permanent scarring. Both conditions are the result of inflammation caused by the release of cortisol. When you blush while you’re stressed or during anxiety inducing situations, it’s because cortisol is causing the capillaries in your face to expand. Using a cream that includes anti-inflammatories, like allantoin and licorice root extract, can help reduce redness over time. Eating certain foods, like tomatoes and red and orange vegetables, can also help, as the antioxidants in these super foods are known to calm inflammation. This inflammation due to cortisol is what can trigger breakouts on the skin, and increased levels of stress can cause “tick” behaviors that lead to facial scarring. Using skin cleansers with ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can help clear up the skin and keep the blemishes away. However, it’s important to remember to moisturize after cleansing, as these chemicals can dry out your skin.
While it’s impossible to avoid stress and anxiety altogether, it is possible to learn how to manage these emotions. Finding this balance can be done by taking a step back from the stressor, meditating, exercising, and finding your own personal inner tranquility. By doing so, you can improve both your mental and physical health, especially your skin. I have learned to manage my stress by mixing up my exercise routine to include cardio, weightlifting, and yoga. Taking time out of the day and giving myself thirty minutes of quiet, tranquil time also helps me feel balanced. Sometimes, I do this in the car after dropping the kids off at school, or at home in my favorite chair while listening to relaxing music. Creating these peaceful moments and also finding time to connect with friends helps me better manage the stress I feel throughout the day. Remember to drink water, get enough sleep every night (our skin does most of its repair work while we’re sleeping), and find the right products and practices that work for you.
Love & luminora,