I spend a lot of time consulting with clients about their skin and general health issues. Increasingly, I am seeing more and more sudden skin issues that will flare up out of nowhere. Ensuring that it is not an allergic reaction to ingredients or food they have eaten, I start dwelling into the cause of this common phenomena.
The answer is – our skin is stressed!
Think about it. When human being is formed, our skin and brain are bound for life. When we sense embarrassment, we blush. When our body gets stressed from pandemic lockdown to work pressure, we get a pimple.
How the stress is manifested depends on your genes – you may experience a pimple, an eczema outbreak, psoriasis or rosacea.
Why does our skin get stressed? When our body experiences continuing or chronic stress, the skin-psyche connection leads to an over-production of cortisol, the key stress hormone. Excess cortisol depletes our skin’s ability to trap moisture in and keep allergens, irritants and pollutants out.
Specifically, stress inhibits the skin’s ability to produce beneficial oils to protect the skin, or lacking lipids to seal in hydration. This in turn means the skin starts “leaking” water, also called transepidermal water loss (TEWL).
At the same time, there is an overproduction of sebum, the oil often implicated in acne, which alters the skin’s pH, making it harder for the skin’s microbiome to exist. In short, we become more prone to acne.
When skin is healthy, we have different microbes on it to keep it healthy. Healthy skin produces peptides and ceramides to keep skin firm and moisturized. It also protects itself from pollution, sun and invading pathogens.
When skin is not healthy, its microbiome overgrows bad bacteria, making it prone to infection, inflammation, irritation and hyperpigmentation, as well as being sensitive to outside aggressors like free radicals from pollution.
On top of that, stress prompts the body to produce internal free radicals, which causes cell destruction and oxidative stress. Form of manifestation will depend on where these free radicals target. If they target our DNA, it may become skin cancer. If they target elastin and collagen, we get fine lines and wrinkles (Wrinkles – The Demons of Ageing) . If they target lipids, our skin becomes dehydrated and skin barrier gets damaged, making us more prone to acne. On top of that, cortisol also decreases our skin’s production of hyaluronic acid and collagen.
I think you get the gist. How can we reduce skin stress?
According to dermatologists, the best way to reduce skin stress is to deal with the stressor itself. A relaxation response will reduce the amount of cortisol and inflammation in our body, which in turn will improve our skin condition. Sounds simple, but these methods are scientifically proven to have a direct impact on your skin and overall health.
- Meditation – proven to calm mind and reduce stress and anxiety. Even a few minutes a day will be beneficial (Practice of Drishti)
- Deep breaths – when we are busy, we are not even breathing properly. Try slowing down your breath from counts of 3 (inhale and exhale), and slowly increase it to 6
- Sleep – you know getting enough sleep will heal the body proper! (How to get a good night’s sleep)
- Eat foods rich in antioxidants – think leafy greens and fresh fruits
- Exercise – a great way to calm the mind. Sweating also a fantastic method to detox the skin
- Cry – yes, cry! Emotional release alleviates stress and other trapped negative emotions that we do not need