Why don't you feel good about yourself when you're stressed? This has to do with the processes with which your body reacts to stress. Many of these directly affect the condition of your skin. Find out here why stress can cause skin problems and what you can do about it.
Photo by Branislav Belko on Unsplash
Stress hits the skin
As I prepare this article, the world is in a state of emergency: Corona, need I say more? Hardly likely. Even if the prescribed deceleration has its good sides for many of us, the situation as a whole is depressing. I noticed that since mid-March I have been receiving a particularly large number of questions about dry skin , which does not seem to improve with any care. Therefore, this post is dedicated to the role that stress plays in our skin.
Emotional stress has very tangible effects, and cosmetics are unfortunately just a drop in the bucket. So how does our well-being relate to skin health? And how can you do something good for yourself now? Let's find out...
What exactly is stress anyway?
If you ask 10 people what stress means to them, you'll get just as many different answers. Everyone experiences stress differently and knows different triggers. Well then, let's ask science. It says: Stress is what activates the body's response systems . For example, it reacts to heat by sweating and to cold by trembling.
External stress factors for the skin
We can see from the example above that stress is not only triggered by emotions such as being overworked at work or Corona. External triggers such as extreme temperatures, UV radiation, air pollution and mechanical influences are also considered important stressors for the skin.
Who would have thought that regular sunbathing in a bikini on the balcony has two effects: balm for the soul - stress for the skin. T he UV radiation has even earned its own term, photo-aging. UVB rays sizzle skin, while UVA rays can damage its DNA.
Even smoker's skin ages faster than necessary. And then there is air pollution , which unfortunately we all cannot escape. These three are considered chronic stress factors for the skin , which significantly accelerate its aging .
Emotional stress also affects the skin
As mentioned at the beginning, I would like to shed more light on emotional stress (keyword corona) and its effects on the skin in this article. It is important to note that emotional stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Stress can even inspire in healthy doses . Some people only really get going when the deadline is approaching - oh yes, I can sing a song about that.
☝️ It becomes critical for us when there is so much stress that we are overwhelmed or there is no end in sight. The reactions that the body then initiates can have a negative effect on other areas. So let's take a closer look at the difference between acute and chronic stress .
You can think of acute stress as a wave . It suddenly comes towards you, washes over you and it becomes calmer again. Acute stress always begins with a moment of shock – watch out, the wave is coming! The autonomic nervous system goes to attention . It releases adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. This activates the stress response supersystems that coordinate your fight-or-flight response .
In addition, the body gives massive amounts of energy to the cells so that you can start the fight or flight of your life right away. The sweat glands are activated to compensate for the heat surge. The perception of pain is suppressed, blood pressure and heart rate increase. The blood vessels in the heart, lungs and muscles expand while others narrow - including those in the skin, which is not so important now. The skin is temporarily less supplied with blood and releases more moisture.
You give everything to master the situation. Once this is done, your nervous system sends out clear signals and your body regulates itself back to normal . The skin normally survives such a short supply bottleneck without any problems. However, the situation is different if your body is in stress mode for a long time.
With chronic stress, the body doesn't keep the fight-or-flight mechanisms going all the time. That would cost far too much energy. But where there is no all-clear, no anti-stress measures are initiated. For example, the cortisol level does not drop back to normal, but the body increases the base level .
The problem: The reaction system loses adaptability . With this hormonal flood there is not much room for improvement when acute stress is added. This not only affects the energy metabolism and blood circulation, but also the immune system. Because they also react when stress mediators are released. While acute stress really gets the immune system going, getting used to stress suppresses its reaction. We become more susceptible to infections, allergies and inflammation 1 .
☝️ Conclusion: Our body is primarily optimized for short periods of stress. They don't cause us any big problems. Chronic stress, on the other hand, does not pass us by unharmed.
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Skin problems caused by chronic stress
The skin in particular quickly falls victim to the mechanisms used to cope with stress. “ I'm pale with fear”, “I don't care” or “get under your skin” – it's a well-known fact that emotional stress affects the skin. And it's not just skin diseases like neurodermatitis or psoriasis that get worse. Even healthy skin suffers with you in chronic stress phases . Let's take a closer look at the five most common skin problems.
Dry skin from stress
The skin has an important protective function. The horny layer, the outer layer of your skin, consists of horny cells that are cemented with lipids and covered with a hydro-lipid film. This construction is a barrier against unwanted intruders and against moisture loss.
However, excessive stress reduces the ability of the skin barrier to regenerate 2 . It becomes porous, allowing more moisture to evaporate from the skin. Therefore, when you are stressed, your skin can become increasingly tense, rough and scaly or even form dryness lines. Stress can contribute to dehydration of the skin. This also explains why questions about dry skin are increasing, especially in Corona times.
Accelerated skin aging due to stress
In addition to predisposition, other factors also play a major role in how quickly your skin changes. So don't put too much stress on her. On the one hand , serenity helps , because when you are stressed, your skin notices it too. A constantly high cortisol level, caused by stress, reduces the elasticity of the skin and disrupts its barrier function . The consequences are fine lines, wrinkles, thinner skin, less elasticity and a lack of moisture. Stress accelerates skin aging.
Rash from stress
Stress can really itch! Itching, redness and swelling can be triggered purely by emotions . Interestingly, your body reacts to severe stress in much the same way as it does to a mosquito bite. Histamine is released to initiate the inflammatory phase of wound healing. This is accompanied by swelling, redness and itching. When you are under a lot of stress, your skin can itch even without external influences. This can cause you to scratch uncontrollably and also injure your skin. Stress can lead to itching, redness and swelling.
Poor wound healing from stress
Your body reacts to chronic stress with permanently elevated cortisol levels . But it is actually only intended for a short performance boost. If there is too much cortisol in your body over a long period of time, it impairs wound healing. This occurs in three phases: purification/ignition, repair, and rebuilding. Each of these is worse with chronic stress 1 .
Pimples, small wounds, cracked skin - your skin recovers from all of this much more slowly than usual under stress. So if you already suffer from blemishes, dryness or sensitive skin, stress can prolong these conditions.
pimples from stress
Why do you get pimples from stress? The cocktail of hormones that emotional stress gives you favors several factors that increase skin impurities 3,4 and thus lead to stress pimples. First, stress can stimulate sebum production (skin fat production) . Your skin becomes oilier and bacteria can multiply on it faster. Secondly , inflammatory processes are initiated, which promotes unsightly pus pimples. And thirdly, blemishes heal more slowly.
If you're prone to breakouts, not only can your skin's appearance deteriorate under emotional pressure, but the condition will also linger longer.
What to do about skin problems caused by stress?
With the right skin care you can provide the skin with new moisture and alleviate inflammation, irritation or impurities and thus counteract skin problems. Our puristic natural cosmetics help you to restore your skin's balance and not to stress the skin with unnecessary ingredients. But – and now it comes, it is very important to me that you internalize this:
☝️ Even the best skin care alone cannot eliminate stress-related skin problems. As long as you are bubbling, skin care can only have a supportive effect, but it will not be able to solve the skin problems on its own.
It is much more important to get to the root of the problem. This is the only way you can stop the inflammatory processes from the inside . Quite apart from the fact that stressful stress is poison for your whole body and your psyche. So let's turn it around so that the weighting fits: Reducing stress is now the be-all and end-all. Do something good for yourself and get better skin at the same time!
What helps reduce stress?
But how? Ultimately, “reducing stress” is easier said than done. Because the causes can be so different and your life situation can be very different from mine, you have to decide for yourself which sources of stress you can eliminate or reduce.
But it often helps to find a balance . Light sport, for example, promotes the reduction of stress hormones and at the same time rewards you with happy hormones. This can be yoga at home with a YouTube video, a daily walk (e.g. walking to work) or even a game of table tennis.
🧘♀️ My tip: mindfulness sessions . Since I've been visiting them once a week and meditating in between, I've become much more relaxed.
An anti-inflammatory diet is also very important . Interestingly, since Corona, Swiss supermarkets have recorded higher sales of fruit, vegetables and organic products. Many people now seem to follow their gut feeling and strengthen themselves from within. Eating out isn't an option right now. What you save now is a good investment in good quality food, I think.
Deal with your skin
Knowledge is power, and that also applies to skin care. We carry our skin conditions around with us for everyone to see. If you suddenly suffer from dry, irritated or impure skin and you rack your brains why, that alone can be another stress factor . It's easy to get caught in a downward spiral of stress and bad skin making each other worse.
Understanding your skin in the moment gives you more serenity. You can now tackle the cause and actively reduce stress. And when it wears off, the complexion will improve again - that's one less thing to worry about .
So: Don't worry, be mindful!