These days, it’s hard to avoid
stress. Between work, family and our overall busy lives, we’re all being pulled
in a million directions. But have you ever stopped to think about the effect
that stress is having on your skin? If you’re experiencing dryness, dullness or
breakouts, stress may be to blame.
The Stress Hormone
When we are stressed, a hormone called cortisol
is released and wreaks havoc on our bodies. Research has found that it leads to a
dangerous accumulation of fat around our organs, and too much cortisol has an
effect on our skin as well. Caused by lack of sleep and other stress, here’s
the lowdown on the connection between cortisol and our skin.
Lines and Wrinkles
As soon as cortisol is released by
the body, sugar levels in the blood increase. We know that sugar spikes are
especially bad for diabetics, but increased blood sugar also promotes a process
in our skin. Glycation damages our skin’s collagen, causing it to become rigid,
which increases lines and wrinkles.
Dry & Damaged Skin
In addition to causing glycation, cortisol
our skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid, which serves as a natural
moisturizer for our skin. Even more, cortisol compromises the skin’s barrier,
which allows even more hydration to seep out. And when skin is dehydrated, the
enzymes in our skin that work to repair the damage done every day don’t work as
As if the effects of
stress-induced cortisol weren’t enough, another byproduct of stress,
epinephrine (or adrenaline) also works against our complexions. The result of
our natural “fight or flight” response, epinephrine certainly helps us our when
we’re in a dire situation, but it does no favors for our skin. When epinephrine
is present, blood flow to the skin is decreased, which robs it of vital
nutrients, including oxygen. Less oxygen and sluggish circulation in general
leads to a dull, sallow complexion, and good circulation is essential for a
When blood flow is decreased, toxins begin to build up in the skin
as well. These toxins can contribute to a lackluster complexion, and many doctors and
scientists believe toxins also play a role in cellulite development, which causes loose, dimpled skin.
Reduce Stress, Save Your Skin
Although stress is unavoidable,
there are ways to manage it better. The good news is that the steps are pretty simple, and they provide other benefits to your overall health.
First and foremost, get some sleep! Adequate sleep will keep cortisol to a minimum and fight off lines, wrinkles, and dry skin. To help
you catch more Zs, avoid eating late at night and try to establish a nightly routine that allows you to wind down before bedtime. And don’t take your cell phone to bed with you. (The light of
the screen can disrupt your body’s sleep cycle.)
Second to sleep, get some
exercise. Not only does physical activity help you “blow off steam,” it also
boosts circulation, which helps your complexion (rosy glow). Bonus effect: Exercise keeps you fit and wards off cellulite.
It sounds obvious, but people who lead stressful lives have to make a concerted effort to slow down and relax. Deep breathing, meditating, and other forms of “quiet time” will help.