It’s 6am and you hit the snooze button to squeeze in a few extra minutes of sleep. Later, you’re rushing out the door with no time to eat breakfast only to find yourself stuck in a terrible traffic jam. You arrive late to work and end up using your lunch break to play catch up; but before you know it, you’re getting a call from your kid’s school.
This probably sounds all too familiar and most of us are aware that stress is not good for our general health. However, have you considered the role that stress plays on our looks?
Being the largest organ in the body, the skin will be one of the first places to show signs of stress. Cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” is produced by the adrenal glands. It responds to the hypothalamus which is a region in our brain that links to our endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for the release of hormones that make their way to different parts of our body, including our skin.
While our body is constantly producing cortisol, stressful events can trigger an overproductions of this hormone. High cortisol levels lead to all types of problems including inflammation which can have a long list of negative effects on the skin.
Acne is the classic example of an inflammatory skin condition. The red swollen lumps that pop up just before a major event is your body’s way of defending itself from a perceived threat. Under normal circumstances, inflammation can defend our bodies from viruses and bacteria. The problem is when chronic stress makes it seem as if your body is always under “attack.”
In addition to Acne, your skin will react to stress in the form of redness, dryness, dehydration, and an increase in oil production. It can cause flare ups with skin conditions like eczema and rosacea as well as hives and rashes.
It’s also not just your skin that’s affected. Have you noticed bigger clumps of hair piling up on your shower drain? When your body is stressed it triggers your body to produce more hairs during the rest phase of hair growth. This results in a larger loss of hair during the shedding process which only causes a spike in our already elevated stress levels further fueling this vicious cycle.
And if you’re worried about aging, the news isn’t good either. We’ve all heard that worrying will give you wrinkles. This claim is actually true. Reduced hydration levels from stress will cause the skin to lose elasticity and result in wrinkles. It can cause your face to have a dull appearance and lose some of its mass. Stress also affects the DNA in our skin cells by shortening their lifespan which intensifies the aging process.
Of course, the solution to all of this is painfully obvious — reduce your stress and you’ll look great. However, this is far easier said than done. With so many things going on at once, it can feel nearly impossible to think about relaxing. But one of the ways in which we can mange control over our busy lives is to establish a series of daily routines. This can include things like getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, staying hydrated, and employing a low maintenance skincare regiment. By following a healthy lifestyle through food, physical activity, relaxation techniques, and proper skin nourishment, you allow yourself not only to feel better but look better as well. Make the time to fit some of these routines as part of your daily habits and your skin and mental health will thank you for it.