The relationship between stress and the skin is well documented and you no doubt have your very own experience with it, which is why you are here! Whether it's premature aging, eczema, acne, or rosacea, stress plays a role and is messing with your skin!
How are stress and the skin connected?
When we perceive stress whether that be a tight deadline, traffic, or financial worry, our body goes into flight, fight or freeze mode just as it would if a rabid dog was chasing us! It doesn't matter whether the stress is life-threatening or not, the mind perceives it the same way and goes into sympathetic nervous system mode. When this happens we secrete a stress hormone called cortisol from our adrenal glands. Our skin has receptors for this stress hormone and this results in various changes to our skin:
How stress indirectly affects the skin
Negatively impacts digestion.
To make matters worse, the release of cortisol also puts a damper on our digestive system. How? Cortisol aids in moving blood flow towards the brain, legs, and arms rather than towards the digestive tract. Digestion is suppressed and that means absorption of the nutrients needed for healthy skin will also be suppressed.
Stress also negatively affects gut motility and in many cases, this causes constipation which can make skin issues worse.
When the body cannot eliminate in a timely fashion it can lead to the reabsorption of toxins and hormones back into the body for circulation - both of which can impact healthy skin. Additionally, constipation leads to bloating, gas, and pain. Not fun.
Causes sleep disturbances.
It's no secret that when you're stressed out or anxious, your sleep quality is impacted. You may have trouble falling asleep, you may not get into a deep sleep or, worse, you may experience insomnia. It is well established that stress negatively impacts sleep.
On the flip side, we know that adequate sleep is crucial to keep inflammation in check and support healthy skin. A study in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology found that people who slept 7-9 hours a night had skin that was more moisturized and that could protect and heal itself better. When your skin has more moisture, this protects your skin barrier function, which is an essential component of healthy skin. This is paramount in rosacea, eczema and acne.
Makes you crave more refined carbs and sugars.
Yet another result of chronic stress is that it can play a key role in lowered serotonin levels, which can cause depression. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that influences mood and behaviour. When its levels are optimal, your appetite is regulated, you feel calm and relaxed, you sleep well, and you have self-control.
Our body is highly intelligent and when serotonin is lowered, the body's response is often to crave more refined carbs and sugars for a mood boost. Unfortunately, not only does sugar increase inflammation, but it also increases oil and sebum production in the skin which can be a trigger for acne.
Finally, when we are stressed, we often skip out on other health habits like healthy home-cooked meals, daily nature walks, exposure to sunshine, movement and exercise -- all of which are key factors for healthy skin.
Get rid of the stress and your skin is perfect? Not so fast.
There are many other factors that contribute to healthy skin such as good nutrition, the right natural health supplements, clean and organic skincare free of hormone disrupters, but if you can focus on strategies to mitigate the negative effect of stress, then you'll be taking a giant leap forward in having your best skin ever.
How to reduce stress and feel your best
The bottom line
It's pretty much impossible to live a totally stress-free life so it's really up to you to make yourself a priority and take actionable steps to manage stress. Your skin will thank you and so will your whole body!
Wishing you healthy skin!