Stress can bring out the fire-breathing dragon in all of us. But did you know that chronic stress can also leave your skin looking rough and wrinkly?
How Stress Influences Skin Health
Our skin acts as a protective barrier from environmental stressors and infections. Yet, it also plays an important role in the body’s response to physical and mental stress.
The body’s primary stress signaling system, known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis or HPA axis for short, is activated in the brain when you perceive a stressful situation. This axis of communication between brain and body results in the release of stress hormones including cortisol and epinephrine by the adrenal glands. When stress hormones are elevated, your entire body takes notice, including your skin.
Your skin responds to short-term stress in ways that are adaptive, such as boosting immune function. But when stress is chronic or long-term, it can lead to problems that impact the health of your skin. Unlike the initial boost you get from a little stress, too much stress impairs the skin’s immune function and is linked with greater risk for inflammation-related skin conditions. Excess stress can have serious consequences for skin health, but it also negatively impacts your complexion.
Ever notice how acne seems to show up at the worst times, particularly when you are feeling stressed? Chronic stress increases your skin’s oil production, clogging pores and contributing to more frequent breakouts. Your body’s natural collagen production decreases as stress hormones increase. Since healthy collagen production is essential for a smooth, youthful complexion, this might explain why high stress levels can add years to your appearance.
The skin’s stress response is there to help you when you need it most, enhancing immunity and adaptivity; however, it can lead to problems under chronic stress conditions.
Keys to Reducing Stress and Improving Skin Health
While stress is often unavoidable, you can protect your skin by developing healthful daily routines to better navigate stressful times. Here are four ways we can all help address stress and better support our skin and overall health:
Type I collagen is the building block of your skin’s structure, making up around 80% of your skin’s dermal layer. Your body produces collagen naturally, but its production may decline from chronic stress. Collagen peptide supplementation has been shown to be beneficial for maintaining healthy, hydrated skin. Studies also show a benefit for improving collagen synthesis in the deep layers of the skin, helping reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
As you nourish your skin with collagen peptides, you can also help keep it healthy with the balancing, restorative properties of adaptogens. Priming your body with adaptogens can help strengthen its capacity to resist the negative effects of stress. Adaptogens—such as ashwagandha, eleuthero, and wolfberry—are unique plants that have been studied for their abilities to act as metabolic regulators and support mental and physical performance. One great Product that we have found to work wonders in stress management is the Adaptogen Elixir.
Exercise is one tried and true way to help relieve stress. Research consistently shows that people report feeling calmer after aerobic activity, and the feelings can remain for several hours after exercise (10). People who are physically fit and regularly participate in physical activity show fewer symptoms of psychosocial stress and fewer of the negative effects of stressful life events.
Additionally, exercise has direct benefits for skin health. Researchers have found that the signaling protein interleukin-15 (IL-15) is significantly increased after exercise. Low concentrations of IL-15 are linked to accelerated degeneration of skin cells and help drive the aging process. Higher amounts of IL-15, on the other hand, bolster a healthy cell metabolism and help reduce oxidative damage. So, keep regular exercise in your fight to prevent skin aging!
Getting better sleep is one easy way to not only feel better but also look better. When you’re sleeping, the body is working on itself, building and mending. When you don’t get enough quality sleep, stress hormones like cortisol can become elevated, making skin more prone to the visible signs of aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation, and reduced elasticity. As much as possible, it’s best to focus on getting seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night to support healthy cortisol levels.
Supplementing with melatonin around bedtime can promote a more restful night’s sleep. Choosing products with ingredients like melatonin, L-theanine, valerian, tart cherry, and chamomile—will all of promote a better quality sleep.
Be a beauty and not a beast. When stress rears its ugly head, look and feel your best with proper nutrition, physical activity, and good quality sleep as key components of your self-care and skincare routine.