The Science of Stress and Skin
Stress is not only known to derail our workdays and travel plans - it can also manifest itself and show on your skin.
While it may seem complicated to make the connection, think of all of the ways your mind already affects your skin – you blush when you are embarrassed, you sweat before that big presentation. All day, every day, our skin reacts to whatever our mind is brewing over at the moment. Therefore, it makes sense that stress, something that routinely clouds our minds, can also translate to our skin.
Experts at Harvard University explain that stress can not only worsen existing skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne, but it can also deteriorate the overall health of our skin. Stress can steal our glow, reduce elasticity, and bring on early signs of ageing, including fine lines and wrinkles.
Stress activates our hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The body’s response to stress is to produce inflammatory hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and catecholamines to alert our body to this external stressor. These hormones then rush cells around the body, including into the skin. Inflammation is often at the root of skin conditions like acne and psoriasis, which is why they are especially prone to flare-ups during high-stress periods. Additionally, adrenaline and cortisol signal your body to start producing more oil, increasing the likelihood of clogged pores. Finally, a study published in Archives of Dermatology demonstrates how psychological stress damages the epidermal barrier that locks in moisture and protects us from harmful microbes entering our bodies. Stress even takes it a step further and prolongs our body’s response to repairing the damaged skin layers. Altogether, our skin is an external reflection of the turmoil stress is causing inside of us.
Common Signs of Stressed Skin
Unfortunately, no one is safe from the occasional breakout or the hands of time. However, some mornings we may notice our skin looks more tired than usual or those fine lines and suddenly not so fine anymore. Take a moment to think: what is going on in my life right now? Stress may be the culprit if you begin to see a pattern where deadlines line up with dullness. Some other common signs of stressed skin include:
- Rough, scaly skin
- Flushed skin
- Acne breakouts
- Dark bags under the eyes
- Dull, lifeless skin
- Burning and itching
- Hair loss
- Brittle hair and nails
- Wounds take longer to heal
- Oiler hair and skin than normal
- More frequent or worse flare-ups of existing skin conditions
- Early signs of ageing like crow’s feet and discolouration
Save Your Skin from Stress
When our skin starts to have a life of its own, it is easy to think we are doomed. No product, pill, or pillowcase seems to make a difference. In these moments, remember your 4 S’s!
- Skincare: Find and stick to a tried-and-true skincare routine. It is crucial to understand what type of skin you have – oily, combination, dry, or sensitive. Then, find products specifically formulated for your skin type. This step also requires some patience. After a few days without results, do not throw out the bottle assuming it does not work! Some skincare products take time to sink to a cellular level and start working. Maintain your routine for at least one to three months to see results. Also, sticking to a set routine can help you experiment with your skin. If you introduce too many new products at once, it will be hard to tell which one of them is genuinely working for you.
- Stay Hydrated: Sometimes, the solution isn’t rinsing your face from the tap; it is drinking from it! Staying hydrated helps reduce the inflammation that stress causes. In addition, water helps your skin maintain its elasticity. When your skin is elastic, it is more resilient to aging and can improve fine lines and wrinkles.
- Stress: If stress is causing your skin problems, solve the problem at the source! While it is unrealistic to eliminate all stress from your daily life, you can drastically reduce and manage it. Some popular methods of stress reduction include meditation, yoga, and exercise. Find whichever de-stressing method works best for you and start building it into your routine.
- Supplements: Your friends at Purolabs are here to give you a boost. Certain supplements have been scientifically shown to improve the appearance and performance of your skin.
Collagen: Collagen is arguably one of the most popular skincare supplements on the market right now. Collagen is a protein that is one of the major building blocks of our skin. A study out of London showed that participants who took daily collagen supplements saw a 40% increase in their skin’s elasticity. Collagen is the key to youthful, glowing skin!
Biotin: Many people take biotin for hair growth, but it is also crucial for healthy skin. Our hair, skin, and nails are made of protein, and biotin is necessary for protein synthesis. Furthermore, our skin is constantly turning over to repair and replenish itself. Biotin plays a key role in cell growth and ensuring our damaged skin is coming back better than ever.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is not just for cold and flu season! Vitamin C is the most abundant antioxidant in the human body. These antioxidants protect our cells from damage brought on by stress and other free radicals such as the sun and pollution. Vitamin C’s powerful combination of antioxidants and its ability to boost collagen’s performance makes it one of the most popular ingredients for anti-aging skin products.
Evening Primrose Oil: Finally, a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science revealed that participants who took evening primrose oil supplements for twelve weeks saw a 12% increase in skin moisture, a 16.7% improvement in skin firmness, and a whopping 21.7% increase in smoothness. While evening primrose oil may be a new name in the skincare game, it clearly comes ready to pack a punch.
Al-Niaimi, F., & Chiang, N. (2017). Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 10(7), 14–17.
Czajka, A., Kania, E. M., Genovese, L., Corbo, A., Merone, G., Luci, C., & Sibilla, S. (2018). Daily oral supplementation with collagen Peptides combined with vitamins and OTHER Bioactive compounds IMPROVES skin elasticity and has a beneficial effect on joint and general wellbeing. Nutrition Research, 57, 97–108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2018.06.001
Garg, A., Chren, M.-M., Sands, L. P., Matsui, M. S., Marenus, K. D., Feingold, K. R., & Elias, P. M. (2001). Psychological stress perturbs epidermal permeability barrier homeostasis. Archives of Dermatology, 137(1). https://doi.org/10.1001/archderm.137.1.53
Muggli, R. (2005). Systemic evening primrose oil improves the biophysical skin parameters of healthy adults. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 27(4), 243–249. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-2494.2005.00274.x
Neera Nathan, M. D. (2021, April 14). Stress may be getting to your skin, but it's not a one-way street. Harvard Health. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/stress-may-be-getting-to-your-skin-but-its-not-a-one-way-street-2021041422334.
Tips, 04-9-21- S. (2021, July 6). Skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety. APDerm. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://www.apderm.com/the-skin-stress-connection/.