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How stress damages our skin

Irritation, acne and dull complexion are just some of the problems that can come from stress

How stress damages our skin Irritation, acne and dull complexion are just some of the problems that can come from stress

Who has never experienced waking up with a pimple suddenly appearing in the middle of the forehead on the day of your first date with your crush, class photo, job interview, or that long-awaited trip? Well, it could be due to stress. Moving house, responding to dozens of overdue emails, office tensions, university exams, complicated interpersonal relationships, and the continuous pressure we undergo not only make us feel overwhelmed or keep us awake at night but can also throw our skin off balance.

The brain-skin axis is an interconnected and bidirectional pathway

The central nervous system and skin originate from the same cellular tissue, the ectoderm, one of the three primitive layers forming the embryo. That's why they are intimately connected and communicate with each other. When one feels embarrassment, the other blushes. When one perceives pain, the other processes it. The same happens with stress. As the largest but also one of the most sensitive organs in our body, the skin reflects what happens to us like a sentinel, protecting us and adapting to every subtle change, both endogenous and caused by external environmental factors, sounding an alarm whenever something is wrong. Hormonal changes that our body experiences in case of anxiety, stress, and fatigue, especially if chronic, trigger a chemical reaction in the body, making the skin more sensitive, reactive, vulnerable to itching, inflammation, irritation, and infections.

Cortisol is the number one enemy of stressed skin

Cortisol is a very important hormone for various functions of the body: from balancing the reproductive system to the immune system, from regulating metabolism to that of other hormones. It's the hormone that gets us up in the morning, giving us the energy to start, and when it decreases at the end of the day, it allows us to fall asleep. In conditions of strong psycho-physical stress, this balance alternates, and production increases, producing a series of effects that have repercussions and also manifest on the skin and, in the long run, can seriously damage it. The overproduction of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, can lead to a reduction in the production of collagen, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants with a consequent thinning of the lipid barrier that causes dehydration, dryness, and premature aging, as well as triggering or exacerbating multiple skin conditions. At the same time, cortisol stimulates the overproduction of sebum, so our skin seems oilier and more prone to acne when we are stressed.

      

What are the effects of stress on the skin?

We have already mentioned that the skin plays an important role as a barrier and immune system, maintaining stability between the external environment and internal tissues, so any alteration has repercussions. Stress triggers a series of imbalances that affect the appearance and health of our skin: stress hormones cause vasoconstriction, so we lose brightness and freshness, and the skin takes on a grayish complexion, elasticity decreases, dryness increases, dark circles and redness appear, we produce more sebum that turns into blemishes and blackheads. Moreover, an inflammatory process is triggered that can cause itching, inflammation, irritation, infections, and worsen pre-existing skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, rosacea, hives, and eczema. That's not all. Stress hormones destroy the collagen and elastin of the skin, interfere with rejuvenation, slow down cell turnover, and increase wrinkles and expression lines that appear more pronounced than usual.

How to counteract the effects of stress on the skin?

Completely eliminating anxiety from our lives is practically impossible. We can learn to manage it. To feel better and to have better-looking skin. So much so that there is talk of psychodermatology, a branch of dermatology that investigates the correlation between mind and skin. Therefore, a good skincare routine should have a much more holistic approach and consider all factors that influence skin health, from diet to sleep cycles, from genetic factors to the stress we are subjected to. It's always a good idea to consult a professional who can guide us on the best path to follow, but there are things to do and products to apply that have positive effects on stressed skin. For example, several studies have shown that meditation initiates a relaxation response that activates the body's parasympathetic nervous system, reduces cortisol and inflammation, helping the skin barrier to stop losing water and start retaining moisture. Hyaluronic acid, beta-glucans, vitamins, organic silicon, amino acids, vitamin C, and homeopathic medications are among the biologically active substances used in these treatments that promote skin hydration and elasticity, stimulating collagen production in the dermis. Also, when we are stressed, we are caught up in a thousand concerns and could neglect our skincare routine, but we shouldn't because keeping the skin as clean and moisturized as possible helps avoid excessive sebum production and the formation of pimples. It may seem unnecessary to mention, but if we don't sleep well, if we don't eat well or drink enough water, if we don't take the time to wash our face, this can have a negative impact on the skin.

Products that can help stressed skin

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