Stress & Your Skin: Tips to Staying Calm and Glowing
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You may think that acne or dull skin may be caused entirely by bacteria or sunlight, but there's another culprit you may be ignoring. Stress impacts more than just mood during menopause; it can also affect your skin's health. Many women cite frustrations about not seeing improvements in their skin even when using their usual skincare products.
So, if your typical skincare routine doesn't work, what can you do to lower the effects of stress-induced skin conditions?
How Does Stress Affect Acne?
Stress impacts the health of multiple systems in the body. It affects your heart, your brain, and even your immune system, but how can it cause an influx of breakouts?
When you're stressed, your body increases the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is one of the hormones that contribute to the body's instinctual "fight or flight" response. The oil glands in the skin have receptors that are sensitive specifically to cortisol. When cortisol levels surge, it causes the glands in the skin to increase the production of oils.
Of course, an increase in skin oils is not the only effect stress has. Stress also increases the inflammatory response in your skin. Stress increases inflammatory mediators in the skin, which are messengers carried through the bloodstream that act on blood vessels and other cells. A high quantity of inflammatory mediators causes an increase in inflammation, which can make skin appear red and swollen.
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How to Treat Stress Acne
You might think it's impossible to treat stress-induced acne, but that's not true. There are steps you can take at home to help reduce stress and relieve your skin.
You may have tried everything in your skincare product lineup. You may have even tried a few natural DIY remedies, but dermatologist-approved treatments are out there, and they can help you combat stress acne.
Stress pimples are pretty strong, but there are a few things that even they can't fight back against. Topicals products that contain ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinol can help treat stress acne. Salicylic acid helps unclog pores. Benzoyl peroxide is a great anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, so it can help combat both inflammation and bacteria buildup in skin. Retinol can help accelerate the skin's natural exfoliation process, bringing new, healthy skin cells to the surface.
When used correctly (not at the same time), these three key ingredients can help reduce stress acne and help newer, healthier skin cells surface. If you're unsure about what treatments are best for you or are allergic to any of the ingredients listed above, talk to a dermatologist and get a professional opinion.
Maybe your acne isn't so aggressive that it needs prescription-strength treatment. Perhaps you only experience stress pimples once in a blue moon? If you're not interested in adding topical creams to your skincare routine, what else can you do to reduce stress acne? Well, you can start by reducing your stress levels.
And one way you can do that is by exercising. Exercise does wonders for your body, especially your skin. When you exercise, your body releases stress-reducing chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals interact with receptors in your brain that produce feelings of calm and satisfaction and reduce feelings of pain. By exercising, you are increasing your endorphin levels and lowering your cortisol levels. When cortisol levels are low, they can't send signals to your skin to increase its inflammatory response.
Now, you might be thinking; if I exercise, then I'll sweat and won't sweat make my acne worse? The answer is, no. Sweat itself does not cause acne. Sweat is made almost entirely of water and is only released from your skin to cool down your body. However, if left on the surface, sweat can attract bacteria to your skin and cause a buildup. So, once you finish an exercise, make sure to shower and scrub your skin with a good soap.
Yoga & Meditation
Many think that yoga and meditation are only meant to clear the mind and improve flexibility, but these activities can have some stress-relief benefits, too. Yoga and meditation share one stress-relief technique, and that's deep breathing. It may sound silly, but focusing just on your breath can do a lot for stress-relief.
Breathing exercises work two-fold, they lower your heart rate and increase oxygen levels in the blood. When your heart rate lowers, and your blood carries more oxygen to the brain, your brain sends signals to the rest of the body that it's time to relax. When this happens, your cortisol levels lower, and your body's inflammatory response becomes steady.
So, if you can take a few minutes of your day, do some yoga or some meditation. If you have a busy schedule, take a few minutes to do some deep breathing exercises. You can even do them from your desk. Your skin will thank you for it.
Get Enough Sleep
Your muscles aren't the only areas of the body that need repair at night; your skin does too. Sleep deprivation is one of the most common contributing factors to stress and acne. When we sleep, our immune system naturally releases proteins called cytokines that help repair the damage done to our bodies from earlier in the day. Cytokines are particularly helpful in reducing inflammation and fighting off infections, both of which are present in acne.
People who suffer from sleep deprivation conditions like insomnia can have a lower immune response and be more susceptible to infections and other illnesses. Sleep deprivation can also create a wave of hormonal imbalances that exacerbate acne. So, if you're not getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, talk to your doctor about what you can do to get a better night's sleep and help your skin heal.
Don't Stress. You've Got This.
If your skin is making you anxious, don't worry! There are things you can do to get your skin looking and feeling better. Talk to a dermatologist about your treatment options. Find ways you can adjust your lifestyle to fit your skincare needs. When all else fails, just remember to take in a deep breath and feel your stress levels melt away.