How stress messes with your skin

And strate­gies to stop it

Prevention (Australia) - - In This Issue -

The con­nec­tion is clear – and your com­plex­ion will be too with the help of th­ese sim­ple strate­gies.

You know those times when life feels like a run­away train? You’re way too busy, you feel anx­ious, there’s a zil­lion thoughts whizzing through your head, you’re eat­ing badly, sleep­ing poorly. You’re su­per-stressed and be­fore long it shows on your face and skin – even though you thought those days were over!

Un­for­tu­nately, no mat­ter your age, daily stress can cause lev­els of the hor­mones cor­ti­sol and adren­a­line to surge, cre­at­ing an in­flam­ma­tory cas­cade in the body that can cause a slew of side ef­fects. Among them: ag­gra­vated skin con­di­tions such as acne and eczema, pso­ri­a­sis, der­mati­tis and rosacea. It’s also why we’re prone to de­velop a break­out spot be­fore a big event.

“Stress up­sets the fine bal­ance of immune mech­a­nisms,” ex­plains der­ma­tol­o­gist Dr Adam Sheri­dan. “It also in­creases sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to in­fec­tious pro­cesses such as her­pes sim­plex, vi­ral warts and bac­te­rial in­fec­tions.”

All of which is bad enough. But it turns out that chronic stress – con­sis­tently height­ened lev­els for a few weeks or months – ac­cel­er­ates skin age­ing. An in­crease of cor­ti­sol on a reg­u­lar ba­sis con­trib­utes to the de­ple­tion of col­la­gen, which gives skin its elas­tic­ity. And all that toss­ing and turn­ing that is rob­bing you of sleep means that mela­tonin, which helps pro­tect skin from UV-in­duced and free rad­i­cal dam­age, isn’t be­ing pro­duced to the same ex­tent.

Ba­si­cally, all those ‘fight or flight’ chem­i­cals are putting your body on red alert in­ter­nally, while ex­ter­nally you’re prob­a­bly not tak­ing care of your­self or skin, miss­ing out on healthy meals and hy­dra­tion while upping your in­take of sugar and al­co­hol.

But there are fixes. For one, adopt­ing a more pos­i­tive at­ti­tude. (This was a com­mon fac­tor in su­per-agers, women who looked 10 or more years younger than their ac­tual age, ac­cord­ing to an Olay study.) Also, en­sur­ing you eat plenty of fresh fruit, ve­g­ies and pro­tein, which keeps the bal­ance of good bac­te­ria in your gut, can also help us man­age stress.

“Also, re­mem­ber what you don’t do is just as im­por­tant as what you do,” ex­plains Dr Sheri­dan. “Be mind­ful that while some stress is im­posed upon us and un­avoid­able, our re­ac­tion to it is an ac­tive choice.”

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