If you’ve ever experienced a breakout or developed a rash right before an important event, or found your complexion looking listless when you’re run down then you already know first-hand how stress can affect your appearance.
But just how exactly does stress affect the skin? Well, firstly, stress can affect levels of cortisol (known as the stress hormone) along with other hormones; this in turn can cause an over production of sebum in the skin, contributing to oily skin and breakouts. Secondly, stress can also affect the immune system so can therefore be a factor in flare ups of skin conditions such as cold sores or psoriasis. In addition to this stress, and our coping mechanisms, can also affect our lifestyle, including our sleeping patterns and eating habits – which all have a knock-on effect on the condition of our skin
It’s an unfortunate reality that we are all affected by stress to some degree throughout our lives, and although there are many stressors in life which are beyond our control (and can have serious health consequences if the stress is severe, or prolonged) when it comes to the day-to-day kind (looming deadlines, a demanding boss, busy commutes and such like) there are things that we can do to buffer ourselves from it’s effects, help protect our skin and help make ourselves feel better in the process.
At this time of year, with school and work in full swing, summer having faded away into a distant memory and party season just around the corner the demands on our time seems to increase month by month. With hibernation not being an option I’ve put together my top stress-busting beauty tips, to help keep you and your skin feeling calm.
Boost your skins defences from the inside out
Drink plenty of water
If you’re feeling stressed it’s crucial to keep your body well hydrated. This is because being dehydrated is itself stressful to the body, and therefore influences cortisol levels. Staying well hydrated can help you feel more alert, and boost energy levels, which can be extremely helpful when you are feeling run down or overwhelmed.
Eat your ABCs
Be sure to include avocados, berries and good qualify chocolate (look for one with a high cocoa content) in your diet to help nourish your skin throughout any periods of stress. Avocados are rich in Vitamin E which helps keep skin hydrated, and B vitamins which assist in detox and reduce skin redness and inflammation. Berries, particularly blueberries and raspberries are rich in antioxidants which help neutralise skin cell damaging free-radicals, so should definitely be included in your anti-stress shopping basket. Chocolate also has antioxidant properties, in addition to it’s free-radical fighting capabilities it also contains magnesium, which is calming for the nervous system and it boosts neurotransmitters (endorphins and serotonin), which help make us feel good – but I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that!
Make self-care a priority
If you are struggling with stress then self-care is more important than ever, and massage is one of the best forms of self-care available, due to it’s numerous stress-reducing benefits. Massage helps ease muscle tension, aids relaxation and promotes improved sleep quality. It also assists with lymphatic drainage, which is the bodies natural detoxification process, gives you some much needed ‘me time’, and enables you to benefit from the healing power of touch. If going for for regular massages is not an option you can still reap many of the benefits. If time is short I recommend giving yourself a facial massage when applying your night cream or beauty oil. It’s a short, simple ritual, which will help boost skin circulation and give skin a glow, and can help you relax and unwind at the end of a long day.
It may feel like the last thing you want to do, but if you’re stressed even a little exercise can work wonders. As well as boosting endorphins exercise can help improve sleep quality, and increase circulation – which in turn helps deliver nutrients to the skin, giving it a healthy looking glow.
Harness product power
There are many products on the market specifically targeted at stressed skin. Look for products containing soothing and calming ingredients such as Aloe, Calendula and Colloidal Oatmeal. If you are struggling to fall asleep try a room spray or pillow mist containing lavender, which helps with relaxation.
Do you have a favourite stress-busting tip or product? Tweet me at @SarahUrbanEcho