Stress and the effects on the skin
Ok, so this post is particularly personal, as managing stress has always been a challenge for me. I know this is common, as I have also seen the detrimental effects of long term stress in the skin of so many clients. I can definitely relate, as I know stress has been my personal largest aging factor.
Besides UV damage and diet, stress is one of the major causes of aging and inflammation in the skin and the body.
Skin is the primary sensing organ for external stressors, like heat, cold, pain, and tension, so it makes sense that stress would have such an impact on it. Let's see further why and what we can do about it, shall we. Let's all take a deep cleansing breath and read further...
Stress and the mind/body connection
This is an emerging area of modern medicine that has been definitely under studied in the past centuries by western medicine and treatment as we know it. Yet, it has been established in many ancient and traditional forms of medicine such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, that there is obviously a connection between the mind and body in illness and healing, including for the skin. Fortunately, western medicine is finally starting to catch on, and modern research is proving it to the westerners to finally see it to be true.
Our skin contains an immense amount of delicate receptors from the ends of our nerves that link back to our spinal cord and brain and vice versa. When we experience stress, it triggers our brain to release stress hormones to the pituitary glands, which then release stress signals into the adrenals, which then send stress hormones into blood stream, which then circulate through out the body, which will also then lead back to our delicate receptors in the skin. What a cycle of stress! Stress hives anyone?
In modern studies on both mouse and human models, stress has been shown to affect various diseases and health conditions in the body such as asthma, arthritis, migraines, and multiple sclerosis. Specifically in skin, multiple neuroinﬂammatory conditions have been proven to be triggered or aggravated by stress, such as psoriasis, atopic and contact dermatitis (allergic rashes), alopecia areata (hair loss), acne, itch or erythema(redness and flushing).
In simpler terms for the skin too, stress inhibits our natural wound healing process and the protective barrier function of your skin. This leads to breakdown of collagen/elastin, dehydration, and vulnerability to further damage from bacteria, fungus and pollution, allergic reactions, and stimulates the super aging dreaded inflammation (damn you inflammation!).
Lets all chill out together
Stress is generally unavoidable, as things happen in life across all ages, genders, socioeconomic levels, and regions. The difference is in the way people manage it. Our American western lifestyle may prove to produce more stress than other regions, but anyone and everyone will experience some sort of prolonged stress at some point in their lives.
I read in many articles and studies over and over again about the benefits of meditation on stress, mood and quality of life. I always thought of meditation as sitting in a yogi lotus position and breathing while practicing quieting the mind. With my overactive nervous system, this has proven to be a catch 22 to do as the breathing would easily turn into hyperventilation and my overactive mind would explode into further stress chaos. But I did realize there are many other things I was doing that were actually meditation like and I didn't even realize it.
Here are some alternative meditative like soothing things you can do that aren't typical meditation, yet help your brain and body benefit in the same way. Some of these are even primal and natural to human instinct so perfect to soothe and quiet our our stressed, overactive modern souls.
- Drawing/painting/coloring/crafting: puts your mind into a meditative like state. You have to focus on your color, the page or canvas and what your are creating on the page or filling in with color with all your focus.
- Dance: This can be liberating if too much structure in your life stresses you out as you can let loose and free your mind and body to the music that calls to you. And yet if you feel out of control in your life and need more structure, learning new dances and practicing your steps and form can pull your focus together and help your mind to just focus and create an amazing mind/body connection as your try and learn and practice to achieve the right motions for that particular move or dance technique.
- Smell lovely things: In the back of our nose we have millions for receptors that lead to our brain to detect smells. There are tons of research and studies proving that different smells can effect our memory, moods, sense of wellbeing, focus, sleep, and even hunger. Smell is a powerful thing. This is why I love having some essential oils and hydrosols in my skincare products and wearing perfumes that remind me of beautiful times, places and are quite calming.
- Create your self care ritual: This is not selfish, this is taking care of your health. In many other parts of the world it is normal for generations to go to hot springs or spas together. They are not considered luxuries in those places, but simply health and cleanliness rituals. From the family spa rituals in S. Korea, the banyas in Russian and other former Soviet republics to the hydrotherapy center visits covered by medical insurance in France, these are are just basic wellness therapies considered normal for all. In the US you can recreate your own wellness rituals in the comfort of home. For me, I don't have a bath tub, so my best ritual is taking a great shower where I exfoliate my body using a Korean exfoliating mitt, and after do my Meta Skin Home Facial kit 1-2x/week. I just have a moment where I can focus on my skin and taking care of it like meditation. Many of the products smell amazing so go together with the "smell lovely things" category above. I definitely sleep better on those self care nights.
The de-stressing conclusion
So obviously massages and vacations are amazing and beneficial, and have helped me tremendously in times of major stress. But it's also understandable that being able to get a massage or go to a spa or vacation especially in our pandemic time, and with financial uncertainties are not always accessible or possible. But all the things above definitely are. I say this over and over again, but it's the little habits we do every day that lead to having best skin, so remember to think about that and care for yourself the best you can as often as possible.
And to help you along the way for your calming ritual, I'm offering a flash sale of buy one get one free of our Nourishing Transformation Sheet Masks. Also receive a free mask gift with any of our sets (Clear Age Set, Home Facial Set, Pumpkin Set).