Stress can wreak havoc not only on our lives but on our skin as well. Even though it's definitely hard to avoid, what's important to know is that it's a natural, evolutionary response. Historically, what's most commonly known as 'fight or flight' mode was naturally developed as a means of allowing animals to react to a critical situation.
Nowadays, when this happens we experience a surge in adrenalin and cortisol that prepare us to survive. A little stress may be good once in a while to boost energy levels or ambition, but a lot of it can be unhealthy to our nervous system, triggering anxiety. With all of these rapid stress symptoms occurring – accelerated heart rate, pumping blood flow, painful acidic tummy – it's no wonder stress also damages the connective tissues and collagen in our largest organ – the skin.
How does stress affect the nervous system
When we're stressed, our nervous system becomes stimulated by quick-changing brain waves. This leads to an increase of blood flow to the brain and muscles by 400%, as well as shortness of breath. Because of this, skin issues like acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, premature ageing and many other skin conditions are all directly linked to our stress levels. In fact, managing your stress levels should be a key part of your skincare routine, just like the products you apply.
Stress and acne
When we’re stressed, our body releases hormones which increase oil production in the skin that can lead to breakouts and pimples – and, you guessed it – this might be one explanation to why adult acne is more common today.
What's more, insulin triggers the production of hormones called androgens, which block pores and cause spots. So, the more stressed we are, the more insulin we produce when we eat. When it comes to your skin, as blood travels towards the brain, skin begins to lack the nutrients and oxygen supply it needs to heal these spots.
Stress and ageing
Skin conditions caused by stress and anxiety cause a series of chain reactions within the body that accelerate skin ageing. Deep lines can form through repetitive frowning and tight muscles restrict the free flow of blood and nutrients proving how stress affects your face.
Blood flow: Reduced blood flow means fewer nutrients and less oxygen are being delivered to the skin cells. Over time, this reduces the rate of cell turnover and the skin adopts a pale, lacklustre appearance.
Cortisol: When the body produces cortisol or the 'stress hormone', it immediately releases sugars intended to provide the body with energy. The effects of high cortisol on skin not only allow these sugars create inflammation within the skin, cortisol also damages its supportive network of collagen and elastin. As the years pass, we develop more lines and wrinkles.
DNA: Small elements called telomeres sit at the top of DNA strands to stop them from fraying. When telomeres are damaged by stress, these strands start to split so that the skin cells can’t function effectively and the ageing process accelerates.
How to reduce stress naturally
Meditation for skin healing is one of the most effective ways to break this cycle. Meditation is a practice that can help all of us live in the moment, learn the breathe better and become lighter and therefore more productive. Countless studies have proven that meditation can positively impact both our body and emotions, so do yourself a favour and save your skin by clearing your mind!
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