How stress can affect your skin

Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but it’s safe to say that with the onset of the 2020 Covid-19 crisis, we’ve all been dealing with exceptionally high levels of it recently! And while coping with the emotional fallout can be hard enough in itself, it can also complicate things with your skin, too. While anxiety and stress are primarily emotional reactions, the way your body deals with it can make it physical, – and the first place you’re likely to see it is your skin. The team and I have already been fielding plenty of questions from our patients about the effects of stress and your skin, so I’ve laid out some of the essentials on it below!

The relationship between stress and your skin

It’s all to do with your endocrine system. I won’t give you a hugely detailed biology lesson, but just go over the basics quickly. Your endocrine system is what’s called a ‘chemical messenger’ system. It’s made up of several major glands (the endocrine glands), which produce and circulate hormones around your body to regulate the function of your organs. Your endocrine system affects a huge range of bodily functions, including your metabolism, growth and development, your sleep, and your mood (amongst others). It’s these last couple that are particularly important in this context.

Essentially, when you’re especially tense or stressed, your adrenal gland (a major endocrine gland) will produce higher-than-normal levels of cortisol, which is none-too-fondly known as the stress hormone. Excess levels of cortisol can have a seriously adverse effect on your body. Not only does it affect things like your immune system and blood pressure, but also increases the activity of your sebaceous gland, which in turn produces more oil and sebum.

While sebum is beneficial for your skin in lots of ways, too much of it can quickly aggravate conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea, or the appearance of wrinkles. Your skin can also become a lot more sensitive, leading to further irritation (in every sense of the word!).

Other ways that stress can affect your skin

Cortisol may be the most direct way that stress affects your skin, but there can be lots of other smaller, indirect ways too. Most of these are common behaviours that people tend to resort to in times of stress – we’ve all been there!

For example, stress can easily start interfering with your sleep patterns. When we’re tucked up in bed, that’s when our bodies naturally take the opportunity to repair the damage from your trials and tribulations of the day. If you’re not getting enough sleep, whether through poor discipline or through stress, it limits your body’s opportunities to restore its supply of collagen and oxygenate your blood. It also disrupts the pH balance in your skin, which can leave it looking duller and drier.

Stress also makes us more likely to indulge in habits that don’t help, such as increasing our intake of alcohol, processed or sugary foods, or coffee. Some people process it with a tendency to overwork themselves in their day jobs, which can be just as harmful for largely the same reasons as I’ve outlined above!

skincare inspection

So, how can you fight the signs of stress on your skin?

Of course, when it comes to tackling stress, there’s no one straightforward answer – different techniques tend to work for different people! But it’s never a bad idea to start with the basics. Making sure that you’re maintaining a balanced diet and prioritising your sleep routine are both great ways to make sure you’re giving yourself some valuable self-care. Sleep experts recommend getting at least eight hours every night, and trying to wake up at the same time each day. Limiting your screen time just before bed is also a good technique – try reading instead!

On that note, there are a couple of different activities you can try and do to unwind. These include reading, taking a walk outside, talking with a friend, or even yoga and meditation. Really, it’s about whatever works best for you.

And in terms of skincare, it’s always a good plan to ensure you’re wearing a high-factor SPF, such as something from our Heliocare range, as a decent moisturiser. Here at AP Skincare, the team and I also offer a range of skincare treatments which can help you look and feel amazing again. To find out more, feel free to give us a call on 01254 297 000, and we’ll be only too happy to help!