Stress follows us everywhere and there’s no escaping it – but when we let it rule our lives, problems spring up. Taming inevitable stressors in life requires creativity and focus – and it’s essential to gain control over stress before it starts to impact your health.
Stress is often called “the silent killer” because we don’t always notice when it causes problems. However, according to the American Institute of Stress:
- 57% of Americans feel “paralyzed” by stress
- 63% of US workers want to quit their jobs because of work-related stress
- 94% of workers report feeling stress at work
- American stress levels are 20% higher than the global average
The problem with this is chronic stress ages us rapidly from the inside out. When we experience ongoing stress, our adrenal hormone cortisol increases, and our neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine drop. Chronic stress from a draining job, relationship troubles, or something else has the potential to disturb hormones, decrease quality of life, and may eventually contribute to mood disorders.
We can see the physical and mental effects of stress in our friends and family – yet it’s harder to see in ourselves. For example, research has shown that chronic anxiety shortened telomere length in women who were middle-aged and older. Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes. When they shorten, it weakens their structural integrity, and our cells will age faster. We may not even notice this is happening.
The good news is managing stress smartly can help block this accelerated aging effect. Research suggests mindfulness meditation can lead to increased telomerase activity and may help slow the epigenetic clock – especially when practiced long-term.
And the best part is these positive effects may cross over to the skin – a place where stress is visible. Research also suggests that stress management can have a beneficial effect on skin barrier recovery before and after physical injury, helping the skin look more vibrant.
But before we get to healing skin issues caused by stress, we must look at the root cause and why stress shows up on the skin in the first place.
Hormones, Skin, and Stress
Stress, acne, and hormones have a close relationship. These chemical messengers furthermore help with our sleep, energy, sex drive, appetite, and mood. When they’re out of sync, we don’t feel our best. When we’re frazzled, sad, or anxious, it’s harder to connect with others socially, which can make us feel lonely.
This throws us into a vicious cycle of pulling back from what helps us feel happier and more connected – socializing with friends, exercising, getting outdoors, eating healthfully, and taking time for soothing self-care.
All of this can show up on your skin in the form of acne. Plus, regular stress and anxiety can result in dermatoses, or “disease of the skin.” Two causes of this are imbalanced androgens and imbalanced cortisol.
The Role of Androgens
Hormonal acne is sometimes caused by androgens such as testosterone and DHEA. High levels of androgens can lead to an increase in sebum production, increasing acne risk. Testosterone stimulates the sebum-producing glands that are essential for protecting the skin with natural oils. However, too much testosterone is what creates sebum overproduction.
Your hair follicles and the sebaceous glands have enzymes and receptors to make androgens. This is why teenagers are prone to hormonal acne, but this kind of acne can affect people of all ages and be made worse by stress.
The Role of Cortisol
Another hormone that impacts skin health is cortisol. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can lead to sleeplessness and excess belly fat. However, we do need some cortisol to support the immune system, regulate inflammation, and balance blood sugar and blood pressure. Cortisol also helps us wake up in the morning.
Surges of cortisol due to a highly stressful situation may cause increased sebum production. This can trigger acne and make other skin conditions worse, including acne, eczema, rosacea, and vitiligo. A high level of cortisol can also lead to sugar cravings. Eating excess sugar increases inflammatory skin issues, so you may get caught in a vicious cycle.
How the Cycle of Stress Influences the Skin
Another problem caused by stress is that when acne pops up, it can influence your confidence. So what happens is the acne forms, and that may cause you to feel more stress. As a result, you may have a tougher time resolving the issue and creating balance in your body.
I know all too well how skin issues can impact how you feel about your beauty and appearance. The good news is there are steps you can take to resolve acne, balance your hormones, and reduce stress in your life.
Reducing stress is not a one-time action though. Self-care is a daily need. there will be times when it is harder to sneak in that self-care. However, even a 10-minute walk outside, 10 minutes of stretching, or 10 minutes of yoga can create a brief respite from stress. Take time to meditate. Write in a journal. These activities do not take a lot of time out of your day and can play a role in stress reduction.
If you’re highly stressed, start incorporating daily mindset practices to help balance cortisol. You may also want to consider taking adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha to help your body adjust.
It’s also important to use natural skin care such as the 4-step Daily Essentials Skin Care system when trying to heal or prevent acne. It is designed to cleanse, nourish, protect, and revitalize your skin and is suitable for all skin types. If you use these products, you can be assured you are not putting anything onto your skin that will cause hormonal disruptions.
We all have had stressful and traumatic moments in our lives, certainly some of us more than others. We will continue to experience stress as well. Whether you’re currently going through a stressful time, recovering from a past traumatic event, or simply wanting to improve your stress response, getting to the root cause and creating hormonal balance can help soothe and heal your skin.
The Spa Dr.® Approach
At The Spa Dr.®, our approach is to help shine the light on the skin and health care information and offer our guidance to support you on your journey.
Dr. Trevor Cates’ book, Natural Beauty Reset, provides an in-depth look at how you can nourish your body and support your health and hormones through the seasons.
The Spa Dr.® offers natural skin care products that are safe and free from chemicals and toxins that can harm your skin and health. Our products are formulated to contain key nutrients in their pure and active form to provide optimal results. In addition, our products are pH balanced towards mild acidity to promote and protect a healthy skin microbiome.
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