Your Survival Guide for Stressed Skin
Even if you’re a world champ at pasting on a smile and hiding how worried you feel, you could be wearing a bad day all over your skin. Stress can cause acne breakouts—this, you know— and flare-ups of skin conditions like atopic dermatitis (a.k.a. eczema), rosacea, and psoriasis. One reason: When you’re under physical or emotional stress, your body’s fight-or-flight response kicks in, which triggers the release of stress hormones. Chronic stress in particular is bad news for your skin because it can increase sensitivity and eventually weaken the skin’s barrier—the outermost layer that keeps water in and irritants out. Result: Your skin has a harder time staying hydrated and healing itself. The deluge of the stress hormone cortisol can also rev up activity in your oil glands, leading to blockages within the hair follicles and creating a friendly environment for acne-causing bacteria. The relationship can go the other way, too: Skin rebellions can tank your mood and self- esteem and make you less likely to participate in fun activities. What proof? A 2014 study from Australia found that people with atopic disorders, such as eczema, have a 59 percent greater likelihood of developing depression, and a 2015 study in British Journal of Dermatology found that psoriasis increases depression risk in women. Still, your skin doesn’t have to be at the mercy of your day (and vice versa). Heed these experts’ advice to help safeguard your skin—and maybe feel a bit less stressed-out in the first place.
“Fall is a killer time for skin—you’re going from a vacation mind-set back to a work mind-set; kids are going back to school; the weather is changing. If you have a skin flare-up, try a 40-day detox. Skin renewal can take about 40 days for people in their 40s, for example. Stop all scrubs, toners, and masks. Use warm water and a clean washcloth to cleanse your face; if you want to use a cleanser, stick with a creamy, soap-free one. Follow with a gentle eye cream and moisturizer, and use sun protection generously. When stressed, people often pick at their bumps—don’t! That will lead to more irritation. After your detox, you can begin the reentry of ‘extras.’ Add an antioxidant serum daily for two weeks, then a growth factor serum at night. When your skin is in a good place, reintroduce exfoliants, one at a time. Most important, talk with your dermatologist about treatments that would help.” —Ellen Marmur, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and author of Simple Skin Beauty
“When you’re under stress, it’s important to limit added sugars, white carbs, fried foods, and alcohol. These foods can be incredibly inflammatory, which is a problem because eczema, acne, and rosacea are all exacerbated by inflammation. Plus, many of these foods can cause blood sugar highs and lows, which interfere with your body’s ability to deal with stress and make it harder to repair skin flare-ups. Instead, drink a lot of water and eat fruits, vegetables, and fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation and hydrate the skin from within. Also, add probiotics—found in foods like Greek yogurt, kombucha, and cultured cottage cheese—because stress can lead to imbalances in gut bacteria, which can cause inflammation that can take a toll on your skin. And exercise daily: Besides boosting circulation, which helps shuttle more nutrients and oxygen to the skin cells, regular, low-intensity exercise helps you decrease cortisol levels.” —Molly Kimball, RD, nutrition manager of the Ochsner Fitness Center in New Orleans
How to Fake Fresh, Dewy Skin
Let’s face it, sometimes you wake up to blotchy, dull, or tired-looking skin. You don’t have to call out sick. Makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes shows us how to get that natural, glowy skin that looks like you’ve got plenty of rest. The best part? It only takes a couple minutes to apply and you’re ready to head to the office. Plus, it requires minimal makeup, with plenty of moisturizer and cream to soothe your face. All you need is a luminizing concealer and some bronzer. Follow these steps in the video and you’ll have people complimenting your perfect skin.
“These skin conditions are capricious, and that unpredictability can lead to more emotional and physiological reactivity. It becomes a reciprocal vicious cycle: If your skin gets redder and more sensitive, you can get stressed about what other people think, and the body’s adrenaline response makes it self-perpetuating. What you want to do is lower your level of stress below the threshold that causes flare-ups of these skin conditions. You can do this with behavioral strategies, such as exercise, yoga, tai chi, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, or mindfulness meditation—all these roads lead to decreased reactivity of your stress response and immune system. Stress management is very much like dating: It’s a matter of individual taste. You don’t have to be forced into something that doesn’t click with you physiologically and mentally. It also helps to do self-talk. Put flare-ups in perspective by comparing them with the worst thing that could happen.” —Rick Fried, MD, PhD, clinical psychologist, dermatologist, and clinical director of Yardley Dermatology Associates in Yardley, Pennsylvania
“I’ve suffered from eczema all my life. My mom called it ‘raw hamburger.’ I saw a dermatologist, who determined that the rash on my arms and legs and around my mouth was eczema, so I switched to Cetaphil face wash, Dove soap, and Vaseline. Then, miraculously, it cleared up—until my late 30s, when I was dealing with ridiculous stress at work. It reared its ugly head all over my back, scalp, and torso. As a technology sales rep, I was so self-conscious meeting customers: What if I have to scratch my scalp? What if they see my raw back? It was embarrassing. Forget dating; I never wanted anyone to see my body. I was a hot mess. My dermatologist and I experimented with a number of different medical treatments until we found a regimen that worked. And I made some lifestyle changes that have helped. I switched to flannel sheets. I wash my loofah in the machine with my clothes after every use, using hypoallergenic shampoo. I soak in Aveeno bath treatments, and I run eight miles daily to de-stress. It all sounds kind of crazy, but if you’re vigilant and open to making changes, you can keep it under control and feel confident again.” —Mary Catherine Hessel, 42, New York City