Are you stressed? If so, it can show up on your skin.
There is an intricate relationship between stress and the health of your skin. Keep reading to learn more and, more importantly, how you can go from stressed out to calm for radiant, beautiful-looking skin!
The Stress-Skin Connection
Stress is more than just a feeling; it’s a physiological response triggered by the body’s release of stress hormones, in particular cortisol and adrenaline. There is no doubt that these hormones, when chronically elevated, can wreak havoc on your body internally. What you may not know, however, is that they can also have a huge impact on the outside too, i.e., on the health of your skin.
Basically, stress kicks in higher cortisol levels which leads to higher inflammation; this can throw everything off, including in your skin. For example, essential substances for skin renewal, healing, and protection, such as vitamin C, are not able to be absorbed as effectively when we are in “fight or flight” mode. As a result, collagen synthesis (one of the main mechanisms for creating new skin cells) can be drastically reduced as a result. (1)
There is also a connection between the nervous system, where stress responses originate, the endocrine system, and the skin. One of the primary mechanisms of the endocrine system is the HPA axis, also known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The HPA axis acts as the intermediary between the central nervous system and the endocrine system. It helps with the balance of hormones in general, especially during a stress response.
Interestingly, as part of the “brain-skin connection,” the skin also has its own “mini” HPA axis (known as the peripheral HPA axis). According to a 2014 report published in the journal Inflammation and Allergy Drug Targets, the skin-based HPA is “fully functional” and contains all the substances and cellular receptor sites that the main HPA axis has – only it is located within skin cells! Scientists are discovering such a connection between emotional states and the state of our skin that they even have a new field of dermatology centered around it. “Psychodermatology” is the study of the link between stress-related conditions like PTSD and skin diseases. (2)
How Stress Affects Skin Health Specifically
Staying in an ongoing state of stress can do damage to your skin health on several fronts, including:
Impaired Barrier Function: Chronic stress can weaken the skin’s natural protective barrier, making it more susceptible to environmental irritants and allergens. (3)
Poor Blood Circulation: Stress can constrict blood vessels, especially in women, according to the American Heart Association. (4) This can reduce blood flow to the skin and result in a dull complexion and slow wound healing.
Accelerated Aging: Chronic stress can speed up the aging process on all levels. This can lead to the breaking down collagen and elastin, with wrinkles and sagging skin as the result. (5)
What Does Too Much Stress Look Like on the Skin?
If you have been under a lot of stress lately, or if you suffer from chronic stress or other stress-related conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), here are some ways this may show up on your skin:
- increased dryness
- excess wrinkling
- saggy looking skin
- sensitive skin
- tired looking skin
- discoloration (such as redness or paleness)
- more extreme manifestations of combination skin
- puffiness or bags under the eyes (this can also be an indication of sleep issues related to stress)
- skin-related disease, including eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, acne, and more.(6)(7)
5 Ways to Lower Stress & Experience Vibrant Skin
The good news is that managing stress can lead to healthier, happier skin! Here are just a few actions you can take now:
#1 Practice Stress-Reduction Techniques: Engaging in relaxation practices like meditation, deep breathing, visualization, or prayer can reduce stress hormones, improve nutrient absorption, and restore skin healing.(8) It also may be necessary to go deeper to really affect change. If you have been diagnosed with PTSD or have had significant trauma in your life (especially in childhood), this can contribute to chronic stress. It’s okay to seek help from a therapist, faith-based counselor, or other qualified professional. Millions of people have experienced profound healing through modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, faith-based trauma healing, or EVOX (a type of biofeedback). All of these modalities help to change belief systems and stress responses at the subconscious level.(9)
#2 Maintain a Healthy Diet: A balanced, organic, whole foods diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other healing substances can support your skin’s health and resilience. One of the best substances for both skin and brain health is omega 3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, olive oil, and other whole foods. Recent research has found that getting adequate amounts of omega 3s can also significantly help with mood disorders, including both anxiety and depression. (10)
Also, remember that part of a healthy diet is proper hydration. After all, moisture is what gives skin that plump, soft, smooth look and feel, and the first step in getting there is to drink more water. A good rule of thumb for most people is to drink at least half your weight in ounces of fresh, filtered water every day.
#3 Exercise Regularly: Moderate exercise just plain works for lowering stress and maintaining a vibrant life. Specifically, physical activity can improve circulation, promoting a healthy complexion. When you have increased blood flow, you have oxygen—the lifeblood of not only your internal environment, but also healthy skin too.
#4 Get Quality Sleep: Stress often leads to issues with sleep such as insomnia, restless sleep, or poor quality sleep. One way this can show up on your skin is under the eyes. Yes, you can cover up those “bags” with makeup, but the best way to get rid of them for good is to prioritize healthy sleep. Make it a point to turn off cell phones and other electronic devices at least an hour before bed and tune down the caffeine and sugar consumption too, especially during the second half of the day.
All the other tips mentioned in this section will also contribute to you getting a good night’s sleep, which is absolutely essential if you want to rebalance your body and boost your health on all levels. (11)
#5 Establish a Skincare Routine: As you work on lowering stress on the inside, don’t forget the healing that can take place on the surface of the skin as well. Gentle, skin-friendly products that use only organic substances can deeply clean and replenish without the threat of harmful toxins. Be consistent with your natural skincare routine and you will begin to see the result on the outside too!
How CHARLIS (& the Power of Citrus) Can Help
When you are stressed, you need topical relief that can soothe your skin while at the same time help to calm and rebalance your nervous system. Is such a skin product even possible? You bet. In fact, combining these two effects was the very reason why I decided to launch the CHARLÍS Body Collection this last spring (2023).
Each of the formulas that make up the products in both our Body Collection and our Face Collection have “star substances” which make them unique. At the same time, almost all of our formulas have one substance in common: they all contain the calming yet energizing presence of citrus. Dozens of studies have found that citrus can not only lower inflammation and boost immunity, but citrus fragrance in particular has been shown to significantly boost and rebalance mood as well. Japanese researchers, writing for the journal Neuroimmunomodulation, even found that citrus essential oil was “more effective than antidepressants” in boosting mood. (12) At the same time, citrus is naturally high in vitamin C, and ascorbic acid is a must-have for skin cell repair, replenishing, and protection.
The citrus oils we use in products such as the CHARLÍS Sweet Orange Body Butter, the CHARLÍS Sweet Orange Body Lotion (found in the CHARLÍS Body Collection) and the refreshing CHARLÍS Daily Moisturizer (found in our Face Collection) are all 100% organic. What’s more, the rebalancing fragrance of citrus can be used for both men and women.
And don’t forget our Orange Blossom Eau de Parfum, which can be found in the Body Collection and contains triple the citrus power with sweet orange, grapefruit and bergamot!
Calm Your Mind and Your Skin Will Follow!
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but it doesn’t have to take a toll on your skin. By understanding the connection between stress and the skin, you can take proactive steps to manage stress. Then you can enjoy radiant, healthy skin, and CHARLÍS can be there to help you every step of the way!
- Even low-grade inflammation impacts on small intestinal function
- Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging
- Psychological stress perturbs epidermal permeability barrier homeostasis: implications for the pathogenesis of stress-associated skin disorders
- Mental stress-induced constricted blood vessels more likely in women
- The Link between Chronic Stress and Accelerated Aging
- Stress-related skin disorders
- The Response of Skin Disease to Stress Changes in the Severity of Acne Vulgaris as Affected by Examination Stress
- Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress
- ZYTO EVOX
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Mood Disorders
- Influence of Mindfulness Practice on Cortisol and Sleep in Long-Term and Short-Term Meditators
- Effects of citrus fragrance on immune function and depressive states