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Skin Under Stress

June 27, 2022

Are you stressed? In a society where unsustainable stress is not only the norm, but sometimes a celebrated sign of success, what better way for the subconscious to cry out than “stress skin”? Patchy spots. An eczema outbreak. A psoriasis flare-up. A bout of rosacea. A dehydrated, dull, oily or even — gasp — older-looking appearance. General blah-ness, if you will. A quick surge of stress can actually be a good thing for you skin. It may heighten your senses, enhance mental clarity and help create collagen to facilitate wound repair. It’s there and it’s gone. However, it’s the chronic, continuing stress, the kind that every sentient being is likely experiencing right now, that takes a toll on the skin.

Stressed skin or also known as volatile skin, is created by both external and internal stressors. From urban smog to temperature changes to stresses of life ... the environment we create for ourselves to live in becomes quite stressful for us as humans as well as our skin. When skin is constantly exposed to visible and invisible environmental toxins and common everyday stressors like sleep deprivation and fatigue, it reflects on the skin. Each time our bodies are stressed, we cycle through an internal fight or flight response where our brains prioritize key bodily functions over skin health and cellular regeneration. During fight or flight mode, our body’s oil

production increases, the digestive track shuts down, immune system weakens, and skin immediately becomes acidic. When we are stressed, our cortisol (the primary stress hormone) level also spikes. When cortisol spikes, it increases inflammation. In turn, inflammation can exacerbate whatever underlying skin conditions one may have.

Much of the skin-psyche connection comes down to the overproduction of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, and its effect on the skin barrier. The barrier traps moisture in and keeps allergens, irritants and pollutants out. It effectively does the job of most skin-care products on the market, sans products, and needs three things in order to thrive: oil, water and the microbiome. Cortisol depletes them all. During times of stress, cortisol slows the production of beneficial oils. We get dry, rough and much more irritated because those healthy oils act as a protective layer for us. Without adequate lipids to seal in hydration, the skin starts to “leak” water in a process known as transepidermal water loss (TEWL).

When skin is under stress, it can manifest as a slew of conditions including these: 

  • skin dehydration with patchy dryness - stress increases the hormone, cortisol which decreases skin’s ability to retain water

  • acne - When we are stressed, our cells produce sebum, an “oily substance that mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria to clog the hair follicles, leading to a pimple”

  • redness in the skin - Stress triggers a ‘flight or fight’ response in the body, which releases stress hormones into the bloodstream. As our anxious emotions begin to flow, our capillaries begin to expand causing an increase of blood flow to the face. This causes facial redness on the face and makes the skin look uneven and inflamed.

In addition, stressed skin can also induce dark spots, increased sensitivity and enlarged pores. 

Managing stress may seem nearly impossible, considering that so many modern stressors are systemic. Yet perhaps its not the stress itself we have to eliminate but learning how to manage the stress itself. In other words, while meditation or weekly yoga can’t mitigate global warming, it may, at the very least, clear your complexion. In the meantime, there are some skincare adjustments that can be made that can help restore the health of the skin barrier. While there are never overnight miracles with the skin, it does take time and commitment. Using the proper medical grade home products daily is an essential part to repairing stressed skin. Here are some more tips to follow: 

It is important to note that in this instance when skin is already compromised with stress, topical creams, serums and alike will not counteract cortisol. Topical ingredients won't serve the same biological purpose as those produced in the body and rarely penetrate to the lower layer of the dermis where collagen and hyaluronic acid occur, especially retail skincare products that are not medical grade.

1. Less is More. Especially when you are trying to restore skin health ... eliminate products with excess fragrance, colors, dyes, toxic additives or preservatives. A lot of those aren't good for the skin to begin with but when the skin is under stress, it can irritate the skin even more.

2. Treat this as a Skin Condition. When skin is compromised, you have to treat it as a medical condition, so this is a time to be one a medical grade skincare regimen. 99% of retail skincare products are formulated for topical instant gratification or for someone with a healthy skin barrier where the biology of their skin does not need to be changed. However in this case, it is different.

3. Use vitamin C every morning. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and protects the skin against free radicals. 

4. Sunscreen Everyday. Rain or shine. It goes without saying, sunscreen should be worn everyday regardless of skin health, but when your skin barrier is compromised, it is even more important to protect it from damaging rays. 

5. Make Product Changes. Even for those that are already on a medical grade regimen, when in times where the skin is compromised, sometimes product changes need to be made. This is a good time to introduce the CBD Vita Hydratant which was formulated with ingredients like CBD, malachite and arnica that is especially to repair stressed skin. 

At the end of the day, it is important to remind ourselves that self-care is a priority. Making time not only to repair your skin, but taking an extra 10 minutes to unload your day's stress, can be rewarding mentally and for your skin. Take a look at our previous post on how you can create that extra 10 minutes in a day that we already do not have enough time ... 

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