Your skin may not be looking its best right now. And the reason?... Stress.
You may be experiencing an increase in oiliness and more breakouts. Or your skin could be showing signs of dehydration and abnormal irritation. These are all indicators that stress is having an effect on your skin.
But don’t worry. We’re here to show you how to keep everything calm and get your skin looking healthy and glowing again, even when stress levels are high.
Signs of stress can show up on your skin in many different ways… and none of them are good!
Stress is not your skin’s friend
Your body reacts to stress, or even just a lack of sleep, by elevating the levels of the hormone Cortisol in your blood - putting you into a state of ‘fight or flight’.
Cortisol is responsible for inflammation in our bodies – the main culprit behind signs of aging.
This triggers an increase in oil production in the sebaceous glands which can then develop into breakouts and acne.
Cortisol also diminishes your body’s ability to retain water so your skin becomes dry and dehydrated too, leading to fine lines and wrinkles appearing.
More self-care needed
On top of that, when you're feeling stressed it can make you skimp on your normally healthy habits.
You may take less time taking care of yourself – not sleeping as well, not washing your face, not eating healthily or drinking enough water. These can all impact your skin negatively.
Two principles to improve your stressed skin
Firstly, make sure that you take time to care for your skin, but keep your routine very simple.
Gently wash your face every day
to remove excess oil
Moisturize morning and evening
to keep your skin well hydrated
Secondly, and importantly, make sure that you take time to look after yourself.
The best way to calm your stressed skin is to take an all-round holistic approach and take really good care of yourself, as well as sticking to a good skincare routine.
Action plan: 8 ways to calm your stress affected skin
#1 Keep your face clean
Washing your face every day is the key to keeping your skin looking fresh, clean and healthy.
Even if you’re staying inside at home all day you still need to keep your face clean. Washing will clear away the excess oil and bacteria that build up and cause breakouts and lead to a dull complexion.
And if you choose our Daily Face Wash it will also gently exfoliate away the dead skin cells and leave your complexion glowing. All in one easy step.
Try to wash your face twice a day:
AM - In the morning to wash away the build-up of oil and dead skin cells that have accumulated throughout the night. It’s a good idea to clean them away before they have a chance to clog your pores.
PM - And in the evening to remove any grime and bacteria that we all come into contact with during the day, as well as any oil that has accumulated on your skin.
After a workout - It’s also a good idea to wash your face after a workout. This clears away any sweat build up and stops it becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. The salts from sweat can be drying and irritating too so it’s vital to wash it off of your skin.
You can find step by step instructions in our article here: “Tutorial: How to wash your face the right way".
#2 Moisturize your skin
Cortisol diminishes your skin’s ability to retain moisture. And since healthy moisture content is one of the most important properties of younger-looking skin, it’s essential to keep your skin well hydrated to compensate for this.
Look for a moisturizer that contains Hyaluronic Acid (like our Hydrating Daily Moisturiser) which is excellent at increasing the moisture content of your skin. This reduces fine lines and wrinkles and improves the overall appearance and texture of your skin, making you look fresher and restoring the elasticity again.
This increase in moisture content counteracts any loss of firmness and makes your skin appear smoother and younger.
#3 Apply topical treatments for acne breakouts
Using a topical treatment cream specifically for acne allows you to target only the actual spot or area where the breakout is happening. So you won’t dry out the surrounding skin which may already be dehydrated (thanks again cortisol!)
Acne responds really well to treatments containing salicylic acid - which unclogs pores - as well as benzyl peroxide – which reduces inflammation and is also anti-bacterial.
‘Pimple patches’ are another effective treatment, and like a treatment cream they precisely target the trouble spot, without disturbing the balance of the surrounding skin.
The patches are small adhesive stickers which contain active ingredients like salicylic acid and tea tree oil, and because they cover the spot completely are able to penetrate the skin deeply allowing them to potentially work more effectively.
#4 Don’t pick or touch any spots
Absent minded picking will only make the situation worse. And whilst we know that you know this…it can be really hard not to!
However, if you’re finding it hard to stop yourself … then try putting a splodge of acne treatment cream over the pimple or any red bumps. If you reach to pick at it then the cream will remind you and hopefully you won’t pick. The same is true of the pimple patches. In fact, it could be one of the reasons they work so well.
#5 Keep to a routine
When you feel seemingly lost, taking control of at least some elements in your life can give you a lot of reassurance. Normalcy and routine are welcome at a time like this, so try to develop a simple routine that includes making some time for yourself, taking some exercise, and includes plenty of rest and relaxation.
Try to stick to a good schedule – but don’t beat yourself up if you stray some days.
Be kind to yourself.
#6 Get enough sleep
Both getting enough sleep and sticking to regular sleep/wake hours will make you feel much calmer and in control of things. This ties back to the cortisol too. When we are deprived of sleep our bodies produce an increased amount – and our skin spirals out of balance.
#7 Eat healthily
Eat regular meals and try to eat as healthily as you can. You know what your body needs.
We all need comfort food sometimes but try to make them the exception rather than the norm.
#8 Take good care of yourself
Most importantly, make sure to take some time every day just for yourself. Whether it’s meditation, yoga, reading or going for a walk – try to schedule it regularly into your day.
The thing is to take the time to take care of yourself in a way that feels good to you.
Questions about stress and your skin
How does stress affect your skin?
Excessive stress affects the whole body of course, but the effect is most noticeable on your skin, the body’s largest organ.
An increase in redness and acne, along with excessive dryness and irritation, more fine lines appearing, as well as an uneven skin tone…. are all signs that high levels of stress are taking a toll on your skin.
For the most part this is due to an increase in the levels of the hormone cortisol, which is the body’s reaction to stress.
How does an increase in cortisol levels affect my skin?
The outward signs of an elevated level of cortisol include:
- An increase in redness and inflammation
- Dry, dehydrated skin, with fine lines and wrinkles appearing
- A triggering of existing skin conditions - like eczema, psoriasis and acne – causing them to worsen or flare up
- Your skin looks oilier and you’re more prone to acne breakouts
Why is my skin breaking out right now?
Breakouts and pimples are usually caused by 4 things: bacteria, general inflammation, blocked pores and hormones, in particular cortisol.
Feelings of stress can also have a general depressive effect on your body’s immune system. If you’re already prone to acne this can make it worse by lowering your body’s ability to fight any inflammation.
On top of that, stress may be making you ‘comfort eat’ as compensation. Comfort foods tend to be high in sugar and fat – which is why they’re comforting, after all! – and more sugar and more fat can both cause acne. So try to limit them – or look for healthy options that are also comforting.
Can stress cause skin irritation?
Yes. Lots of skin conditions – including eczema, psoriasis, and also acne – can all flare up when you’re feeling under stress.
Unusually stressful times can make your skin hyper sensitive, so something that normally didn’t bother your skin can suddenly make it react badly.
Could stress be causing my oily skin?
Yes. Again it’s the effect of cortisol, which triggers an increase in oil production in your skin’s sebaceous glands.
Stress will always be part of our lives, but sometimes the levels can be so high that the effects on your skin can be really depressing.
Following the advice below will help to keep you calmer and get your skin looking healthy and glowing again, even when stress levels are high.
- Keep you face clean
- Hydrate your skin
- Apply topical treatments for acne
- Don’t pick or touch any spots
- Stick to a routine
- Get enough sleep and stick to a regular sleep/wake pattern
- Eat healthily and make comfort foods an exception
- Take good care of yourself
In these unusually stressful times it’s more important than ever to take really good care of yourself… which in turn will give you a healthy, radiant complexion again.