Why is it that when an important event comes up on the calendar – biggies like weddings, graduations, interviews, and major meetings – the universe always seems to decide that it’s the perfect time to saddle you with skin troubles? It may feel like bad karma, but what it actually boils down to is stress. The physiological response to anxiety can wreak havoc on your skin when life throws you lemons.
The cycle can be frustratingly self-fulfilling: you have something important coming up that you really want to look flawless for, but the stress signals in your body caused by your excitement and anxiety are totally self-sabotaging, leaving you with breakouts, dryness, emphasized fine lines and pores, and overall crankiness on your big day. Stress is a major exacerbator of recurrent skin conditions like acne and rosacea, and can also provoke redness, flushing, and flaking. And as we all know, sometimes stress doesn’t just come in peaks and valleys – sometimes it’s more of a slow burn throughout the whole month, with mounting to-do lists, bills to pay, and basic self-care sometimes getting thrown out the window. This sort of stress – experts refer to it as chronic stress – can leave you functioning and looking below your maximal capacity. In short, stress can get in the way of you being the best version of yourself. Let’s look at what’s actually going on in your body when your anxiety goes through the roof, and tackle the beast with a few solid lifestyle tips and smart skincare habits.
First: what’s happening in your body? When your body receives stress signals, your nervous system responds by unleashing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Heightened adrenaline speeds up your heart rate, heightens your blood pressure, and kicks in your inflammatory response – these can all be helpful byproducts when you’re running from a bear, but not necessarily what your body needs on a daily basis. Heightened cortisol on the other hand throws off your blood sugar and increases your skin’s oil production. When this becomes a chronic environment in your body, nearly every system is affected – hormones are thrown off, your digestive system can get out of whack, and autoimmune reactions can be triggered. Unhealthy levels of stress ultimately produce external stress signs, which unfortunately, play out on your face.
The stress-skin connection is real, and it’s important to make the link so you can sort out a solution. So how exactly does stress show up in your skin? Here we’ve rounded up five telltale signs, and tips for bouncing back.
5 Telltale Signs of Stressed Skin
High levels of stress often manifest at the worst time possible: when your head hits the pillow. Instead of Zs you may be left with racing thoughts and a restless physical state. A correlation exists between stress and insomnia, and unfortunately, it’s a doubly-whammy duo (in a bad way) that can leave you with major under-eye bags and puffiness. Lack of sleep causes fluid to pool beneath your eyes, resulting in the swollen half moons we’ve all had before, and stress hormones can contribute to the unflattering effect through dehydrating your dermal layers (hello fine lines, you weren’t here yesterday, but hello).
So what to do when you’re hit with this dreadful combination? That’s where a caffeine rich product becomes your best friend: our Yerba Mate Eye Cream tackles the puffiness, dark circles, and eye-area creases with a rich concentrated formula featuring caffeine from the potent yerba mate plant. Caffeine de-puffs and promotes circulation and fluid drainage, and vitamin C brightens and gently exfoliates. Tap this product on in the AM and PM for immediate (eye area) relief from your night of tossing and turning.
When life gets crazy, the first things to go out the window are ironically enough usually the most important things: for instance small details that keep you alive, like eating and drinking. Left with no time for a proper meal, you’re more likely to turn to salty snacks and high sodium on-the-go fare. This combined with water being a mere memory from a past life will quickly leave you with super dry skin and a flaking face of makeup. It doesn’t help that on the physical level, stress hormones contribute to psoriasis outbreaks, itching, and irritation.
f you’re losing the hydration battle, set yourself a water goal – for instance three to four 16oz bottles a day (depending on your calorie intake and size). Paying more attention to drinking water is one prong of the approach: the other is focusing on using extra hydrating skin careafter a long day. When you’re battling dehydration on multiple fronts, it’s a good time to use a hydrating toner to prep, followed by a super concentrated cold-pressed oil blend that will absorb into deeper skin layers and quench thirsty cells. Puristry Flower Water Toner works as a post-cleanse moisturizing prep product, which will leave your skin primed for a dose of Puristry Restorative Facial Oil, an ultra nourishing blend of jojoba, rosehip, and pomegranate oils. In a pinch, coconut oil can also be a fantastic post-tone mask if you’re really dealing with the Sahara effect.
Remember what we said about cortisol producing sebum? You know where we’re going with this. With simulated sebum production and an otherwise disrupted hormonal balance (again, thanks to cortisol), unexpected acne is a telltale sign of heightened stress levels in the body. Plus, disrupted gut bacteria (also a result of heightened stress levels) doesn’t help the situation when it comes to blemishes. Often, an anxious period of time will leave you with unsightly bumps in areas that are normally clear.
Stress related acne is a tough nut to crack, but you can beat it with a holistic approach, and smart fidgeting techniques. Fidget, you say? Many people manifest their stress in physical tics that often involve twirling their hair, touching their face, or outright picking at non-existent (or barely existent) spots. Sometimes a buddy can be helpful here: tell a friend to call you out every time you start pawing at your chin or face-planting in your palm. You’ll be amazed at how much quicker things will heal if you take yourself to task with a no-face-touching policy. And when it comes to the over-excited sebum, make sure you’re using plant-based clarifiers that will target impurities, excess oil, and lingering bacteria. Tea Tree oil is a fantastic clarifying resource – just make sure it’s adequately diluted within a gentle formula (it’s strong stuff!). We love 100% PURE’s Tea Tree & Willow Clarifying Cleanser has you covered, with an ultra effective blend of lemon water and tea tree for clarifying, and japanese honeysuckle for soothing inflammation.
When you’re experiencing chronic stress, let’s say for a month, your furrowed brow and frowning expression can actually provoke the development of new creases in a relatively short time span (especially when skin is dehydrated, and thus less resilient). You probably don’t even realize you’re doing it, but stress and anxiety can have you walking around with a scowl that’s slowly causing the development of new wrinkles around your mouth and on your forehead. In an ideal world, we’d advise you to stop furrowing your brow and frowning! But for obvious reasons, that’s not always possible.
That said, there are ways you can act preventatively, to keep new little friends from popping up during a tough month. The key is doing everything you can to keep your skin elastic, so that you can bounce back from your frowny face phase without lingering memories. Skin elasticity is best enhanced through using a rich moisturizer that has antioxidants in it. Antioxidants promote increased collagen production, meaning that your skin will have more flexibility, density, and resilience to external stressors. Our Vine Therapy Serum layered under 100% PURE’s Multi Vitamin + Antioxidants Ultra Riche PM Treatment is our go-to combo here, thanks to the combo of super hydrating avocado oil, essential vitamins, and amped up antioxidant content.
Stress can aggravate or trigger chronic skin conditions you’ve had in the past-- or that you currently have under control-- like eczema, rosacea, hives, and rashes. When stress hormones rise, you’re left with a weakened autoimmune response and disrupted digestion. This can lead to an imbalance in gut health, meaning that the bad bacteria overruns the good. The result? Your chronic skin condition flares up, and you’re left with one more thing to fuss about. In fact, there’s a new field in dermatology emerging – psychodermatology – that’s addressing the way in which emotional and psychological pressures translate into chronic skin conditions.
Our advice? If your chronic skin condition flare ups are directly correlating with high stress periods of time in your life, the best thing you can do for yourself is to acknowledge the correlation and know that it’s a temporary state of affairs. This acknowledgement and self-acceptance should be part of an increased focus on meditation, exercise, and sensory therapies. A word from the wise: sometimes practicing self love is easier when you’re not in front of a mirror. Instead of staring yourself down trying to generate some sort of self-empathy, try plopping yourself in the bath. Opt for a natural bath soak, aromatherapy oil rub-down post-tub, and essential oil diffuser for a DIY spa experience in the comfort of your own home. Self-care might not solve your hives overnight, but it genuinely will get your body back to a state of homeostasis, which is what you need to get back to a more normal you
The takeaway? If you’re stressed and you break out in a rash, know that it’s correlated! This knowledge will make the whole thing less confusing, overwhelming, and hopefully less stressful!
Big Picture Stress Busters: How To Avoid Stressed Skin
After reliving the nightmare that is stress-induced-skin, it’s time to look at a breakdown of big-picture techniques to help you avoid future skin heartbreak. Sure, there are plenty of on-the-spot remedies you can whip out to deal with all of these issues, but what about tackling the underlying beast? Different techniques work for everyone, but there are a few tried and true tactics that can help alleviate your headspace (and your symptoms).
Ditching fast food and refined carbohydrates is a great change to make if you’re stressed, as these foods contribute to imbalanced gut health and sugar crashes, which infamously lead to mood swings. Focus on loading up your plate with colorful fruits and veggies, and make sure you’re eating foods high in magnesium: an essential mineral required by the body for dealing with anxiety and physiological stress. Dark leafy greens like raw spinach are great for amping up the magnesium factor, as well as pumpkin seeds, lentils, and bananas.
Upping your activity level is also a fantastic way to deal with stress, as it directly responds to your state of increased heart rate and energy production – sometimes stressful feelings are literally a result of having too much energy. Moreover, regular exercise is a proven mood-lifter, and can be a surprisingly good time to practice mindfulness. Next time you’re exercising during a stressful period, focus on your breathing and how your muscles feel during your session.
Doing this can train you to be more in tune with sensations in your body, meaning that next time you’re stressed, you might be better equipped to identify the feeling, and thus gain some control over it.
Sensory engagement is another key piece of the puzzle. Aromatherapy combined with touch is a super soothing combo that promotes calmness and re-centering. While booking a massage is ideal, maybe you don’t have time to do so (maybe if you did have time, you wouldn’t be so stressed). But instead of ditching the idea entirely, try incorporating DIY scalp massages into your day. It’s a surprisingly effective trick for managing everyday stress, and can literally turn your mood around in the span of five minutes. Plus it targets pressure in the temples, which is generated when your blood pressure is slightly higher than usual (again, another stress byproduct).