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. When life throws you lemons, the physiological response to anxiety can wreak havoc on your skin. We’ll help you identify how these triggers can happen, and how to keep them from affecting your skin.
The cycle of a stressed face and skin can be frustratingly self-fulfilling. You have something important coming up and you really want to look flawless for it – but the stress signals in your body caused by your excitement and anxiety are totally self-sabotaging. They can leave 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. 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 prolonged stress – experts refer to it as chronic stress – can leave you looking, feeling, and functioning 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 balance, your digestive system is disturbed, 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? Below we’ve rounded up five telltale signs, and tips for bouncing back.
#1: Tired Eyes
High levels of stress often manifest at the worst time possible: when your head hits the pillow. Instead of drifting into beauty sleep, 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 that can leave you with major under-eye bags and puffiness.
Lack of sleep causes fluid to pool beneath your eyes, resulting in swollen half moons: also known as the un-glamorous term ‘eye bags’. Stress hormones can contribute to the unflattering effect by dehydrating your dermal layers ( oh hello fine lines, you weren’t here yesterday!). Oh and stomach sleepers, bad news: sleeping face down is worse because of gravity. This sleep habit can actually enhance the appearance of puffiness and fine lines around the eyes and face.
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 puffiness, dark circles, and eyelid area creases with a concentrated caffeine-rich formula.
This eye cream highlights caffeine from the potent yerba mate plant. Caffeine de-puffs and promotes circulation and fluid drainage, and vitamin C brightens and gently exfoliates. Pat this product on in the AM and PM for immediate (eye area) relief from your night of tossing and turning.
#2: Bone Dry Skin
When life gets crazy, the first things to go out the window are – ironically – 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.
If skin looks dull or dehydrated, this could be a sign that your diet needs some adjusting. Poor diet combined with low water intake will quickly leave you with super dry skin and flaking face of makeup. It doesn’t help that on the physical level, stress hormones contribute to psoriasis outbreaks, itching, and irritation.
If you’re losing the hydration battle, set yourself a water intake goal for the day. For example, 3-4 16oz bottles a day (this number is dependent on your calorie intake, health conditions, and weight). Paying more attention to drinking water is one prong of the approach: the other is focusing on using extra hydrating skin care after a long day.
When you’re battling dehydration on multiple fronts, it’s a good time to use a hydrating toner to prep. Follow with a super concentrated cold-pressed oil blend, to absorb into deeper skin layers and quench thirsty cells.
The Puristry Flower Water Toner works as a post-cleanse moisturizing prep product. This toner leaves skin primed for a dose of the Restorative Facial Oil, a restorative blend of jojoba, rosehip, and pomegranate oils. In a pinch, coconut oil can also be a fantastic post-tone oil if you’re really dealing with the Sahara effect.
#3: Adolescent Acne Mysteriously Returns
If you remember what we said about cortisol producing sebum, you can guess where we’re going with this. When enhanced sebum production and disrupted hormonal balance occur as a result of spiked cortisol levels, unexpected acne becomes a telltale sign of heightened stress levels in the body.
Furthermore, 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.
You can manage stress related acne with a holistic approach, and by minimizing fidgeting. Many people manifest their stress in physical tics, such as: twirling hair, touching the face, or outright picking at non-existent spots. 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.
When it comes to a stress-induced increase in oil, make sure you’re using plant-based clarifiers and anti-inflammatory ingredients to target impurities, excess oil, and lingering bacteria. Tea tree oil is a fantastic choice; just make sure it’s adequately diluted within a gentle formula. We love the Tea Tree & Willow Clarifying Cleanser from 100% PURE, made with an ultra effective blend of lemon water and tea tree for clarifying, and japanese honeysuckle for soothing inflammation.
#4: Fine Lines and Wrinkles Galore
When you’re experiencing chronic stress, let’s say for a month, your furrowed brow and frowning expression can have lasting effects. Holding the facial muscles in such a way to provoke the development of new creases in a relatively short time span, especially when skin is dehydrated, and thus less resilient.
You probably won’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 forehead, eye area, and mouth. 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 creases 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 support healthy collagen synthesis, 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. This power duo utilizes a combo of super hydrating avocado oil, essential vitamins, potent vitamin and antioxidant content.
#5: Chronic Skin Conditions Flare Up
Stress can aggravate or trigger chronic skin conditions you’ve had in the past, or that you would normally have under control. These include 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 outnumber the good.
The result of an imbalanced gut? Your chronic skin condition flare up, leaving you 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: practice self-love as a weapon against stress. 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 stress overnight, but it 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!