IS STRESS AGING YOUR SKIN?
Life brings with it lots of stress. Kids, work and money issues to name a few. All trigger the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol, produced by our adrenal glands, has the important function of allowing us to survive immediate, danger when in “fight or flight” situations. That was great back when you had to worry about getting chased by a saber tooth tiger, but today stress is a little different.
During “fight or flight” your body reacts by:
• Rapid heartbeat and breathing:
The body increases heart rate and respiration in order to provide energy and oxygen where it is needed to quickly flee dangerous situations.
• Pale or flushed skin:
As the stress response starts to take hold, blood flow to the surface areas of our bodies are reduced to direct blood to the muscles, brain, legs and arms. You might become pale as a blood drains from your face. Conversely, some people get flushed as blood rushes to their brain.
• Dilated Pupils:
The body prepares itself to become more acutely aware of its surroundings.
As your body becomes primed to face danger the tension can result in trembling or shaking.
The thing is, we have different stresses today. Stresses that aren’t as temporary as being chased by a tiger. Stresses that may never seem to go away. The long-term effects of fight or flight will eventually start to break down your body, aging you and your skin and potentially leading to disease. The effects of stress are cumulative. Your body may have handled stress better when you were younger, but by middle age your stress bucket might be full. At that point many of us experience adrenal burnout.
Some symptoms of adrenal burnout:
• Weight gain:
Especially around your middle. Fat is deposited there as a survival mechanism to protect our vital organs in times of stress. Oh, great!
• Loose skin:
Prolonged cortisol breaks down the connective tissue, that supports collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis of your skin, leaving it loose and flaccid.
• Increased lines & wrinkles:
Cortisol interferes with your circadian sleep cycles. Sleep is so important for your skin because it’s the time when most healing and repair occurs. This is why we recommend serums and treatment products to be applied just before bed.
• Cross linking of collagen:
Elevated cortisol levels means increased cravings for sweets. That’s because cortisol spikes insulin (the hunger hormone). Think about it, when you’re feeling stressed is it your first impulse to run and get a kale salad, or is are you more likely to grab a slice of chocolate cake?
• Your skin becomes dull and loses its glow:
Because blood is being diverted from your face to other parts of your body, you become deprived of vital nutrients. Your face takes on a tired, lack luster look. Cells dies prematurely which leads to skin aging.
• You might develop rosacea:
If you’re one of those lucky ones whose skin flushes under stressful situations, learning stress reduction techniques is of vital importants.
• Dark Circles may appear:
Stagnant lymph can occur under your eyes making them look puffy, blueish, and perpetually tired.
• You can develop eczema:
Stress lowers your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to eczema, rashes and itchiness.
• Dry Skin:
The lack of circulation to skin cells can leave you dehydrated and skin cells under nourished leading to early senescence.
• Adult Acne: Cortisol also acts as an androgen which increases oil production and increased inflammation. Great, you’re worried about that job interview and now you’ve got a pimple.
Does this mean we’re all doomed if we live our lives under stress?
Well, there are certain things you can do to help your body handle stress in a meaningful way.
If you have adrenal burnout you may want to change the way you exercise. While some of us can sustain intense training. If you already have over the top cortisol levels you may actually be breaking down muscles and collagen with vigorous, high intensity workouts that your body perceives as more stress. More moderate exercise, like long walks might be better for you in the long run. Yoga can also be a good alternative choice. Note that moving is an important stress buster, so you need to get up and exercise every day. Sitting at your computer increases stress hormones in a big way, you have to counteract that by getting exercise in there… somehow.
Cut out the sugar:
Refined sugar leads to higher cortisol levels and insulin resistance, which makes you more hungry for more high carb and nutrient deficient foods and more likely to experience sugar causing glycation of collagen fibers in your skin. This leads to wrinkles and excess inflammation which also breaks down skin cells, leading to loss of tone and dullness.
Add omega 3 fatty acids to your diet:
Omega 3s are great for counteracting inflammation caused by stress. Walnuts, salmon and avocados are good choices. Also consider skincare products which include omega 3s. Check out Elizabeth Renee’s Kukui Cleansing Milk, Intensive Lipid Repair night cream and Good Nite sleeping masque as skincare products that help calm dry, stressed out skin.
Eat your veggies:
These are your number one nutritional stress defense. Cruciferous vegetables help lower blood sugar. These veggies carry abundant nutrients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories you need to counteract stress. This should be your highest priority for a healthier lifestyle and reducing the damaging effects of stress. You may also want to supplement with Sunrise Solution, an intense antioxidant serum derived from superfoods. It can easily be add to your morning skincare routine.
Giving yourself a little R&R is a perfect way to lower stress hormones. Put yourself in a good place. Go somewhere peaceful that you enjoy. A walk on the beach or hike in the park isn’t a selfish allegation of time. It’s good for you, and good for those around you. As you lower your stress hormones you’ll become more tolerant of others. Better for everyone. Getting a massage, or facial may seem like a pampering indulgence, but offers a great boost for your health. Practicing meditation may also be a good choice, although I find it a bit stressful trying to be disciplined enough to control my thought like that. But great if it works for you… go for it. You might also want to try breathing exercises, which have been shown to help lower stress hormones in the form of relaxation response techniques.
Laughter and social connections:
Isolation causes stress. Social connections help you to get some of that stress out of your system, definitely lowering stress hormones. Remember, your attitude has a powerful effect on stress hormones. Taking everything a little lighter not only lowers cortisol but increases telomere length of your chromosomes. This is a major biomarker for longevity. (More about that in a coming post.) Rumination, or not being able to let things go by playing events over and over in your head, sets you up for continued stress hormones circulating your body, playing havoc with your health and the health of your skin. So just find a way to let it go, and watch how your stress levels drop. You and your skin will feel so much better.
Disclaimer: The preceding article was meant for educational purposes only and not intended as medical advice.