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Stress and the Skin – A Marriage Made in Hell

Stress is a powerful thing that affects not only our mental state but also our physical reactions, sometimes leading to hair loss, weakened nails and aging skin. That’s why it’s important to understand stress and how to counter its affects.

Stress is a powerful thing that affects our skin
Stress is a powerful thing that affects our skin. Photo: Istock.

Understanding Stress

When we stress our body releases a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. While adrenaline increases heart rate and energy levels, cortisol elevates blood sugar levels and is responsible for decreasing functions that aren’t essential (at the moment, we cannot say that the digestive system is generally not vital), such as the digestive system.

The process we described is our physical response to a perceived threat and hormone levels should return to normal as soon as the perceived threat no longer exists. But, when our lives are filled with stressful situations and we constantly feel anxious, hormone levels do not decrease. In such cases we are constantly exposed to high levels of cortisol, which can adversely affect our entire body and disrupt numerous biological systems.

Stress and Our Skin

One of the organs adversely affected by sustained high levels of cortisol is our skin. High cortisol levels result in a more sensitive and reactive skin which, in many cases, leads to acne. Why? Because the sebaceous glands in our skin are activated by high levels of cortisol and produce more sebum, aka oil. Too much oil clogs the pores, leading to acne breakouts. And that’s not all. Cortisol also causes collagen loss and we know how important collagen is to younger, firmer looking skin.

High Cortisol can Couse collagen loss
High Cortisol can Couse collagen loss. Photo: Istock.

In addition, genetic studies have shown a link between stress and the enhancement of the aging process. The effect on our skin is caused by a process called glycation, in which glucose binds to lipids and proteins, leading to DNA damage and loss of skin elasticity. Stress also accelerates the natural process of wearing down our telomeres (the caps at the ends of our chromosomes), which are directly linked to the aging process, resulting in the appearance of wrinkles.

Finally, biology aside, people who stress a lot also tend to smoke and suffer from interrupted sleep, both of which accelerate the aging process.

Keep calm and protect your skin
Keep calm and protect your skin. Photo: Istock.

So… Don’t Stress!

Naturally, the best remedy would be to just relax but while you work on that, you can also provide your skin with the nourishment it needs using products containing substances such as quintescine, an antioxidant-peptide that improves DNA protection and cell function; collaxyl, a unique deep penetrating peptide that enhances dermal collagen synthesis; and hyaluronic acid that increases water retention.