I can't stress this enough...
When stress occurs it sends signals to the brain, which in turn sets off a chain of events in the body that eventually leads to the release of cortisol, as well as the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine. Together this posse of stimulants disperses in the body creating a state of hyper-alertness.
This sounds bad but in the short term this response helps to put us in a fight or flight mode as well as help with fighting infections, or disease. BUT long term or chronic stress can affect functions in the body such as digestive, excretory, and lowers immunity in the body. This can also trigger or worsen some skin conditions.
There have been some recent studies that show the skin has it’s own stress response system as well. This response is how the skin try’s to maintain balance between the disturbances going on inside the body, and what’s going on from the environment around us.
Outside of making our skin hypersensitive, some of the effects of stress on the skin are:
Inflammation: Chronic stress leads to chronic inflammation, trigging release of inflammatory substances like histamine, which makes skin itchy.
Sebum Production: Cortisol can boost oil production in skin; this can lead to breakouts, especially when coupled with increased inflammation.
Barrier Function: Stress dehydrates skin, contributing to an impaired barrier function.
Immunity: Stress can reduce our skin's antimicrobial protection.
And while the stress continues it’s very difficult to control the skin conditions that may occur. That’s why when, lets say, you get a bad cold or flu and your skin starts to break out. But also just going through mental stress, as scientist now are finding, can cause the same effects on the body, and therefore the skin. That deadline at work, or big test can cause some of the skin conditions listed above.
So what can you do during this time? One of the easiest things is start practicing deep breathing. I mean deeeeep from the diaphragm breathing. This has been shown to reduce cortisol, anxiety, and increase melatonin, putting you in a more relaxed state. But one of the best things you can do is massage. The study of the power of touch has shown to lower cortisol levels, stimulate immune system, help with depression and anxiety, as well as relieve pain and soreness.
So if you are going through a stressful period, then now would be a great time to set up an appointment with your skin therapist. This would help not only with the relaxing power of massage, but also help your skin get through any skin conditions that might occur during that time.
Of course if you’re sick, wait 2 weeks after the symptoms are clear and then set up an appointment to get your skin back on track quickly.
There is nothing more powerful than the power of touch, and I am lucky enough to work in one of the last industries that rely on it in my practice. At the very least, when you feel stressed, there is nothing more stress relieving than a hug.
Wash your face.
Geordie MacDiarmid is a licensed skin therapist, and owner of Ego Mechanix, and Est. with over 20 years experience in the skin care industry