Your brain, your skin and the cycle of stress
Skin lives, breathes and feels. It is a visible reflection of our wellbeing.
Our largest organ, skin starts its basic formation from as early as at 4 weeks gestation in pregnancy, protecting the early development of key organs.
From that early start, skin continues to be our protective shield to the world and the daily onslaught of destabilising factors that threaten the protective barrier that nature gave us.
Skin is something that we are arguably as obsessed with and dismissive of in equal measure. We spend countless sums of money on repairing, restoring, nourishing, balancing, correcting and more; when often, it is our lifestyles, habits and choices that need consideration.
The health of our skin is reactive to both the environment we expose it to, but also our psychological status. There is an inextricable connection between our brain and our skin; for example simply blushing is a direct relationship between a mental reaction and a skin response trigger, so it is no surprise that skin bares the signs of life’s challenges.
One key difficulty is defining stress. Studies conducted have shown that there is a correlation with psychological stress and a compromise to the skin barrier function1. However, the manifestation and management of stress is a personal and subjective experience, individuals cope with the fluctuations of life’s challenges differently.
Clinically, The American Institute of Stress defines as;
Acute – adrenal stress where the body prepares to defend itself from potential harm, our fight or flight mode.
Chronic – coping stress, day-to-day levels of stress – the type we tend to normalise and ignore.
Eustress – event-stress with a positive outcome but comes with associated pressure: marriage / promotions / graduation / new baby.
Distress – the juxtaposition to Eustress, this is event-stress with a negative focus: divorce / redundancy / financial worries.
The stress response system (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis) is beautifully aligned to provide the impetus to react and the ability to reduce the stress trigger via the parasympathetic nervous system.
Many of us, however, find it increasingly hard to keep elevated stress levels in check, leaving stress hormones to devastate the fragile biological balance. It is the long-term, chronic stress exposure where most fundamental damage can occur.
Over-productive Sebum – Cortisol stimulates overproduction of sebum, which can lead to blocked pores, fuelling the potential for breakouts. Often, the first sign of our skin suffering from our lifestyle and stresses, is a breakout.
Inflammation - internal inflammation triggers the wound healing process, biological self-healing. Excessive inflammation can lead to unregulated melanin production and barrier compromise, this can make skin dehydrated, skin tone uneven, lacking radiance and wrinkles more pronounced.
Flare ups in existing dermatological conditions such as Atopic Dermatitis / Psoriasis / Eczema may occur as a result.
Hyperpigmention – chronic stress, compounded by inflammation can trigger melanogenesis, the process that leads to hyperpigmentation.
Barrier compromise – Cortisol can cause decreased lipids and affect the structural integrity of key proteins such as collagen. This weakening, leads to compromise of skin strength and defences, loss of key natural moisturising factors such as Hyaluronic Acid, ceramide degradation and absorption of free radicals. The resulting fragility, impacts biological wound healing, the ability of the body to repair from environmental and lifestyle stress, all of which leads to inflammation that causes the signs of skin trauma and premature ageing.
Dehydration - when the barrier is compromised it can lead swiftly to increased TEWL causing dehydration.
It is a vicious cycle. Complexion imbalance, skin reactivity and discomfort can itself be stressful.
Often when we are chronically stressed, our rituals, habits and self-care are compromised. We are unhappy about how we feel in our skin, we have negative mental chatter with our reflection and feel the impact of negativity. When we stop taking care of ourselves it can deepen skin health decline.
How do we break the sequence?
It is in the rituals and management of stress that helps reset, rebalance, replenish and restore.
There is a growing body of research in to the impact of the relaxation response, which triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to help neutralise the effects of sustained Cortisol.
Stress management in a world that is turbulent and challenging, is a daily process rather than a series of quick fixes. If you are concerned about the impact that sustained lifestyle stress is having on your skin health and wellbeing, here are some simple adjustments that will help clear the path for the positive biological processes to function optimally.
- Releases endorphins, which are good for mental health, physical strength, vitality and skin glow. This does not have to be pounding the treadmill it can be yoga, walking – anything that helps raise your heartrate and get the blood pumping.
- Do something simple with thought be that a bath, some meditation, cooking, journaling, reading…purposeful time spent.
- Fresh air. Simple and free. Get out and take a moment to look around, breath and reset.
- Hydrate and cut down the sugar. This will help counteract inflammation within the body triggered by stress in our lives that can be prematurely ageing.
- Essential in helping the body reset and repair.
We are committed to the restorative power of aromachology and aromatherapy that enriches your daily routine, enabling you a sense of control over your skin health, with a restored perspective.
Our Pure Radiance Facial Oil is a transformative elixir to help neutralise the formation of free radicals , boost cell turnover and collagen production, smooth skin texture and pores visually and enhance the elasticity.
Regular rituals restore the signs of stress in your complexion; placing your hands on your skin in a rhythmic way helps trigger the relaxation response in preparation for restful sleep.
Check out our easy relaxation method here.
You are your best friend or your worst enemy. There is no better time than now to commit to yourself and your wellbeing.
Let us help you.
1) Psychological Stress Perturbs Epidermal Permeability Barrier Homeostasis
Implications for the Pathogenesis of Stress-Associated Skin Disorders
2) Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging
3) Psychological stress perturbs epidermal permeability barrier homeostasis: implications for the pathogenesis of stress-associated skin disorders
4) Using the relaxation response to reduce stress
5) Stress Augmented Ultraviolet-Irradiation-Induced Pigmentation
6) Understanding the stress response
7) The impact of stress on epidermal barrier function: an evidence-based review†