Ever heard someone say, "You look stressed"? That's because stress literally shows on our faces, not just in our expression but in our complexion. Stress manifests physically just as equally as it does mentally or emotionally, courtesy of the stress hormone: cortisol. Because knowledge is always power, here's what you need to know about what cortisol does to your skin and what you can do about it…
CORTISOL CAN CLOG YOUR PORES
High cortisol levels prompt the skin's sebaceous glands to produce more sebum (oil), which means your skin can start to feel oilier than usual. Over time, your stressed out, 'over achieving' sebaceous glands can cause a traffic jam on your skin's surface, clogging pores, creating a breeding ground for breakouts, and aggravating acne.
CORTISOL MAKES INFLAMMATORY STATEMENTS
It's well-documented; chronic stress leads to inflammation, and inflammation is bad news, signalling the dreaded flare-up for all sorts of skin conditions and skincare struggles – from pigmentation and psoriasis to acne, rosacea, and eczema.
IT'S AGEING YOU: LITERALLY, NOT JUST FIGURATIVELY
When in a stressful environment, we spend way more time furrowing our brows and frowning, shortening the shelf-life of injectables and inviting those pesky hard-resting lines to move in sooner. Add to this the fact that cortisol enhances age spots, dulls the skin and causes a decline in our skin's production of collagen and elastin. You've got a recipe for less elasticity, more wrinkles and someone saying, "Wow, you look great for 54" when you're not even 45 yet.
STEP AWAY FROM THE MAGNIFYING MIRROR
While all that cortisol is clogging your pores and putting your collagen and elastin production on a go slow, you may find yourself, when stressed, more inclined to bad habits that don't help your skin. Rubbing, scratching, squeezing practically non-existent blemishes or obsessively extracting blackheads are never a great idea. Stressed skin doesn't heal as quickly, so you're opening up your complexion (literally by creating cracks in its surface) to skin infections, angry-looking blemishes and even an acne flare-up.
SO, THAT'S THE BAD NEWS. HERE'S THE GOOD NEWS…
While you can't remove stress from your life altogether (nobody can), you can try incorporating the top three 'cortisol killers' into your daily routine to keep stress – and your skin – under control:
1. See your morning/night skincare routine as self-care, not a chore. Making this mental shift will make you less likely to skip or take shortcuts, and it'll calm the chaos that cortisol is trying to cause.
2. Don't skip the gym or a meal. Trust us, eating well and getting your exercise in, no matter how busy you are in the short term, will pay off big time in the long run. Eating healthy, whole foods reduces stress-induced inflammation, and good old-fashioned 'break a sweat' exercise is a great way to sweat out those stress hormones.
3. Sleep, sleep, sleep! If you're doing everything to manage your stress, apart from getting 8 hours of sleep a night, then you may as well be doing nothing. Harsh but true. Sleep is critically important in the battle against cortisol production, increasing your resilience to stress while protecting and healing the body and mind.
Feeling particularly stressed out? Pop into your local Skin Renewal (any one of our 18 branches nationwide) and chat to one of our world-class therapists or doctors about our holistic approach to stress management – from the outside in and the inside out. We offer a range of chemical peels, micro-needling, facials, and laser treatments ideal for reversing the adverse effects of stress on your skin. We're well-versed in stress coping techniques and ways to help you deal with stress proactively, not just reactively.