Sometimes it can feel like we are constantly on the go. There are always people to see, places to go, and things to do. Having so much to do with so little time can lead to high levels of stress. What you may not know is that this stress is negatively affecting your skin. The main culprit? Cortisol.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone. It can control things like your mood or motivation. There are organs at the top of your kidneys called adrenal glands. These organs are responsible for producing cortisol. You may have heard about your body’s “fight or flight” response when distressed. Cortisol is responsible for this feeling, as well as several other functions. It controls energy levels, fights inflammation, and regulates your blood pressure. In times of high stress, your body will produce a lot of cortisol. People with anxiety may find themselves in a constant state of stress, meaning they are releasing more cortisol than normal for longer periods of time.
High and low levels of cortisol have different effects on your body. High amounts of cortisol, as mentioned earlier, can be equated with stress. Not only can stress make you feel bad, it can also harm your skin.
How Stress Affects Your Skin
Like any hormone, cortisol in small amounts is actually helpful to the regulatory functions of your body. However, repeated exposure can lead to damaging effects to your body and your skin.
- Breakouts: Increased cortisol levels lead to increased oil production. If you have ever experienced a stressful situation and found yourself breaking out after, this is why. The oil clogs your pores and leads to dead skin cell build up and sebum production.
- Eczema: Cortisol has also been shown to aggravate pre-existing skin conditions. If you have conditions like eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis, stress will often make the symptoms more prominent.
- Inflammation: Too much cortisol can also lead to inflammation. If you have ever broken into hives after a stressful situation, you can rest assured knowing that it is not your brain making it up. It was actually your immune system’s response to the situation.Inflammation can also lead to overall skin dryness.
- Premature Aging: Cortisol attacks collagen in your skin. Collagen are the proteins in your body that help with skin elasticity. They naturally reduce with age, but high cortisol levels can speed up the process a bit. As a result, you are more susceptible to wrinkles at an early age.
- Bad Habits: Everyone has different coping mechanisms as responses to stress. Certain people will respond by scratching their skin or even picking at it, which is not good. Too much agitation to the skin will slow the healing process more and more each time. In high times of stress, people are also more likely to make bad decisions like skip a workout or eat unhealthy foods. Not taking care of your body leads to organ damage, your skin being the largest organ.
How to Combat Stress
There is no “one size fits all” solution to combating stress. Different methods will work for different people. It is always good to try new things. You may discover a new staple in your destressing routine. Here are a few suggestions:
- Yoga: Yoga is probably one of the most common methods of destressing. People find it relaxing due to the easy flow of movements and the controlled breathing needed throughout.
- Meditation: Meditating is a great way to step back and try to get yourself out of a negative headspace. Try meditating for at least five minutes each day to clear your mind. You can find many guided videos on YouTube or podcasts on your preferred platform. Just take some time to breathe and reflect on the day, calming down your body.
- Journaling: A great way to relieve stress is to try journaling. Take note of everything that stressed you out or had a negative impact on your day. Visualizing what stressed you out can help you look ahead and see what things to avoid in the future.
- Pick a Hobby: Doing something you enjoy is always a great way to get a serotonin boost. Try picking up a new hobby that will calm you down when you are stressed. Think of it as your time to take a breather and do something for yourself that you enjoy!
- Go on a Walk: Another amazing way to clear your head is to go on a walk. The fresh, open air can make it easier to breathe. It also releases endorphins, which are the hormones that make you happy.
Stress is just that: stressful. It may make you feel like the world is spinning out of control. It can also lead to negative effects on your body and your skin. Take some time to identify common stressors in your life and find some new methods to combat that stress. Destressing is one of the most cost effective skincare solutions out there!
Check out our article on Love and Skincare to learn about other hormones that affect your skin!