When I was growing up, I was under the impression that once I was an “adult”, I would never have to worry about skin issues (acne, oiliness, etc). I thought once I got out of my teens, I was in the clear. WRONG! I am now in my 30s and feel like I have been fighting skin issues for the last 8 years. WTF?! As it turns out, the more women I talk to, the more common this is. When I pry a little bit and ask them questions on what they think it is caused by, the most common response I get is “I have no idea, all I know is that I am so stressed!”. Coincidence? I think not. When I started reading up on it, I found a lot of evidence pointing the finger at stress. Unfortunately, that’s not where the effects on appearance stop. Stress is like a leach, sucking any beauty and youth from your body (that’s a little dramatic, but that’s how I felt when researching all of this!). In all seriousness, stress can affect a lot of different things regarding your appearance. I already covered the effects on weight-loss HERE, so let’s dive into some of the others I found:
Skin can get majorly affected by stress. Let’s start with the behavioral tendencies that can affect the skin:
- Picking at your face- I don’t think I need to explain why this is a big fat no-no. From causing scars to spreading bacteria on your face, picking is never a good idea. I read somewhere that picking is a form of control, so when we are stressed and feel overwhelmed (out of control), it’s a common way to deal with it. Whatever the reason is, it tends to happen a lot more when someone is stressed. You should always keep picking to a minimum. It might feel good at the time to dig into your face, but it won’t feel good walking around for the next week with an inflamed pimple.
- Scrunching Your Face- We have facial expressions for everything, including stress. Unfortunately, our “stress face” is very wrinkle friendly. When we are stressed, we tend to furrow our brows, squint our eyes, etc. All of them causing wrinkles in the dreaded areas like crow feet, around the lips, and the “11” lines in between your brows. The best way to deal with this is be aware of when your stressed and try to relax your face. We want to play offense when it comes to wrinkles (prevention), not defense (injecting fillers).
Now on to the physiological effects…
- Slow down of cell turnover- Stress actually slows down the rate your cells turn over. That means that dead skin cells don’t fall off as quickly, causing a delay in your body’s production of new, young skin cells. This can lead to a dull skin appearance, more pronounced wrinkles and acne (all of which you don’t want). The best thing to do in times of high stress is make sure you are exfoliating and using AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) regularly to help with the cell turnover.
- Hormonal Acne- This can be caused by a few things. One is the increase in sebum production caused by stress. More oil being produced, along with slower cell turnover is a recipe for a disaster. Another thing that can happen is the dreaded androgenic acne. Stress causes hormones to get out of whack, and androgens are not immune to this. This can cause the more cystic acne on chin, neck and sides of the face.
- Melasma- This is the name for excess pigmentation that randomly shows up on the face. Yes, it can be caused or made worse by the sun. However, it’s main cause seems to be linked back to hormonal imbalances caused by stress. Again, stress causes an imbalance of sex hormones, which includes the balance between estrogen and progesterone. When this gets out of balance, melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) is stimulated. Guess what is responsible for pigmentation to form-MELANOCYTES! (the cells that get stimulated by MSH).
- Eye Bags- Chronic stress can lead to sleep disturbances, which bring along the dreaded eye bags and dark circles. Lose enough sleep, and there’s not a concealer in the world that will be able to help you.
- Hair Loss- Stress depletes some minerals in the body, one being zinc. Zinc is crucial for hair growth. Deficiencies in zinc have been shown to cause deterioration of the protein structure in the hair follicle, leading to more hair loss. Stress can also expedite the hair growth cycle, which in turn stops its growth, causing it to mature and fall out faster. The good news on this one is that it is reversible once the stress is removed (finally some good news!)
- Premature Greying-Stress can cause the pigment in your hair to run out faster, causing you to go grey a lot sooner than you were originally supposed to.
- Lack Luster Hair- To have healthy, shiny hair, your body needs vitamins. Since digestion slows down when you are stressed, this inhibits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. This creates vitamin deficiencies, and your body will use what little vitamins it does have for more important body processes, like keeping your heart beating.
- Biting them- A bad habit that people can have is biting their nails when stressed. This can lead to damage of the nails beds and not pretty nails overall.
- Dry brittle nails-This and the item below are caused by the same thing-vitamin deficiencies. It all goes back to the effect on digestion that stress has. Nails, just like hair, need vitamins to grow strong. If your body isn’t absorbing the nutrients it needs, these non-essential body processes (like growing pretty nails), will suffer.
- Weird Groves in your Nails-See above
That is a long list. I don’t know about you, but even half of those things make me want to chill out. We are stuck in such a “go-go-go” culture, that a lot of us don’t even realize that we are chronic stressed-it’s just our new normal. We need to stop accepting this as ok, and make sure we take time for ourselves and unwind. Running yourself into the ground will only leave you tired, unhealthy and not looking your best. Let’s all strive to bring some balance back into our lives. Because when you do, beautiful things happen 🙂