There’s no doubt that stress has been a part of our existence over the past few years. A global pandemic, among other things, have challenged everyone to cope in different ways. In this blog post, we’ll be addressing how stress affects skin and hair, and what you can do to deal with these challenges.
How Stress Affects Skin
How does stress affect your skin? When we are stressed, our bodies undergo many changes that impact our skin. Psychodermatology studies the effects of our emotional states on our skin. Hormones like cortisol and adrenaline activate our “flight or fight” response. This can cause an increase in oil production, leading to increased acne. Excessive sweating, and decreased blood flow to the skin can provide the ideal environment for fungal infections and other skin conditions. Stress has been shown to trigger outbreaks of eczema and psoriasis.
Rosacea is another common skin condition that causes facial flushing and occasional blemishes. Its etiology is not really known, but there are many triggers that can bring on a rosacea flare-up, like alcohol, excessive heat or cold, or stressful situations. It also tends to run in families.
How Stress Affects Hair
How does stress affect our hair? While the hair shaft itself is not alive, it is attached to hair follicles, which are impacted by environmental and psychological stressors. Ever notice how our U.S. Presidents appear to turn gray almost overnight? Many have attributed this to the responsibilities inherent in their office. One Columbia University study demonstrated that, when stress was reduced, gray hair reverted back to its original color. Lifestyle factors like extreme dieting, malnutrition and sleep deprivation can also impact hair production and quality. Dehydration can affect both skin and hair, leaving it brittle and dull.
Improving Skin and Hair by Reducing Stress
While some sources of stress are beyond our control, we can find ways to mitigate the negative effects of stress on our bodies. This can help to improve skin and hair, as well as our overall health and wellbeing. Here are a few ideas;
- Practice mindfulness – whether it’s journaling, yoga, or TM, it’s important to connect with your inner superpower to get through the challenging periods of your life.
- Connect with your “Tribe” – no one can get through life alone, so find time to connect with the people (and/or animals) that mean something to you. Purge negative people from your life if you need to; they will only sap your energy.
- Eat clean and healthy – Our diets can serve to mitigate the negative effects of stress. Proper hydration helps our bodies remove toxic by-products. Too much sugar can decrease immunity and stresses the skin. Ample antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, resveratrol and anthocyanins can neutralize harmful free radicals. Extreme dieting can exacerbate hair loss and leads to nutritional deficiencies. Incorporate lots of whole foods into your diet.
- Get a good night’s sleep – The quality of our sleep is truly important in terms of our body’s ability to recover from stress. Things like avoiding blue screens late at night, comfort, a cool environment, progressive relaxation, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol will help you achieve deep, restorative sleep.
- Keep moving – Our sedentary lifestyles don’t serve us well when it comes to stress. When our bodies move, we release endorphins (the “feel good” hormone”). Exercise can reduce blood pressure, improve circulation, and improve sleep. Whether it’s walking, yoga, or skateboarding, find a routine that you love and can maintain over time. That can include hobbies like gardening, cooking, painting or sewing. Working with our hands can be very therapeutic.
- Find the self-care rituals that work for you – It’s important to find out what your skin responds to; when we’re living our best life, it often shows. For some it might be a massage or mani/pedi; for others, it’s lymphatic drainage or micro-needling. Or how about a bubble bath? Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it doesn’t stress out your skin and hair. Too much sun, bleaching and dermabrasion can leave skin and hair feeling dry and irritated.
- Know what’s in your skincare and haircare products – More consumers are reading labels and that’s a good thing. It’s important to know what you’re using, in the event that you develop an allergic reaction, or if you have dry, sensitive or problem skin. Keep things simple and use one product at a time, if necessary, until you know how your skin and hair respond. Use products that include soothing ingredients like aloe, Vitamin E, castor oil, glycerin, allantoin and gentle oils and cleansers. If retinols are too harsh, try pro-retinol. Use a barrier sunscreen if you’re spending considerable time in the sun. Along with the previous steps, you’ll see (and feel) the difference during stressful times. To see our line of restorative skincare products, visit Our WEBA Naturals line.