Is it true that your skin gets worse when you are stressed? Yes, according to Dr Nick Lowe, clinical professor of dermatology at the Cranley Clinic. “There is evidence that a variety of skin conditions – from adult acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea to alopecia areata (localised hair loss), plus general ageing – are exacerbated by cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. And I’ve seen a marked increase in stress-related cases over the last five to ten years.” And even if you have not experienced these debilitating conditions, modern life risks making us unwell on the inside, causing migraines, ulcers, high blood pressure, lower immunity – the list goes on.
Dr Adam Geyer, Kiehl’s consulting dermatologist in New York, notes, “Often patients report that their skin problems clear up when they go on holiday. They try to figure out what is different about the climate or the water at home that makes the condition reappear when they come back. In reality, it is returning to the stress of their daily lives that prompts the return of their symptoms.”
First, reduce the impact of stress on the body. Eve Kalinik, nutritional therapist (evekalinik.com), suggests the following, “Eat regularly to keep blood sugars more evenly balanced, as these are closely aligned with the blood cortisol levels. Reduce stimulants, such as caffeine, nicotine and high-sugar snacks, which excite the nervous system. Stress causes increased acid levels in the body, so balance this with alkalising plant-based foods, such as kale, chard and spinach – the easiest way is to juice them.” You can also add a teaspoon of chlorophyll to your drinking water to supplement alkaline levels.
And what can you do to manage the damage in the short-term? Kiehl’s Skin Rescuer Stress-Minimizing Daily Hydrator is a preventative treatment to be used before and during stressful periods. It strengthens the depleted skin barrier and minimises signs of fatigue, dehydration, redness and blotchiness with anti-inflammatories such as rosa gallica extract. Aromatherapy can promote better sleep and cell function. “Essential oils are capable of improving our general state of health and wellbeing,” says Geraldine Howard, co-founder and president of Aromatherapy Associates. “The molecules penetrate the blood stream, improve circulation and optimise the cellular renewal process. To help combat the effects of stress, I recommend inhaling pure essential oil of frankincense to focus and calm the mind.”
“The patients who get the best response from treatments are those who also deal with the key stressors in their lives. It’s only by dealing with both areas that skin will really improve,” says Dr Lowe. “I’m a great believer in meditation. I do it twice a day when I am feeling under pressure.” And he’s not the only one: Hugh Jackman, Jerry Seinfeld, Martin Scorsese and David Lynch are all high-profile practitioners of a growing trend. “It gives your body positive feedback and reduces stress triggers,” says Dr Lowe. And best of all, it’s free.
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