The truth about stress: How it affects your skin

You may have been warned about this before, and perhaps have even seen the results of stress on your skin when you have a big presentation at work, or during finals week in school.

Well, heed those warnings, because what you've been told is true! When we're stressed, our bodies have a chemical response, causing all kinds of spikes in hormones that affect our skin. Basically, when you're stressed and feeling vulnerable, so is your skin - making it more sensitive and reactive.

Have you noticed that you tend to break out at the worst possible moment, say, right before that huge job interview? That's because when you're feeling stressed, your body releases cortisol and other hormones that tell your sebaceous gland to produce more oil (great, right?) – thus causing you to be more prone to breakouts.

Cortisol is a powerful steroid that also shuts down part of your immune system, making you more susceptible to cold and flu-like symptoms, but amps up another part, increasing your vulnerability to allergens.

Stress can have negative effects on skin issues you may already have, such as psoriasis, fever blisters and increases your risk of skin infections like cold sores. It impairs the proper function of your skin, because it dries it out: causing the protective outer layer to break up as skin cells shrink and the lipids between those cells evaporate.

Habits that form when you're stressed - such as rubbing, scratching and biting your fingers or lip - increase your chances of skin damage and sickness as well. When your immune system and skin's defenses are already weakened, these nervous tendencies do not help.

Unfortunately, studies have also shown that living a stressful life increases our chances of getting skin cancer in later years, and stress has been proven to help cancer spread more quickly in mice that were being exposed to UV radiation. But there's some good news: the fact that we know how stress affects us being a pretty major one, because we can do things to prevent it. Since it's easier said than done to lead a stress-free life, try some of these tips for reducing your stress level:

  1. Don't neglect your skin even if you're stressed, keep up with your skincare routine: especially SPF!
  2. Take time (even if it's just 10 minutes) to do something for you: read your favorite book, take a bath.
  3. Say no! Set limits and boundaries to give yourself a break.
  4. Go out for a walk – clear your mind.
  5. Exercise regularly – it'll help keep your mind fresh and sweat out some toxins from your body.
  6. Try some stress-management techniques: deep breathing or yoga.
  7. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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