Skin Deep

Your skin will benefit from less stress

Between work, family and our busy lives, we’re all being pulled in a million directions. But have you ever stopped to think about the effect that stress is having on your skin? If you’re experiencing dryness, dullness or breakouts, stress may be to blame.

There’s a hormone called cortisol that wreaks havoc on our bodies. Research has found that it leads to a dangerous accumulation of fat around our organs, and has an effect on our skin as well. Caused by lack of sleep and other stress, here’s the lowdown on the connection between cortisol and our skin.

As soon as cortisol is released by the body, sugar levels in the blood increase. We know that sugar spikes are especially bad for diabetics, but increased blood sugar also promotes a process called glycation in our skin. Glycation damages our skin’s collagen, causing it to become rigid, which increases lines and wrinkles.

In addition to causing glycation, cortisol also decreases our skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid, which serves as a natural moisturizer for our skin. Even more, cortisol compromises the skin’s barrier, which allows even more hydration to seep out. And when skin is dehydrated, the enzymes that work to repair the damage done every day don’t work as well.

As if the effects of stress-induced cortisol weren’t enough, another byproduct of stress, epinephrine (or adrenaline) also works against our complexions. The result of our natural “fight or flight” response, epinephrine certainly helps us our when we’re in a dire situation, but it does no favors for our skin. When epinephrine is present, blood flow to the skin is decreased, which robs it of vital nutrients, including oxygen.

Less oxygen and sluggish circulation in general leads to a dull, sallow complexion. When blood flow is decreased, toxins begin to build up in the skin as well. These toxins lead to a lackluster complexion, and many doctors and scientists believe toxins play a role in other beauty concerns, including cellulite.

Although stress is unavoidable, there are ways to manage it. First and foremost, get some sleep. To help you catch more z’s, don’t take your cellphone to bed. (The light of the screen can disrupt your body’s sleep cycle.)

Second, exercise. Not only does physical activity help you “blow off steam,” it also boosts circulation.

Deep breathing, meditating and other forms of “quiet time” help, too.

Beyond reducing the stress in your life, these small steps just might make you look younger and more radiant as well.

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