Stress is something that affects everybody, regardless of location, career, income, marriage and parenthood status, or state of the economy and social affairs. It is one constant that is not going away, and it is one of the main causes of nearly every skin or health problem or disorder people complain about, and seek the services of an aesthetician, nutritionist, health coach, or other holistic practitioner for help. For skin specifically, unmanaged stress can wreak havoc, leading to new or increased acne breakouts, rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis flare-ups, visible signs of premature aging such as lines and wrinkles, and increased hypo- and hyperpigmentation. If you want to reduce the effects of stress on the skin, you need an integrative approach.

Why are the effects of stress on the skin so significant?

Stress is not just an emotion we feel. It produces reactions in the body that are physical. When we are stressed, our brain thinks it is under attack.

It responds by jumping into survival mode, and sending out neurotransmitters that activate the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is also known as the “fight or flight hormone”, or “the stress hormone.” When cortisol is released, it takes over the parts of the brain that are normally regulated by hormones that keep us happy, even-tempered, and thinking clearly (the same hormones that are regulated by anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs). Instead, the response is similar to that of adrenaline: thoughts are urgent, hyper, sometimes manic. A person may even experience feelings of euphoria: physically and mentally stronger, sharper…as if ready for battle.

This is not always a bad thing (this inflammatory response is also what triggers the body’s wound healing function), but if the body is constantly forced into this state by chronic stress, it does not have time to respond, relax, and return to its normal state. This can result in many health problems, such as depression and other mental illnesses, high blood pressure, compromised immune response, inflammation, hormonal imbalances that can cause problems with blood sugar and body weight, in addition to the aforementioned skin issues. Any and all of these issues can accelerate the aging process of not just the skin, but of the entire body.

Not to mention, in response to stress, people often make poor lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking, lack of sleep, continuously allowing negative thought patterns, and eating junk food; all of which age us significantly and cause serious health problems.

How can we reduce the effects of stress on the skin?

The thought of reducing stress can be stressful to some in itself–mostly because it’s not always possible to reduce the stress–especially if the stressor is outside of one’s control. Often, the best we can do is help our bodies more efficiently manage the stress we do have in our lives, and make positive choices to avoid adding further unnecessary stress.

Solutions such as going to a hypnotist, changing careers, avoiding dramatic family situations, or investing in an inclusive wellness retreat in a faraway land may be beneficial solutions, but they may not realistic for everyone. However, there are plenty of real-life strategies you can use daily to reduce the stress in your life–some of them mental, some of them physical. But all of them, necessary.

Here are three of our top tips:

1. Identify the healthy, productive things in your life that make you happy and relaxed, and make a habit of doing them everyday. Some people listen to relaxing music, take a warm bath, do yoga, go for a walk outside, watch a funny movie, drink tea, take a nap, write in a journal, play with the kids, knit, read a book, spend quality time with a loved one, treat yourself to a spa day–try to do at least one of them daily to unwind an ever-active brain.

2. Take a realistic look at how you’re managing your time. Poor time management adds significant stress to any given day. Look at your calendar with honest eyes, and see when you feel the most productive, or when you tend to procrastinate and prioritize tasks and appointments around that.

3. Learn to say no. Most people in caring professions like to say yes. They like to help people take a load off, and feel good. While that can be a beneficial practice within certain parameters, once boundaries become too vague, yeses no longer feel good. Next time you’re asked for a favor, instead of defaulting to “yes,” pause and think about what affect that yes will have on the rest of your day.

Leave a comment about aromatherapy in the spa!What positive, healthy, productive things do you do to manage the effects of stress on your skin?

Please share in the comments below!

Did you know that NAA Members have on demand access to skin and stress content?

The Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance’s Membership Program offers many stress management resources as well as more in-depth information about the connection between skin and stress within multiple pillars of Nutritional Aesthetics curriculum. This information is currently available to members within our membership libraries.

Click HERE to learn all the other ways NAA Membership can help you improve your skin-health knowledge both at home and in your practice!