The impact of stress on your skin

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23 March 2022

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Stress can have a devastating effect on every part of our bodies, and that includes our skin. But there are solutions, writes Amy Houlihan.

As we enter year two of the pandemic, it’s fair to say that many of us have experienced unprecedented levels of stress in all areas of life. For some women it continues to be overwhelming and all-encompassing anxiety, while others endure a low-level, ever-present cloud of worry.

Unfortunately, these highly emotive feelings can manifest themselves into adverse effects on our skin, bodies and minds.

“Stress releases cortisol and this can often lead to dry or dehydrated skin, making it look dull and tired,” says Caci Skincare Educator Linda Sharrem.

“Stress can also have an impact on our skin barrier, which in turn can cause flakiness and dryness, which can make lines and wrinkles look deeper and more prominent. A compromised skin barrier will also allow water [hydration] to escape, causing redness and inflammation of the skin.

“Inflammation will show up as flare ups of rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis, acne breakouts and itchy skin. Our skin loves to be calm!”

If these issues are starting to ring some bells, show your skin some much-deserved love and attention with a soothing self-care ritual, as well as addressing any issues with hardworking products. Linda says ramping up your routine with a few key ingredients will help to calm, soothe and restore order.

“Hyaluronic acid is your new BFF,” Linda says. This hydrating wonder is found naturally in our skin and retains essential moisture, so applying it topically does wonders for nourishing dry, aggravated complexions. Another skincare essential is vitamin C, Linda says.

“This powerful antioxidant can help reduce inflammation, neutralise free radical damage [stress is considered free radical damage] and help the skin heal.”

But buyer beware – not all vitamin C is made equal. “There are a lot of vitamin C options out there, so make sure to talk to an expert to get the product that will help your specific concerns,” Linda says.

“Remember, the highest percentage of an ingredient does not always equal the best – it comes down to how stable the ingredient is and how the formulation [other ingredients] supports and helps the vitamin C perform.”

And last but not least, make sure you are using sun protection daily
– and reapplying when needed. “This is to protect the skin from free radical damage in the first place as well as preventing more.”

Don’t be afraid to bring out the big guns when it comes to addressing more serious concerns. Thanks to modern medicine, there are many ways to alleviate the effects of stress on your face and body, and most are minimally invasive, with little or no downtime. The following treatments are available at Caci, with variations available at other good skin therapy clinics around the country.

Treat yourself

In terms of how much or little your skin is stressing out, Linda recommends a Sonophoresis Skin Infusion treatment with Hyaluronic Acid for dry and dehydrated skin, and a Sonophoresis Skin Infusion with vitamin C to counteract free radical damage caused by the sun and environment. Sonophoresis is a pain-free treatment that uses sound-waves to infuse antioxidants and hydrating skincare ingredients deep into the dermis of the skin, which makes them more effective. Women suffering from dull and flaky skin can try hydradermabrasion, a de-stressing skin detox, exfoliation and hydration boost. Red LED light therapy is ideal for calming inflammation and stimulating collagen production, while blue LED light therapy targets blemish-causing bacteria.

“If you are waking with a sore jaw in the morning from stress-induced clenching and grinding, you might want to consider Botox to relax the jaw muscles,” says Dr Catherine Stone, founder of Auckland’s The Face Place. “In addition to aching less, you’ll reduce the damage you’re doing to your teeth overnight – hopefully reducing the chance of added stress from a dentist’s bill! You will usually see results about one to two weeks after just one treatment.” Botox can also be used to help alleviate your furrowed brow, says Dr Cat. “If your face is in a permanent frown from endless worry, a little Botox boost can help you look – and also feel – a whole lot less stressed. Botox in the frown has been effectively used for the symptoms of depression!” Hair loss can also be another distressing and unwanted side effect of stress. “Hair loss can be effectively treated with PRP – Platelet-Rich Plasma – which uses the healing parts of your own blood to stimulate the hair follicles and stop hair from thinning and falling out. Expect to have three to five treatments, spaced monthly, for the best results.”

Address your stress

Once you have your skin sorted, there are plenty of other avenues to explore when it comes getting more of a handle on your day-to-day stress. Even if it’s behind a mask part of the time, never underestimate the power of a slash of bright red lippie. Rocking a bright pout is an instant mood-booster and can help you feel more confident, capable and put-together, even when you’re feeling far from it. And while prescribing medication to treat severe stress and anxiety is a job for the GP, there are lots of great natural supplements available for busy women who are juggling a million balls in the air. Lifestream Quick Calm, $32.90, is designed to provide support when you’re feeling tense, indecisive, foggy and excessively worried. It contains lemon balm and ashwagandha to soothe your nervous system and adrenals without slowing you down or sedating you.

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