Did you make it through Black Friday? Whether you battled the crowds or hid out at home, it’s likely you’re feeling some of that typical holiday stress.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, other holidays, or no holidays at all, you are still likely to be affected by this time of year. Though we may enjoy spending time with friends and loved ones, we can still get caught up in hectic schedules, long to-do lists, overflowing e-mail inboxes, extra hours at work, poor diet, little sleep, and a general feeling of being frazzled.
Unfortunately, all this stress can wreak havoc on your skin. You have probably already noticed how your appearance suffers over the holidays. More breakouts. Excess dryness and flaking. Visible pores. Dullness. Extra visible age spots and uneven skin tone.
As if you didn’t have enough to worry about!
We’d like to help. Below you’ll find out more about how stress can affect your skin, and what you can do to keep your complexion smooth and radiant for those holiday parties and get-togethers.
Studies Show How Stress Damages Skin
You’ve probably suspected your skin suffers when you’re stressed out, but you may be surprised to learn that science has actually proven it.
In a 2014 study, for instance, researchers reviewed a number of other studies that had been published on stress and skin conditions. After their analysis, they wrote: “Recent research has confirmed skin both as an immediate stress perceiver and as a target of stress responses.” In other words, skin senses stress immediately, and often suffers because of it.
Brain and skin communicate with each other, the researchers stated, with the skin reacting to stress by activating the immune and hormonal systems, resulting in a negative affect on skin health.
Here’s a little bit about what stress does to skin:
- Releases hormones: Sensing signals from the brain, the skin produces stress hormones that can encourage inflammation; some of these hormones can also decrease skin blood flow.
- Irritates the nerves: The skin has a number of peripheral nerves that are activated by stress, and may increase inflammation and allergic reactions.
- Stimulates immune reactions: In response to stress, skin also stimulates the immune system to protect itself, but this action can backfire in causing increased inflammation.
- Exacerbates skin diseases: Stress exacerbates all skin diseases, including psoriasis, dermatitis, acne, and redness.
- Disrupts barrier function and dries skin out: The skin has an outer layer that helps protect it from bacteria and free radicals, while helping to seal in moisture. When this barrier is damaged, skin is more vulnerable to the effects of the environment and is more likely to get dry and dull. Studies have found that stress actually results in water loss in the skin, reduces its ability to hold onto the water it has, and impairs barrier function, leading to an increase in wrinkle formation.
- Decreases the production of lipids: Lipids are healthy fats in the skin that give it its plumpness and softness. Stress decreases the synthesis of lipids, robbing skin of its moisture and fatty acids that usually keep it soft and supple.
- Inhibits wound healing: The skin is always healing itself. Optimal repair function is key to anti-aging. Stress, however, delays healing, inhibiting repair systems and making it harder for skin to recover. One interesting study, for instance, found that caregivers of demented relatives, who naturally were under stress, took 20 percent longer to heal than those who weren’t caregivers.
Chronic Stress Results in Lackluster Skin
Though short-term stress is unlikely to cause any lasting damage, as skin is able to recover once the stress is over, long-term or chronic stress is a different story.
Chronic stress suppresses the skin’s immune system, increases vulnerability to infections and breakouts, exacerbates inflammation and allergic reactions, and accelerates UV-damage. One study, for example, found that stressed groups developed skin tumors much earlier than control croups.
Oh, and don’t forget that lack of sleep! Usually if you’re stressed, you probably aren’t sleeping the best, and according to research, poor quality sleepers have increased signs of skin aging.
Unfortunately, stress-induced changes can result in the formation of fine lines and wrinkles, increased pigmentation, loss of elasticity and firmness, and dull skin.
So what can we do about it?
7 Ways to Protect Skin from Stress
It’s hard not to feel stressed during the holidays. And you don’t want to feel stressed about being stressed, right?
So let’s just talk about how you can protect your skin from the effects. Of course, it’s a given that you’re using sunscreen! Your skin doesn’t need UV stress on top of everything else, so be sure you’re using a broad-spectrum protector on a daily basis.
Here are seven other tips for you.
- Get more antioxidants in your diet. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are one of the main factors in stress-related premature aging. Think lots of fruits and veggies. If you’re finding your diet lacking this time of year, add a morning smoothie to your routine and fill it with things like berries, grapes, leafy green veggies, carrots, and maybe a little flaxseed. Drink more green tea, and consider a resveratrol supplement.
- Stay as healthy as you can: Even if you have to adjust your schedule, try to get in some exercise every day, be careful not to indulge too much in holiday treats, and do your best to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Remember that you’ll feel better and enjoy the holidays more if you take care of yourself-and your skin will look better too!
- Stay consistent with your skin care. When your skin is stressed out, it needs your care more than usual. That means if you skip your nighttime cleansing and moisturizing routine, expect to pay for it the next morning. It takes only about five minutes, so stay committed to stay beautiful. Cleanse gently, apply your anti-aging serums, and moisturize no matter what!
- Apply helpful products. Your skin may get by with the bare minimum when you’re feeling normal, but if you’re stressed, it needs extra help. Look at the products you’re using and make sure you’re giving your skin what it needs to keep up with repair needs. Harsh sulfates, alcohols, preservatives, chemical fragrances, ureas, petrolatum products, and the like will only stress your skin out more. Look for essential fatty acids, triglycerides, natural oils, vitamins, butters, hyaluronic acid, and extracts from companies that are conscientious about their products. (Note: Of course we love our CV Skinlabs products-100% free of ingredients tied to skin irritation, allergic reactions, and other health issues!)
- Drink more water. If you’re stressed, you’re probably forgetting to drink as much water as you need. Remember that water helps hydrate your skin and flush away impurities, so keep a water bottle with you and sip regularly.
- Step up your masks. Stressed skin needs more hydration, usually, so you may want to increase the number of times per week that you apply a hydrating mask. If you notice dryness, dullness, and more wrinkles, try soaking up a moisturizing mask more often and see if your skin doesn’t respond. Likewise, if you’re breaking out more often, you may need to increase your use of clay masks to help absorb excess oil and debris from your pores. Just be sure to follow with a quality moisturizer so your skin doesn’t get too dry. (Our Calming Moisture works great for all types of skin.)
- Reduce inflammation. As you may have noticed from the list above, one of the main effects of chronic stress is increased inflammation. So you want to cool that fire. Eat more anti-inflammatory foods (we have a list for you here), make sure your products are for sensitive skin (so they don’t make the inflammation worse), apply anti-inflammatory ingredients like oat extract and vitamin E, and consider taking a refreshing spray with you (like our Rescue + Relief Spray) to calm skin during the day.
Do your skin react to holiday stress? How do you calm it down? Please share your ideas with our readers.