STRESS & THE EFFECTS ON YOUR SKIN

Stress is such a constant part of our day to day lives that it’s nearly impossible to avoid. So if we cannot avoid stress, what can we do to help our bodies become more stress resilient?There are many simple techniques you can use to recover from stress faster and more effectively. In this series of blog posts I will explore some of these methods available to you. The next blog post will look at the physiological response our bodies have to stress and the effect that has on our health and the beauty of our skin.

When our bodies sense that we are in a threatening situation, real or perceived, it releases two hormones from the adrenal gland, adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is our rapid response hormone, increasing our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate so that we can fight or flee from immediate danger.

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Cortisol is the long-term stress hormone, helping our body adapt to stresses over a longer period of time by regulating important things like our bodies use of our fuel sources, our moods, immunity, inflammatory response, blood pressure, and the maintenance of connective tissues such as our skin.

Many hundreds of years ago, the human body would react to stress with immediate physical activity, the so called ‘flight or fight’ reaction. But in modern times we deny our bodies this response. For example, we don’t get out of the car and run around madly when we are stuck in traffic getting stressed about running late! This results in our bodies storing the stress response and continuing to produce high levels of stress hormones.

It is as if our bodies have forgotten how to stop the stress response. We can also ‘think’ our bodies into a stress reaction by dwelling on problems that are not a threat to our lives but our bodies will respond in the same manner as if they were in danger.

When we are under stress, cortisol is an important hormone that helps our bodies cope. Unfortunately, because our adrenal stress response often overreacts, we end up secreting too much cortisol, for too long and this is what has detrimental effects on our health and our skin. If that stress becomes long term, then the cortisol levels continue to increase and our DHEA/testorsterone levels decrease. It is this imbalance in these two important hormones that causes us to gain weight, lose muscle, become tired, hungry, crave sugar and fall victim to annoying little illnesses.

Cortisol also stimulates the breakdown of our skin. As we get older the elasticity and firmness of our skin naturally deteriorates but elevated levels of cortisol will not only speed up this process but also inhibit your body’s ability to repair this tissue. Researchers in Finland found that high levels of cortisol reduce the quantity of proteoglycans and hyaluronan in our skin. These two chemicals are responsible for the hydration of the skin so our skin becomes more dehydrated with stress.

A similar thing happens with our collagen and elastin fibres (anti-wrinkle fibres) and this has lead researchers to believe that high cortisol levels accelerate skin aging resulting in wrinkled skin. In fact in laboratory rats, cortisol-induced collagen loss in the skin is ten times greater than in any other tissue. So there is much truth to the old wives tale about worry causing enough stress to the skin to result in lines.

But what can we do about this is stress is unavoidable? The key is to help your body recover from stress quickly by including some handy little rituals into your day.

We will look at the quick stress busters in the next blog post…

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