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How Stress Messes With Your Skin And What You Can Do

Stress doesn’t just play havoc with your emotional wellbeing, it can also be pretty hard on your skin. So, with April being Stress Awareness Month let’s examine what happens to your skin when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of the daily grind.

As if juggling life wasn’t tough enough at the best of times, this past year has tested even the most patient among us. Studies show that 65 percent of people in the UK have reported some kind of stress or anxiety since the COVID-19 pandemic began. And according to data from the Office for National Statistics, happiness levels were the lowest on record this January. 

Thankfully, things are starting to look up for the world, but if you’ve been feeling emotionally stressed for the best part of a year, chances are your skin has also taken a hit.

The thing is, your skin and emotional wellbeing are very closely linked. When you feel anxious or distressed, your body produces various hormones like cortisol to help you respond. 

Your body is well-equipped to deal with the odd spike in cortisol (which, fittingly, is also called ‘the stress hormone’), but when stress becomes more long-term, an abundance of cortisol can compromise your immune system, screw up your digestion, mess with your reproductive system, ruin your sleep and obviously, upset your skin.

How Stress Affects Your Skin

Too much cortisol interferes with the healing process, encourages inflammation and due to its effects on your immune system, makes your skin less able to defend itself from external aggressors like pollution and UV damage. 

When levels remain high over a sustained period of time, cortisol has also been shown to increase sebum production, decrease your natural levels of hyaluronic acid and break down important proteins in your skin such as collagen and elastin. 

So, what does this mean for the physical look and feel of your skin? Well, depending on your skin type, you could experience anything from blocked pores and acne, through to irritation and dehydration. 

If you suffer with skin issues like rosacea, psoriasis or eczema, you’ll know that stress is one of the biggest triggers for causing flare-ups. And, of course, emotional stress will do your fight against premature ageing absolutely no favours at all. Repetitive frowning coupled with depleted collagen? Seriously bad news.

Thankfully, there are lots of ways to help calm, protect and de-stress your skin when spikes in cortisol are causing it to freak out.

3 Ways To De-Stress Your Skin

1. Look After Your Skin’s Natural Barrier Function

Cortisol is a devil for disrupting the skin’s barrier function. Your skin’s barrier is the very top, protective layer of your epidermis and consists of lots of good stuff like keratin, ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol which work hard to retain moisture and block out irritants. 

When your barrier gets thin and weakened by things like chronic stress, it stops being able to do its job properly and problems like dryness, dehydration, inflammation and redness set in. 

To help keep your skin’s barrier strong and healthy, the most important thing is to treat it kindly with gentle skincare practises. Never wash your face with hot water, cut down on potent active ingredients like glycolic acid, and avoid synthetic fragrances and harsh chemicals across your entire routine.

Sulphates, for example, are bad news for your barrier function as they can leave it dry, sensitised and open to irritation. Hence why you won’t find a HIGHBORN with any sulphates.

Our Crystal Cleanser is completely free from paraben and sulphates, instead containing skin-nourishing oils like sunflower, avocado and apricot which help calm, nourish and replenish your barrier function. Organic Hydration Gel is another fabulous choice for boosting hydration and soothing inflamed skin without clogging your pores.

2. Protect Your Skin From Further Irritation

When your skin is compromised by emotional turmoil, it’s less able to protect itself from free radical damage. So, to help prevent further aggravation from pollution and UV radiation, it’s wise to include antioxidants in your daily routine. 

Pre-Eminent Beauty Serum is packed with antioxidant ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid and aloe and is gentle enough not to cause irritation to stressed out skin. Apply it every morning then finish with Organic Tinted Moisturiser with SPF 25 to further protect your skin from the sun. 

This antioxidant-rich tinted moisturiser is a HIGHBORN favourite and contains anti-inflammatories and omega fatty acids to hydrate, calm and conceal the redness that often comes hand in hand with highly stressed skin.

We’re just days away from the NEW batch so register here to be the first to know when it’s ready to order.

3. Eat Well, Exercise… And Breathe

The problem with stressed out skin is the worse it gets, the more anxious you may feel. And the more anxious you feel, the more stressed your skin becomes. This means that taking care of yourself and your emotional wellbeing is absolutely essential if you want to get out of this vicious circle. 

To steady both your body and your mind, pack your diet with a balance of proteins, good fats and fresh fruit and veg. Avoid refined sugars, carbs and too much alcohol, but make sure you stay hydrated with plenty of water, fresh juices and herbal or decaf tea – caffeine leads to a heightened stress response in your body. Doh!

Exercising is another great way to de-stress, so whether it be cycling, yoga or Zumba, make time in your schedule to do whatever it is you enjoy. Even if it’s just sticking your headphones on and going for a short walk. Switching off and spending time outside is an ideal way to help manage stress and anxiety.

Finally, spend a few minutes before bed to take some deep, abdominal breaths. Focused breathing is key for reducing stress and clearing your mind as it regulates the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide, slows down your heart rate and boosts circulation. 

A simple exercise is to breathe in through your nose for five seconds, hold your breath for five, then breathe out through your mouth for 10 seconds. Repeat this three or four times every night to help take away all the worries from your day. Side note: this should also help you get a better night’s sleep. Hurrah!

But if you still have worries wriggling around in your thoughts, write them down and put them to bed too. Tomorrow is another day and the more rested you are the more energised you’ll be to take charge ...


Rosemary Mackey on April 18 2021 at 12:52PM

So need this advice for my rosacea skin, flaring up again with stress! Many thanks.

Gillian Finan on April 18 2021 at 12:52PM

Brilliant advice and just the “reminder” I needed to slow down, breathe and stop worrying!!

Veronica Bridges on April 16 2021 at 12:01AM

Great. Thanks for the information.

Maria Chukwu-Nsofor on April 16 2021 at 12:01AM

Very informative and helpful, thanks!

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