Stress having a negative impact on the skin isn’t exactly a new notion, but identifying when your skin is actually stressed can be confusing. That’s because “stress” is one of those umbrella words used to describe a multitude of different irksome cause and effects, and because—no surprises here—stress has the ability to deal each of us a personalized blow any day of the week. “When we’re in stressful situations our skin is often the first to react, but for everyone the physical impact is a little different,” says Youth To The People’s Director of Education, Laura Cline, who suggests playing detective when it comes to drawing a correlation between how we feel internally and the external look of our skin.
Prevention, as the saying goes, is better than cure—and it’s the same when it comes to maintaining calm, radiant skin. Along with unresolved personal-slash-professional issues, lack of sleep, and an imbalanced diet, Cline points to the external world and its accompanying stressors as easy-to-miss causes of skin conflict. There’s the seasonal kind, associated with the customary transition through seasons (think fall’s chilly breezes), and the less organic sort, typically logged in the ‘environmental’ category. These are usually defined as pollution, extreme weather patterns, traveling, and exposure to chemical toxins. “Oftentimes people equate an adverse reaction with having over-sensitive skin, when really the root cause of the issue is actually the stress that comes from something in their environment,” says Cline.
From unexpected rashes to flakiness, Cline breaks down five ways to tell if your skin is feeling the pressure.
- Extreme oiliness is an indication that your skin’s pH balance is off, meaning that it’s overextended. “People think that if their skin isn’t red, it’s not stressed, but that’s not the case,” says Cline. It all starts with a gentle cleanser.
- Flakey, scaly, or intensely dry skin are all signals that your body is fatigued and therefore stressed, often from environmental factors. Look to addressing excessive air conditioning, upping your in-flight skin regimen, and ditching any beauty products containing alcohol.
- Because stress zaps the skin of moisture (see above), it can also trigger the premature ageing process. That means the sometimes sudden appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. For a kit that addresses skin dehydration, try this.
- “Breakouts are perhaps the most obvious giveaway that your skin needs some extra attention,” says Cline. For some people it can be as simple as switching to fragrance-free skincare products and avoiding dairy. Others with hormonal breakouts or cystic acne might require more intensive, or even professional treatments.
- Hives, eczema, and rosacea all point to inflammation, aka stress. “Topical treatments might help soothe these concerns, but they’re not going to help that much, unless taken in conjunction with something internal,” says Cline. “That being said, never underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep—it’s our life source and helps to repair the damaging effects of stress. Cherish your circadian rhythm!”
With continued use, applying adaptogens topically can prevent signs of stress from appearing in the first place. To learn more about how to stop skin stress before it starts, click here.
Written by Elsa de Berker for Youth To The People