Stress hits the skin
As I prepare this article, the world is in a state of emergency: Corona, do I need to say more? Hardly likely. Even if the prescribed deceleration has its good sides for many of us, the situation as a whole is depressing. I noticed that since mid-March I have received many questions about dry skin, which doesn't seem to improve with any care. Therefore, this article is dedicated to the role that stress plays in our skin.
Emotional stress has very tangible effects, and cosmetics are unfortunately just a drop in the ocean. So how does our well-being relate to skin health? And how can you do something good for yourself now? Let's find out...
What exactly is stress?
If you ask 10 people what stress means to them, you'll get just as many different answers. Everyone experiences stress differently and knows different triggers. Well then, let's ask science. It says: Stress is what activates the body's reaction systems. For example, it reacts to heat by sweating and to cold by trembling.
External stressors on the skin
The example above shows that stress is not only triggered by emotions such as being overworked at work or Corona. External triggers such as extreme temperatures, UV radiation, air pollution and mechanical influences are also important stressors for the skin.
Who would have thought that regular sunbathing in a bikini on the balcony has two effects: balm for the soul - stress for the skin. UV radiation has even earned its own term, photo-aging. UVB rays sizzle skin, while UVA rays can damage its DNA.
Even smoker's skin ages faster than necessary. And then there is air pollution, which unfortunately we all cannot escape. These three are considered to be chronic stress factors for the skin, which significantly accelerate its aging.
Emotional stress also affects the skin
As mentioned at the beginning, I would like to shed more light on emotional stress (keyword Corona) and its effects on the skin in this article. It is important to note that emotional stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Stress can even inspire in healthy doses. Some people only really get going when the deadline is approaching - oh yes, I can sing a song about that.
☝️ It becomes critical for us when the stress is so great that we are overwhelmed or there is no end in sight. The reactions that the body then initiates can have a negative effect on other areas. So let's take a closer look at the difference between acute and chronic stress.
What happens when you are stressed?
The skin in particular quickly falls victim to the mechanisms used to cope with stress. What exactly happens to it there? The depends on whether the stress is acute or chronic. Let's see it!
You can imagine acute stress like a wave. It suddenly comes towards you, washes over you and it becomes calmer again. Acute stress always begins with a moment of shock – watch out, the wave is coming! The autonomic nervous system goes into attention. It releases adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. This activates the stress response supersystems that coordinate your fight-or-flight response.
To do this, the body gives a lot of energy to the cells so that you can start the fight or run of your life right away. The sweat glands are activated to compensate for the heat surge. The perception of pain is suppressed, blood pressure and heart rate increase. The blood vessels in the heart, lungs and muscles dilate while others constrict - including those in the skin, which is not so important now. The skin is temporarily less supplied with blood and releases more moisture.
You give everything to master the situation. Once this is done, your nervous system sends out clear signals and your body regulates back to normal. The skin normally survives such a short supply bottleneck without any problems. However, the situation is different if your body is in stress mode for a long time.
With chronic stress, the body doesn't keep the fight-or-flight mechanisms going all the time. That would cost far too much energy. But where there is no all-clear, no anti-stress measures are initiated. For example, the cortisol level does not drop back to normal, but the body increases the base level.
The problem: The reaction system loses adaptability. With this hormonal flood there is not much room for improvement when acute stress is added. This not only affects the energy metabolism and blood circulation, but also the immune system. Because they also react when stress mediators are released. While acute stress really gets the immune system going, getting used to stress suppresses its reaction. We become more susceptible to infections, allergies and inflammation1.
☝️Fazit: Our body is primarily optimized for short periods of stress. They don't cause us any major problems. Chronic stress, on the other hand, does not pass us by unharmed.
How does the skin react to chronic stress?
The skin in particular quickly falls victim to the mechanisms used to cope with stress. "Pale with fear", "I don't care" or "get under your skin" - it's a well-known fact that emotional stress affects the skin. And it's not just skin diseases like neurodermatitis or psoriasis that get worse. Even healthy skinsuffers with you in times of stress. Let's take a closer look at the five most common effects.
🔥 Stress contributes to dehydration of the skin
The skin has an important protective function. The horny layer, the outer layer of your skin, consists of cornified cells that are cemented with lipids and covered with a hydro-lipid film.This construction is a barrier against unwanted intruders and
Excessive stress now reduces the recovery of the skin barrier2. It becomes porous, allowing more moisture to evaporate from the skin. Therefore, when you are stressed, your skin can become increasingly tense, rough and scaly or even form dryness lines. This also explains why questions about dry skin are increasing, especially in Corona times.
🥀 Stress accelerates skin aging
In addition to the predisposition, external factors also play a major role in how quickly your skin changes. So don't put too much stress on her. On the one hand calmness helps, because if you are stressed, your skin will notice it too. A constantly high cortisol level, caused by stress, reduces the elasticity of the skin and disrupts its barrier function. The consequences are fine lines, wrinkles, thinner skin, less elasticity and a lack of moisture. Stress accelerates skin aging.
🦟 Stress can really itch
Itching, redness and swelling can be triggered purely by emotions. Interestingly, your body reacts to severe stress in much the same way as it does to a mosquito bite. Histamine is released to initiate the inflammatory phase of wound healing. This is accompanied by swelling, redness and itching. When you are under a lot of stress, your skin can itch even without external influences. This can lead to you scratching uncontrollably and also injuring your skin. Stress can lead to itching, redness and swelling.
🩹 Stress reduces wound healing
Your body reacts to chronic stress with a permanently elevated cortisol level. But it is actually only intended for a short performance boost. If there is too much cortisol in your body over a long period of time, it impairs wound healing. This occurs in three phases: purification/ignition, repair, and rebuilding. Each of them is worse with constant stress1.
Pimples, small wounds, cracked skin - your skin recovers from all of this under stress slower than usual. So if you already suffer from blemishes, dryness or sensitive skin, stress can prolong these conditions.
🍄 Stress can cause pimples
Why do you get pimples from stress? The hormone cocktail that emotional stress gives you favors several factors that increase skin impurities.3,4 First, it can stimulate sebum production (skin fat production). Your skin becomes oilier and bacteria can multiply on it faster. Second, Inflammatory processes are initiated, which promotes unsightly pus pimples. And third, blemishes heal more slowly.
If you're prone to breakouts, not only can your skin's appearance deteriorate under emotional pressure, but the condition will also remain visible for longer.