Here’s How Stress Ages Your Skin (and What You Can Do About It!)

Women Looking at Skin in Mirror Showing signs from StressIt is normal to feel some sort of stress in passing, or even every day—but deep ongoing stress, aka chronic stress, can have serious consequences for your health, including, but not limited to, premature skin aging. At The Swan Center, our experienced team of providers is here to help you look refreshed if you find that stress has taken a toll on your skin, but we also acknowledge the importance of managing stress and caring for yourself first and foremost.

In this blog, we take a look at how stress ages your skin and what you can do to help manage it. Your body and skin will thank you—inside and out!

Stress and Skin Aging

An important player in whether or not your body feels stressed is the hormone cortisol, a naturally occurring steroid. Sound familiar? That’s because cortisol is produced in response to stress and activates our “fight or flight” instincts. According to the Mayo Clinic, cortisol also “curbs functions that would be nonessential or harmful in a fight-or-flight situation.” Unfortunately, this includes lowering your body’s natural production of hyaluronic acid and collagen, key substances for keeping the skin plump and hydrated. Without an adequate supply of them, your skin thins and appears to age faster. Furthermore, high cortisol levels limit your body’s ability to fight internal inflammation and heal itself.

High cortisol levels limit your body’s ability to fight internal inflammation and heal itself.

Studies have shown that chronic stress may additionally lead to the development of insulin resistance, which can then cause higher levels of blood sugar that then contributes to glycation. Glycation can hinder your skin’s elasticity, thus contributing to wrinkles and premature aging.

The good news? There are some proven ways to manage stress that can be done anywhere and cost nothing!

3 every-day tips for managing stress

Lowering stress might seem like an impossible task in a world that can often feel out of control. However, a great amount of the stress that we feel is not caused by the stressor itself, but how we deal with that stressor. Doing yoga in the morning won’t end the world’s problems, but it will help you have the energy and health to be present for yourself and those around you.

Here are three ways to lower stress in your life, which can lead to healthier skin and a healthier you:

1. Exercise

Exercise increases antioxidants and lowers those damaging cortisol levels. Medical professionals everywhere recommend 30 minutes to an hour of exercise per day.

The Mayo Clinic heartily acknowledges the stress-reducing effects of exercise. With regular exercise you get an increase in endorphins, which helps your body learn to manage the fight or flight response, while also improving your overall physical and mental health.

2. Mindfully relax

Meditation has a myriad of beneficial effects to help you reduce and control stress. A 2019 study on college students found that “adopting a mindfulness practice for as little as once per week may reduce stress and anxiety.” And a 2020 study found that older adults who had consistent physical exercise and mental training (such as meditation) routines experienced better health and a higher quality of life.

Looking specifically at potential benefits for skin, a 2021 overview of mind/body therapies as dermatologic treatment strategies found that options including meditation “have been evaluated in the treatment of skin disease and have shown some benefits.”

Not into formal meditation? Instead, you can just mindfully breathe! Research from Harvard Medical School shows that taking slow, deep breaths triggers our relaxation response—which can help our bodies stop releasing cortisol and blocking the physical functions we need to keep our skin healthy and young.

The Swan Center’s Nurse Injector Jordan Dupree, BSN is a big fan of taking a little “me time” every single day. As a busy, working mother of two, she wants to remind us all it’s okay to take care of yourself, especially in times of stress. She offered a great tip for those short on time: your daily skincare routine can become a meditation. Make it a time to peacefully set all other thoughts aside, and focus on breathing deeply and lovingly caring for your appearance. As you cleanse and apply products to your skin, use gentle, consistent motions that feel soothing and impart a feeling of relaxation.

Nurse Injector Jordan Dupree, BSN offered a great tip for those short on time: your daily skincare routine can become a meditation.

3. Don’t check your email after work hours

For many of us, work/life balance has suffered in recent years—the accessibility of email on our phones, working from home, and other factors can make it a struggle to define the end of the work day. Yet it is important to guard your personal time and get a definitive break from the stress of work. According to Science Daily, “those who have greater ‘boundary control’ over their work and personal lives were better at creating a stress buffer that helped protect them from falling into a negative-rumination trap.”

Working after hours can even affect the health of those around you: a 2018 study found that after-hour email expectations had a negative effect on employees and their spouse’s well-being. It’s an urgent enough health issue that certain European countries have implemented policies to protect citizens from overwork, supporting a human “right to disconnect.” Germany imposed guidelines in 2013, France took action in 2017, and Portugal passed measures in 2021 to help improve the mental and physical health of working people—all of which discourage bosses from contacting their employees after work hours.

The Mayo Clinic suggests setting boundaries to keep a good work-life balance which includes not checking your work email in the evenings or over the weekend. Your schedule may differ, but the takeaway here is to define hours that you are not available for work matters, allowing yourself time to decompress.

Has stress taken control of your skin health, Atlanta? We’re here to help!

Reducing stress is a critical part of a healthy life, but sometimes you need a little boost to refresh yourself. Many of our Atlanta medspa patients find regular skin treatments to be a relaxing way to get in a dose of “me time” with the added boost of renewed confidence.

Our expert medical spa team at The Swan Center in Atlanta can help complement your existing wellness and skin health routine with a variety of beneficial non-surgical cosmetic treatments such as microneedling and HydraFacial. Find a treatment perfect for your skin by scheduling a free consultation with us or by calling us at (770) 667-0904.

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