I have always had oily skin. As a teenager, I wasn’t happy about the shiny face I had, but with proper skincare, I managed to keep it under control. It wasn’t until my skin became ultra-dry a few years ago that I realised what a blessing in disguise oily skin can be. Oils keep the skin moisturised and youthful, which can prevent fine lines and wrinkles. So, if you are naturally blessed with oily skin, think of the positives here. It might be a little annoying now, but you will surely be glad for it in old age.
The reason my skin went through this severe dry spell was stress. I didn’t know it at the time, but it wasn’t my age that was drying out my skin. It was my lifestyle. Chronic stress releases the hormone cortisol in high quantities. Cortisol messes up your body in several ways and your skin does not escape from this. Cortisol can make several skin issues worse. It can increase acne and inflammation. As cortisol attacks your immune system, issues like psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea can be increased or triggered. The dryness is explained by the skin’s inability to retain water when cortisol is rampaging through the body. In short, stress thus can either exasperate existing skin issues or trigger new ones. For me, I experienced very little of my usual acne but was instead met with a crackling desert-like face. For you, the exact opposite might happen.
Time for a little science
Besides the temporary skin issues that stress can cause, it can also do some permanent damage. Time for a little science. Cortisol raises your blood sugar, which in turn damages both your elastin and collagen through a process called glycation. This leaves your skin dull, sagging and increases fine lines and wrinkles. This process is also triggered when we eat too many sugary foods, which is why fruitarians and vegans do not always age gracefully (controversial, but true!). The good news is that once you are no longer stressed, the body will naturally repair some of the skin’s elasticity. The bad news is that some damage is irreversible, so making sure you keep stress at bay is essential for youthful skin.
Tips for healthy skin
There are several things you can do to specifically keep skin issues at bay during stressful times. Of course, stress is overall damaging for your health so reducing your stress will the most important thing you can do. Besides the obvious though, the tips below will help you come out of stressful periods as gracefully as possible:
- Appropriate skin care: If your skin has changed, don’t stick to the same skin care. Invest in a rich moisturiser if your skin has become dry, even if you normally have oily skin. Hyaluronic acid is a skincare ingredient that can do wonders on dull and dry skin. Include a skincare product with retinol to stimulate collagen production. For any specific skincare concerns, such as psoriasis, use appropriate and hypoallergenic products.
- Eat a low-glycemic diet: Keeping your blood sugar levels low is always a good idea, but particularly when you are stressed. Cut out sugary foods and other foods with a high glycemic index (including pasta, white rice and certain fruits). Instead load up on whole grains, pulses, nuts and loads of vegetables. Some fruits that have a low-glycemic index are berries and grapefruits.
- Lift weights: Muscles eat glucose, so we naturally use up more glucose the bigger our muscles are. That means lower glucose levels and thus fewer signs of aging. Exercise, particularly cardio, can be quite stressful for the body, so low impact weight lifting is a better exercise when stressed. Don’t push it though, if weightlifting makes your body even more stressed. Recovering from stress is the most important!
- B-vitamin supplements: B-vitamins are known to be good for your skin for various reasons and additionally calm the nervous system. A win-win supplement for stressful times. Vitamin B1 and B6, in particular, help to prevent the glycation process, keeping you looking youthful. Beware though, that large 2amounts of B-6 and 12 have been known to trigger acne in some people (biotin supplements causes cystic acne for me).
- The usual: Anything else you can do to keep your skin healthy still applies during stressful times. Drinking plenty of water, protecting your skin from UV radiation and eating foods with anti-oxidants is skin health 101. This should be a no-brainer, whether you are stressed or not.
Stress is not good for overall health, but it can be additionally frustrating to see your youthful glow disappear within a matter of months. Applying the tips in the post can help manage any skin issues. And of course, getting rid of stress will always make you look better. I can vouch that a good night sleep and a worry-free mind make you look more beautiful than any cream will be able to.