Stressed Out Skin: Paying Attention to the Signs

As many of my “regulars” already know, before I begin a facial I ask about what might be going on in their lives at that moment. It’s not just small talk. They understand t just need to know what may have contributed to any skin issues I discover as I embark on their facial journey. Perhaps their skin had reacted to some kind of trauma, allergies, or food. Or  maybe the state of their skin is reflecting the most common cause of all – stress.

The effects of stress are not all emotional, as many health professionals have been telling us for years now. Stress takes its toll on your feeling of well-being, your sleep patterns, and your gut — all of which take a toll on your body’s largest organ — your skin. Your ability to communicate what your challenges have been may help me better dial in just what kind of facial your skin may be starving for.

When we’re stressed, our bodies respond chemically, causing all kinds of spikes in hormones that affect our skin. It can become more sensitive and reactive, causing breakouts – sometimes at the worst possible moments, such as just before a wedding or a job interview. Recently one of my monthly clients — a person who is one of the least stressed-out people I know — told me she and her husband had just finished their kitchen remodel. It was a huge project, forcing them to turn their lives upside down for months. She was also getting over a nasty little cold.

“I’m a mess,” she said as she sat on the edge of the treatment table.  She was frustrated. “I not only broke out; I’ve been picking at the breakout. For heaven’s sake,  I haven’t had a ‘hurty’ zit in years and now I feel as if I look like a teenager again.” At that moment I knew precisely how I would proceed with her facial. I took for granted that she had not been very disciplined with her cleansing routines during this remodeling period, had not pampered herself at all, and needed a treatment that would calm both her and her skin all at once. I also know she adores hot towels, so I bombarded her with them throughout the 90-minutes. During that hour and a half I massaged, cleansed, exfoliated, did some pore extractions, massaged again, applied a series of hydrating and then firming masks, used smooth hot stones to sooth her skin, neck and even arms and hands and finally applied finishing products. She was so relaxed by the end of the facial, she said she could barely move. I had given her just what any skin doctor (or even shrink) might have ordered up.

You see, Cortisol is a powerful steroid that can shut down parts of your immune system, not only making you more susceptible to cold and flu-like symptoms, but amping your vulnerability to allergens. Stress can cause other things to flare up as well, such as psoriasis and fever blisters, increasing your risk of skin infections like cold sores.

Ever notice how you tend to rub, scratch or pick at your skin when you are feeling stressed? Some people bite their fingers or lips, increasing the risk of skin damage as well as sickness. None of this helps.

Since it’s easier said than done to lead a stress-free life, I offer a few tips for reducing your stress level:

  • It may not be easy to keep up with your beauty routines when everything seems out of whack, but don’t neglect your skin. And don’t forget sunblock!
  • Do something for you: read your favorite book, do some yoga stretching, take a bath, or just go out for a walk and clear your mind.
  • Don’t forget to exercise – it’ll help keep your mind fresh and cause you to drain some toxins from your body in the form of sweat.
  • Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If that means recording a program on your DVR instead of staying up late to see it, do yourself the favor of giving your body – and your skin – some time to recoup.

For questions about your skin and the solutions I offer, feel free to give me a call at (916) 294-9980.


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