Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stress & Your Skin

Cushies see their bodies morph in dramatic ways as the body responds to high cortisol.

- Fat appears on the belly and abdomen.
- Stretch marks appear on abdomen, chest, arms and legs.
- Acne and blemishes flare up on the face and even on the back for some.
- Hair grows on women in places typically reserved only for men.
- Straight hair goes wonky curly and curly hair goes straight.

In addition, the skin goes through major changes. It dulls and fades. It bruises easily. Even small wounds take a long time to heal. On the occasions I wanted to wear and felt I needed to wear make up, it just doesn't look right on me anymore. Quel horreur!  

I remember my Movie Star Complexion phase of my 20s. I looked really nice then. Once a year, I would walk up to the Clinique or Mac counters bare-faced with no make up. The beauty consultant and I would choose everything from foundation, eye concealer, and powder to eye shadow, liner, and mascara. Lipstick and lip liner were necessary bonuses. That consultant talked through my colors and helped me choose what might look good on me. When I felt that I needed an extra sumpin' sumpin' to the whole shebang, skin care products would just mysteriously find their way into the shopping bag. An hour-and-a-half and $150 later, I walked out with a new face. Walking out of the mall, I was beaming. For weeks and months after that, I felt a little recharged and more confident. Add well chosen clothes and I felt pulled together. In those days, I was a professional working woman.

Since the start of my Cushie days, I haven't been able to work. Regardless, when I was really feeling low, I would go through the motions of the same comforting process -- clearly without the same success. I'd take my usual fun trip to the make up counter, spoke to the consultant who applied the make up and together, we decided it looked all right. I reluctantly went along, because when I would apply the make up at home, it just never looked right. It couldn't fix the dullness that laid upon my real skin like a layer of sludge. My make up bag sits way up high in my daughter's bathroom. I've used in three times in a year. I think.

My next step was to stop wearing make up all together. One, I was too exhausted to stand up and put it on; two, I wasn't going anywhere that often; and three, the make up no longer made me look or feel better. In fact, I felt it made me look worse. So hurting my back, hips and legs to apply make up that didn't even make me look better-- yeah-- easy to drop that daily ritual. Yet still, my skin has no brightness, no shine, no life.
 
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Recent blog posts relay the impact of stress on the general population.  The articles I've shared broadened my understanding the reasons behind the damage that cortisol has on each type of cells it takes on. These details are fascinating to me, and I am pleased to share them with my readers. 
Hope you enjoy these!

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The Effects of Stress on your Complexion

If you're worried about the health and look of your skin, it's unlikely that you'd think of stress as a possible problem. You may be surprised to learn just how tied your mental health is to your complexion.


Cortisol is the main culprit. When we're stressed, this nasty hormone causes many problems for our body and our skin.


Wrinkles

It's often said that the stress of the position makes Presidents age faster, and there may be a grain of truth to this. Cortisol causes the sugar levels in blood to rise. This encourages a process called glycation, which causes damage to collagen in the skin, making it more rigid and increasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, the ingestion of high amounts of sugar also contributes to glycation, so decreasing the amount of white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and simple carbs can help slow the process.


Dehydrated Skin

Suffering from dry or damaged skin? Again, cortisol may be to blame. It decreases our production of hyaluronic acid, a natural skin moisturizer, while also compromising our skin's barrier and allowing more hydration out. This, in turn, makes it harder for the enzymes that work to repair day-to-day damage to our skin to do their job. So when you're feeling stressed, make sure you keep a bottle of water nearby! And avoid caffeinated beverages (yes, even coffee!) which further dehydrate your body.


Dull Skin

Pregnant women are often complimented on their "rosy" glow, which is caused by an increase in blood flow to their skin. Unfortunately, when we're stressed, we experience the opposite. As a part of our natural "fight or flight" instinct, the chemical epinephrine (or adrenaline) is released, decreasing blood flow as well as the important nutrients it brings to the skin. Want to get the blood pumping again? Get moving! Exercise is a great way to combat this effect, and it's also a great coping mechanism for stress.

-- note: see additional article about fighting dull skin (for normal folks, but maybe it could improve our dull state, too.)


De-stress to Keep Your Skin Healthy

Finding healthier ways to deal with stress can help keep the effects of cortisol and epinephrine at bay. What can you do?


Get more rest. Getting 6 to 8 hours a night can help keep cortisol in check. Is stress keeping you up at night? Try turning off all screens an hour before your bedtime, and read instead. The light from the screen can confuse your body's sleep cycle.


Relax. Yes, it's easier said than done but make a commitment to taking time away from work. Are you constantly checking your work email? Set aside times to turn your smartphone off, like dinner time and the weekends. You may be surprised by how much of a difference it can make for your mental state.


Find quiet time. Take a bath. Meditate. Do yoga. Or just try deep breathing exercises. Schedule this time just like you would any other activity. Often, by taking time for yourself, you'll find that you're better able to focus, enabling you to get more done anyway.


Laugh. Spend time with family and friends—and no, running errands together doesn't count! You may not have time to take a full-fledged vacation but you can take an hour or two here and there. Have a date night with your spouse, meet up with a friend during your lunch hour, or take your kids to the park. Make sure this time is spent with no work or other stressful distractions. Instead, focus on having a good time and unwinding.