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Ten Signs That Your Skin is Responding Negatively to Stress*

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    With the exam season coming to an end, some of us may have experienced changes in our skin which are clearly stress related. This thread will help you to recognise signs that your skin may be stressed and what you can do to relieve it. Open discussion on this topic is warmly welcomed.

    Stress can causes spots due to an increase in the hormone 'cortisol' being released. In turn your skin produces more oil and even if you don't normally suffer with spots, there is a good chance that your skin will still suffer a breakout. Other factors that may aggravate your skin during this stressful period include a lack of exercise, poor diet and late nights. Repairing skin works best with a two-pronged approach that includes internal and external fixes.


    1. You may experience a sudden outbreak of stress related acne. This is due to your skin becoming oilier and the release of cortisol. Cortisol also damages collagen and elastin, the protein fibres that plump the skin and keep it smooth.

    2. Lines and wrinkles may become more obvious. This is due to dryness and dehydration. In addition, stressed facial expressions can cause deep lines. Constant facial muscle tension leads to permanent wrinkling.

    3. Your skin may become pale and lose its natural radiant glow. In addition, dark rings or bags may form under eyes due to lack of sleep.

    4. You suddenly start to react to products you may have been using for years.

    5. A lack of exercise can causes a lack of blood circulation. This goes on to cause a build-up of toxins under the skin due to poor lymph circulation. This can also cause swollen bags under the eyes or general puffy and dull skin appearance

    6. You may experience a sudden outbreak of eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis or irritated skin conditions.

    7. Severe stress can cause temporary hair loss. Synthetic chemical shampoos can exacerbate the condition.

    8. You may experience brittle, peeling nails.

    9. You may experience hives, skin rashes and even trigger a flare-up of fever blisters.

    10. You may experience increased skin redness caused by the expansion of capillaries as stress weakens the skin’s immune system.



    1. Treat Greasy Skin and Breakouts

    i. Unclog your pores
    Rather than use a scrub as an exfoliant to clear pores which can harbour bacteria, use a product with lactic acid. Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). It hydrates the skin and removes dead skin cells.

    ii. Use a face mask
    These help to absorb excess oil

    iii. Treat blemishes
    A gel containing salicylic acid is effective at treating the area directly.

    2. Treating Dryness

    i. Add moisture
    Hyaluronic acid is often referred to as 'the fountain of youth'. It is able to hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water and is most often found in serums and face creams. It helps to keep skin hydrated, smooth and plump.

    ii. Prevent moisture loss
    Avoid using skin care products that contain alcohol, avoid over exposure to dry air e.g. air conditioning and moisturise immediately after bathing, showering or washing your hands

    3. Treat Wrinkles and Fine Lines

    i. Use Sunscreen
    Sunscreen is very important, since when you're stressed, "the dead cell layer on the skin's surface becomes thin and develops tiny holes in it . Therefore you are not protected against ageing UV rays. SPF is an effective preventative tool to use in prevention of wrinkles but it cannot reverse what has been done. It is important to look out for the UVA star rating as well as the SPF on your sunscreen bottle – a rating of five stars offers the best protection against the sun's aging UVA rays.

    ii. Use products containing Vitamin A
    Vitamin A helps to reverse the signs of ageing by rebuilding collagen, reducing fine line and wrinkles and repairing sun damage.

    iii. Use Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)
    AHAs e.g. glycolic, lactic or salicylic acid lift away the top layer of dead skin cells, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, particularly around the eyes. In higher concentrations, AHAs may help stimulate collagen production. When applied as topical exfoliants they resurface the epidermis allowing better product penetration. Glycolic and Lactic are better for dry skins. Salicylic is good for oily/combination skin.

    iv. Use Vitamin C Cream
    Vitamin C increases collagen production, protects against damage from UVA and UVB rays, correct pigmentation problems, and improve inflammatory skin conditions. L-ascorbic acid is the form of vitamin C which is the most potent for wrinkle relief.

    v. Use Chemical Peels
    A chemical is used to "burn" away the top layer of skin, creating damage that causes the body to respond by making more collagen. The end result is younger-looking, smoother skin.

    vi. Use Dermabrasion
    Dermabrasion helps remove the top layer of skin cells and bring new, more evenly textured skin to the surface. Therefore fine lines and wrinkles seem to disappear.


    1. Reduce stress in your immediate environment
    Whilst trying to get your skin back on track, try to keep other sources of stress at a minimum. For example, reduce / adjust your engagement with social media, outsource tasks/projects, set realistic goals for what may seem a mundane task e.g. housework

    2. Eat consciously
    i. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Processed foods can worsen skin by causing inflammation. Therefore eat raw fruits and vegetables as they contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory benefits. Antioxidants protects the skin against free radicals, thus slowing down the ageing process.

    ii. Foods rich in amino acids e.g. beans, seeds encourage collagen production.

    iii. Vitamin A is an antioxidant and plays an important role in skin cell formation.

    iv. Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant that helps to prevent premature ageing and promotes smooth, supple skin. Vitamin E helps vitamin A to work on your skin, thereby helping acne.

    v. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids: These are obtained from oily fish and help the skin to be healthier and less inflamed.

    vi. Niacinamide or Vitamin B3: Vitamin B3 helps acne by reducing skin inflammation and improving the skin’s ability to be a protective barrier.

    vii. Vitamin C: This vitamin is a natural antioxidant and is needed for healthy blood vessels, collagen and joint health, and for reducing inflamed acne. It may help reduce scar severity after acne by helping to make new collagen in your skin.

    Do you recognise these signs of stress on your skin? How have you managed them? Have you tried some of the fixes above or do you have fixes of your own? If these fixes may be of help to you right now, do keep us posted on your progress....

    Disclaimer: Depending on your skin type, some of the fixes listed above may not be appropriate. This post is for general informational purposes only.
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