Who isn’t stressed today, that’s sort of part & parcel of modern life. Most people don’t stress out over being stressed. So it has been a surprising discovery of what all and how much stress can impact our health. It sounds almost made up when that stress can have this much impact on us.
Stress, that sneaky saboteur, doesn't stop at messing with our moods—it impacts physical health and yes, skin.
The Impact of Stress on Your Skin
If a hormone could be called a stress hormone, it would be Cortisol. While cortisol does other things, elevated cortisol is an almost exclusive signature of stress - it’s like how high insulin is associated with diabetes.
When the cortisol runs high, it triggers the skin to produce less of the beneficial oils. Less oil means nothing prevents water within the skin layers from coming out and dehydrating the skin.
At the same time, it triggers excess sebum - notice how you get oily-skinned when nervous. Excess sebum & loss of water throws off the acidic pH of the skin. Once that’s disrupted, there’s a cascading effect that finally settles into a damaged barrier.
The tiny bacteria on your skin help take care of it - thrive in acidic pH. Under ideal conditions, the microbiome renders topical skin care almost unnecessary. There are microbes that feed off sebum, which helps sustain healthy oil levels. There are microbes that feed off dead skin cells — the original exfoliators!
There are microbes that produce peptides and ceramides, two buzzed-about beauty ingredients that keep skin firm and moisturized. There are microbes that offer protection from pollution, sunlight and invading pathogens.
But when the pH & the microbiome is disrupted, it results in all those benefits being gone and the growth of bad bacteria.
Managing Stress for Healthy Skin
It’s clear why stress management is also important for your skin (in addition to your mental health). So here’s your cheat sheet for what to do when you are stressed and trying to fix it but don’t want your skin to be impacted:
- Declutter your skincare: That means no more 7-step/10-step skincare routine. Go back to a simple 3-step skin-supporting routine of cleanser, moisturiser and SPF like Put Simply’s Barrier Hero Bundle.
- Stay active but stay away from actives: Movement, workout, dancing etc increase happy hormones and reduce stress. But using actives like AHAs, BHAs, Retinol, and Benzoyl Peroxide on damaged skin barrier can make matters worse.
- Avoid skincare with essential oils & fragrances: A lot of smells and essential oils are touted to help with stress and relaxation but they can be traumatic for your skin. So keep your essential oils and fragrances for diffusers and use fragrance-free skincare.
- Do not scratch your skin: Avoid touching your face and any skin area that’s itching. If you want to soothe it, try using ice or refrigerated spoons to reduce redness, irritation & itching
- Sunscreen - your skin's ultimate wingman: The compromised barrier is more prone to UV damage. Dunk your skin in sunscreen. Hate greasy & heavy feeling sunscreen. Try Beat the Sun - with SPF 50 PA++++ sun protection, it is white cast free, non-greasy, serum-like sunscreen that feels weightless.
Of course, fighting stress is the key and here are low-effort ways to manage it:
- Beauty sleep is non-negotiable: Sleep like royalty and wake up looking fresh. If there’s one thing you can do today that will have the greatest impact on your brain, skin & body, it’s getting enough quality sleep. Costs nothing and requires zero effort. We don’t know a better skincare product.
- Unleash the Zen master within: Channel your inner Buddha and find your happy place. Embrace relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. Numerous studies show the immense benefits of these practices on anxiety & stress.
- Eat better: You are what you eat. Your body fuels itself with what you put in it. If you have unhealthy food, your gut microbiome will suffer and affect your skin.
There’s a lot we are still understanding about stress, microbiome, sleep, gut health and skin. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear, skin is not a standalone organ. It is part of a complex interconnected system that is impacted by your overall well-being more than the skincare routine and expensive products you use.
And if you can only do one thing from this post, then sleep better. There’s a reason why sleeping beauty was a beauty. She knew sleep impacted her beauty!