Got zero energy? Noticing a few bothersome blemishes here and there? Having trouble sleeping? Just feeling a bit ‘blah’ in general? These are all signs you could be stressed.
While for some, stress manifests in the inability to sleep (I've got my hand up over here!), hair loss or accidentally eating a tub (or two) of ice cream, another part of your body that takes a hit is your skin.
That’s because stress triggers a chemical response in your body, which can make your skin more sensitive and reactive, and then some.
Most of this has to do with your body's response to stress, which is to over-produce a hormone called cortisol.
Your body is constantly creating cortisol, and before you get too worried about that, you should know that cortisol is actually a very important hormone that does some cool stuff in your body. It does things like controlling blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and increasing your ability to metabolise glucose (sugar).
So some cortisol is good. But too much can lead to problems.
When cortisol spikes following a stressful event, it sends your nervous system into fight or flight mode. Which is great if it just so happens you’re being chased by a giant bear or need to perform some super-human feat.
On the other hand, if there are no bears out today, stress can seriously mess with your body. Yep, looming deadlines and a hectic lifestyle can send your cortisol levels off the chart and have longer term impacts on your health!
Unlike adrenaline, which returns to normal levels after a stressful episode, cortisol can remain elevated over a longer period of time.
What does this mean for your skin?
Well, a rise in cortisol can mean increased oil production, which can lead to clogged pores, acne flare-ups and pesky pimples.
It can also cause increased blood flow, bringing with it facial flushing and puffiness.
Anyone with a pre-existing skin condition, such as acne, eczema, rosacea or psoriasis, knows all too well that the stress-skin connection is the real deal.
Have you noticed that when your to-do list spirals out of control you might experience rashes, inflammation or increased sensitivity? Or perhaps when you have a fiasco amongst your friends, your rosacea rears its annoying head.
This is because stress and elevated cortisol levels cause inflammation in your body, which acts like an irritating younger brother and makes you your skin freak out.
It doesn't stop there: stress can extend to excessive dryness, chapped lips, and a dull complexion. That’s because cortisol diminishes your body's ability to retain water, so your skin can become dull and dehydrated when under constant stress.
It also can lead to rapid ageing, loss of skin radiance and elasticity, and uneven skin texture due to restricted oxygen levels.
And while being stressed out isn’t always the root cause of your skin concerns, if you're already prone to a particular concern, you're more likely to see them bubble up during a stressful period.
Is there a quick fix for stressed-out skin?
Because we all have unique and changeable skin, stress-induced symptoms can present differently in everyone.
Yet the common ground is that no amount of concealer or moisturiser will help.
Even if you treat your body like a temple and splurge on all the quality skincare products your bank balance can buy, if you're stressed, your skin simply can't function as well as it should.
This decrease in optimum skin function means your products can stop being as effective as normal, which kind of sucks if you’re spending serious cashola on them.
The last thing we need on top of stress is skin that makes us stressed out, too!
The effects of stress build upon one another. The longer you're stressed, the worse your symptoms will get.
So while we wish it were as simple as a week of early nights and drinking water non-stop, maintaining good skin takes work.
Think of repairing and preventing stressed-out skin as more of a slow and steady marathon than a quick-fix sprint.
So what’s the solution, then?
While it’s hard to completely stomp out stress altogether, there are things you can do to help manage it and keep your skin feeling a little more ‘spa-aah’ and a little less ‘blah’.
The first step is to recognise the early signs of stress - before things totally spiral out of control.
The next step is to look at the root cause of your stress levels, and once you've got your head around that, you'll be better equipped to figure out how to manage it.
Then, find ways to bliss out and give yourself lots of TLC.
You could also try going for a walk to help clear the clutter from your mind. How about watching a hilarious movie? Treat yourself to a massage. Sign up for a yoga class or try meditation (you can do these online!).
Sticking to a regular skin regimen can also prevent stress from screwing with your skin. Sure, it won’t stop it completely, but it might lessen the impact of flare-ups.
Grab a bunch of your favourite Happy products and indulge in some relaxing skin rituals. Our ‘Cloud 9’ Deep Cleansing Balmis perfect for stress-associated skin concerns like dryness, sensitivity, flaking and redness.
Or kick back and enjoy some ‘me time’ with the help of our ‘Pig-in-Mud’ Mineral Mask. It does a bonza job at helping skin recover from breakouts, plus it can help rebalance the skin and improve its tone.
Life can be stressful - there's no two ways about it.
But the stress won't end unless you take steps to address it, so do that first — and the rest will follow.
With the right treatments, lifestyle and routine, you’ll be able to see real progress over time and come out on top, with the glowing skin to show for it!