You probably know that stress is bad for your health. But bringing your stress levels down isn’t easy. It can be a daily battle, and it takes work. If you need more motivation to fight rising stress levels, here’s another fact –– over time, stress also ages your skin.
You might be using a range of amazing skin care products to combat the visible signs of aging, but if your cortisol levels are raging from stress, it may be undoing all that good work.
A Refresher on Cortisol: A Stress Hormone
Your body has a natural fight-or-flight response that kicks in if it thinks you’re in danger. This stress response causes your body to suddenly release a burst of stress hormones – like cortisol and adrenaline – into your bloodstream.
In that moment, these hormones bring you closest to being superhuman. Your concentration, ability to react, and strength suddenly step up. Humans have experienced this reaction to stress since the dawn of time, and it was superb for running from wooly mammoths and tigers.
Today, humans have fewer reasons to need these survival hormones – thankfully.
But, unfortunately, psychological stress has the ability to trigger these hormones AS IF you’re under attack.
And, if you’re constantly suffering from high stress levels, these hormones are constantly being released into your bloodstream.1
How Stress Levels Age Your Skin
When you’re stressed, several factors come into play that can wreak havoc with your looks. Here are several ways that stress can age your skin.
It Can Cause Premature Wrinkles
When you’re stressed and anxious, you tend to frown and furrow your brow. This frequent frowning can cause wrinkles to appear sooner than they might otherwise.
These lines are formed, over time, by the repeated action of frowning combined with a decline in elasticity in aging skin.2
It Can Worsen Your Skin’s Condition
Whether you’re suffering from short-term acute stress, or long-term chronic stress, both trigger your body to pump out excess cortisol. And, cortisol can really mess with other hormones and processes.
For example, cortisol can set off a reaction that stimulates excess oil production and lowers the skin barrier function. This can lead to breakouts or worsening skin conditions.3,4 Have you ever noticed that you break out more, or have more skin problems, when you’re stressed out? This is why.
It Can Slow Cell Renewal
Stress levels and a flood of cortisol may also slow your skin’s ability to turn its cells over. This turnover is what allows new skin to come to the surface. Many anti-aging skin care products target this renewal process to help bring younger-looking skin to the surface for a brighter complexion.
This turnover of skin cells also helps to heal wounds. So, if you’ve been breaking out, those blemishes may also take a lot longer to heal.5
If this renewal process slows down, you may also face dry flaky skin, which can worsen the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
It Can Cause Premature Aging on a Deep Cellular Level
Research has shown that higher stress levels are associated with shorter telomere length. Now, telomeres are little pieces of age-identifying DNA that sit like caps on the ends of your chromosomes. It’s how scientists can tell how old cells are.
But here’s the thing – shorter telomeres have been linked to things like reduced lifespan and a decreased ability to recover from wounds. In fact, researchers in one study found that highly-stressed women had the same telomere length as women who were a whole decade older!6
What To Do About Stress Levels and Your Skin
So, now that you know that stress levels raise cortisol, and that high cortisol levels can really age your skin, what’s to be done?
Combating stress isn’t always easy. And we can’t control when a stressful event may arise. But it’s absolutely essential for the health of your skin (and your entire body) to find ways to fight back.
Here are six proven ways to start beating away at that psychological stress once and for all:
- Get Regular Exercise – Time and time again, exercise has shown a remarkable ability to fight stress, boost mood, and elevate health. It’s also been shown to give you glowing skin.
- Learn to Breathe Deeply – Whether you choose to meditate, or just learn to really breathe, deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Which means it basically applies the brakes to stress. You can’t physically breathe deeply and be anxious at the same time.
- Accept What You Can’t Change – If you can’t change whatever’s stressing you out, find a way to stop fighting it and accept this fact. Then, move on to the next step.
- Change the Things You Can – Now, what aspect of your stressful situation can you change? There’s always something – even if it’s just the way you choose to react to the situation.
- Limit Your Daily Caffeine Intake – Too much caffeine can cause anxiety and interrupt your anti-aging beauty sleep.
- Challenge Yourself – Fear and anxiety breed stress. Can you flip your situation on its head and see it as a challenge instead? It’s the difference between giving in to, or fighting to overcome, adversity.7
Long-Term Stress Levels, Cortisol and Skin Aging
The effects of stress levels – whether acute stress or chronic stress – are always detrimental to your health. The only time that this excessive cortisol is not detrimental is when you’re in actual danger.
High stress levels play havoc with your immune response. Stress can also cause sleep deprivation, worsen skin conditions, delay wound healing, slow skin renewal, mess with your cellular DNA, and cause premature wrinkles. And, that’s just scraping the surface.
All of these effects can make you appear much older than your actual years. And, no one wants that!
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