The stress hormone cortisol and the skin

Have you ever noticed that you break out, or your skin becomes more reactive and sensitive when you are stressed? Maybe you get a flare-up of a previous skin condition or you come out in a rash? Stress can greatly affect our skin… When we are stressed our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol, this is a perfectly healthy bodily reaction to stress, we even need it to get our bodies up and moving in the morning. However, due to a demanding and busy modern life, we can become continuously stressed for long periods of time and we end up with an excess of cortisol in our systems, and this is when we might start to see signs of this showing up on our skin. The hormone cortisol can actually cause our sebaceous glands (glands in our skin that produce oil to keep our skin hydrated) to produce excess oil which can then lead to the clogging of pores where bacteria can thrive, which then leads to inflammation and acne breakouts. Chronic stress can be the direct cause of skin problems or it can cause flare-ups in existing skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea. Cortisol can cause inflammation on the skin, accelerate the ageing process by breaking down elastin and collagen and cause dryness and dehydration

When our skin is acting up, this can also be a cause of much stress and a vicious cycle can then occur, causing skin problems, then more stress, then more skin problems etc But do not worry! There is a solution! The great thing is, is there is a way out of this loop and it is all about managing and reducing our stress levels. There are many things we can do to minimise our cortisol levels and in turn, reduce and manage the skin problems that come along with it. By reducing stress we can pave the way to healthier and happier skin! So below is a list of things we can do in our day to day lives to bring cortisol levels down and reverse the effects of it on our skin. 1. Me time - make sure that you set time aside for yourself each day, whether that is to have a bath, read a magazine or book, listen to music, watch a tv programme, or even just do your skincare routine. Do something just for you! 2. Moderate exercise - try and do some exercise at least 3 times a week, even if it's just a gentle yoga practise or walk in nature. Exercise reduces levels of cortisol in the body and stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Moderate exercise also helps bring down cortisol levels at night helping us to get a better nights sleep. 3. Reduce caffeine intake - Studies in humans have shown that caffeine increases cortisol in the body. If you drink coffee or tea, try to reduce it to just one cup in the morning with food. Too much caffeine throughout the day or too late in the day can also affect our sleep, and lack of sleep leads to increased stress on the body. 4. Meditate - Meditation and breathing techniques are highly effective at relieving stress and just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference to general wellbeing. 5. Make time for your hobbies - do what you love and do it often! Hobbies can be very beneficial in lowering cortisol levels, they can take you away from what may be causing stress in your day to day life and give you something to look forward to after a hard week or a stressful day at work. Hobbies you can try to reduce stress levels include knitting, dancing, cooking, going to the movies, walking, swimming, listening to music.

6. Hugs - did you know a hug can relax your muscles, increase circulation and increases levels of ‘happy hormones’ serotonin and dopamine which can boost mood and bring about a sense of calm. So hug, hug and hug some more!

7. Take a break - remember that it is ok to take time for yourself if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed it is so important to look after yourself. Take a few days off work if you can, book in for a treatment, or book a weekend away to recharge yourself and bring those cortisol levels down. 8. Sleep - sleep is so important in the management of stress. Sleep deprivation increases cortisol levels so we must make sure we are getting a good 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Try to get into bed before 11pm and sleep before midnight, eat your last meal early in the evening and try to reduce screen time before bed as this can make us more alert. If you have trouble falling asleep, try a bath before bed, add some Epsom salts to relax your muscles and add some lavender essential oil which can be very calming. 9. Supplements to help reduce cortisol - here is a list of supplements that if eaten alongside a healthy diet can help reduce cortisol levels - Omega 3 Fish oil -Magnesium -Ashwagandha -Valerian root -Zinc Skincare for stressed-out skin When our skin is in a state of stress, sensitive, reactive or inflamed it so important to keep our skincare simple. Just stick to a simple cleanse and hydrate routine until our skin is stronger and calmer. Cleansing - Be gentle with your cleansing, use a cleanser that won't strip the skin of its natural protective oils. Something like the Oilixia Gummy Cleanser would be perfect, it gives a thorough cleanse whilst also feeding and supporting the skin helping to strengthen and keep it calm. Hydrating - Keeping the skin hydrated is a must whether you are experiencing oiliness and breakouts or dry and irritated skin. Hydrating the skin supports and strengthens the skins natural barrier function which is there to protect our skin from external aggressors such as pollution, UV rays and harsh weather, minimising sensitivity and irritation.

For more oily or acne-prone skin try the Nini Organics Natura Detox Oil - this lightweight oil helps regulate oil production whilst also soothing inflammation and tackling blemishes.

For skin that is feeling a bit more on the dehydrated or dry side try the Haeckels Eco Marine Facial Cream. This cream promotes healing and strengthens skin whilst restoring its natural suppleness and radiance. Especially rich in omega 3 and sterols it is soothing and anti-inflammatory. For very sensitive, irritated or very dry skin try the Skin and Tonic Naked Beauty Oil - this beautiful gentle fragrance free oil is rich in vitamins and omega oils to help heal, refine, hydrate and soothe dry and damaged skin. And a daily SPF is a must! Facials for stressed out skin Facials are really beneficial for skin that may be playing up due to stress, plus they are super relaxing and a great part of self-care. At re:lax all of our facials are suitable and beneficial for stressed-out skin, whether that be breakouts, rosacea or psoriasis. Our facials are tailored to your needs and are designed to be gentle but also designed to strengthen the skin and promote healing. We use hands-on techniques like massage and Gua She to promote lymph drainage and promote blood circulation which brings fresh nutrients and oxygen to the skin, helps to heal the skin and reduce inflammation. These techniques also promote elastin and collagen production further strengthening skin which will help reduce the severity of future breakouts and flare-ups. We also use tools such as LED light therapy and High Frequency. LED light therapy helps to reduce inflammation, promotes healing, promotes collagen and elastin production and kills the bacteria that causes breakouts. We love LED - just 10 minutes under the red light will give you a beautiful healthy glow! High Frequency is an electrical tool that was first developed for wound healing! It stimulates cell renewal by warming and oxygenating the skin. It helps reduce redness, inflammation and breakouts due to its ant-bacterial properties. A brightening wonder tool!

And not to forget! All of our treatments are super relaxing, containing lots of lovely face, head, neck, shoulder and foot massage to help you de-stress, switch off and reduce those cortisol levels. We hope to see you soon at re:lax for some ‘me time’ <3

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