Welcome to Week 5 – Don’t let stress sap your skin!

This week we will change pace a little and focus on your lifestyle and in particular how stress can impact your skin.  Your emotions have a significant effect on your skin.   A fairly new field of medicine called psychodermatology focuses on the intricacies of the mind-skin connection.   Doctors who specialize in psychodermatology treat skin problems that are caused or worsened by stress.

When a person becomes stressed, the level of the body’s stress hormone called cortisol rises. This increase signals your sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which leads to oily skin and acne.  Stress also makes it more difficult for skin to heal because it reduces the barrier function of the skin resulting in water loss and an inability to repair damage after injury.  As you know, you skin is your first line of defense from all sorts of environmental toxins – from UV radiation to pollutants.  Keeping your skin healthy is critical to maintain overall health.

In addition, the extra cortisol causes a biochemical reaction which depletes your C and B vitamin stores.  (Remember … vitamin C is required for collagen formation.)   Therefore, when under stress, it’s even more important to eat 5-7 servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables per day and consider some supplementation as well.

The challenge for this week is to take small steps to manage your stress.  We will be posting ideas all week, but here are some ways you can get started:

  • We are all busy, but take time to just be!  Even if it’s just 10 minutes per day, find a quiet spot, sit and just relax and meditate.  Some like to use guided meditations that can be downloaded to your iPod, while others use this time to pray or just sit quietly and reflect on the day.

  • Keep a gratitude journal.  Studies tell us that the simple act of being thankful causes a reduction in stress hormones.  Put a journal next to you bed and at the end of the day write down three things that you are thankful for.  Be open to the small things – think beyond just being thankful for your family and friends.  Are you thankful that the traffic was light today?  Did it make you feel happy to see the beautiful blue sky this morning?  Look around and reflect on the small things that enrich your life.

  • Exercise!  Find time every day for physical activity.  Physical activity helps to increase the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.  Even if you only have 10 minutes, take a walk, do some sit-ups and push-ups or yoga poses.  You don’t have to put in 1 hour at the gym to realize the benefits – just move your body.

This week let’s really try to relax, reflect and manage our stress.  Stress impacts our body and our skin in so many ways.  Eating well by following the recommendations in weeks 1-4, along with some small stress management techniques will help you to achieve healthy skin as we continue along in the Healthy Skin Challenge.