“Well, you know, there’s the government shutdown, the debt ceiling default, not to mention the ongoing nightmares I have after seeing Gravity in full terror-inducing 3D. I’m feeling kind of grim and stressed,” I wrote in response to a cheery “how are you email” from a friend in the UK. 

It doesn’t help me to know that stress is aging. I’m tempted to write to Sandra Bullock and see if she’ll slip me the name of whoever did her Botox (I know that there is no gravity in space, but her face barely moved in 90 minutes).

Only last year, there was a study published by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who found a biological link between stress and accelerated aging after examining the chromosomes of 5,243 women aged 42 to 69 participating in the Nurses' Health Study. Anything from spiders, social situations, squabbling politicians, fear of outer space.... stoke stress and, according to the research, anxiety shortens our telomeres.

Now here's why you should worry (goodness, this is a vicious circle) about your telomeres. Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes on the ends of chromosomes. They allow cells to distinguish chromosome ends from broken DNA. If DNA is broken there are two options after the cell cycle is stopped: Repair or death. When the telomeres get very short, they trigger cell crisis and cell death. So that is why you don't want to get stressed out and speed up the shortening process.

De-stress and reverse aging

The good news is that if you can de-stress, eat whole foods, exercise and choose the right skin care, your telomeres may actually start to lengthen. Researchers at the University of California lifestyle changes can lengthen the telomeres in just three months.

Let there be light: A cheerful outlook combats stress and if you need a little help in that department, consider that a great mood enhancer is light (which of course is why we are glad to see the back of gloom-enhancing short winter days. LED light therapy is used to combat depression, especially seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Traditionally, white LED light was used and, recently, red, green and amber have been found to perk a person up. I reccomend Ultra Renew Plus ($159 in the shop)

Put Renovage in your beauty routine: Teprenone, or Renovage, is a cosmetic anti-aging ingredient that may not lengthen telomeres, but it is supposed to stabilize them. There’s a chemical from the astragalus root, frequently used in Chinese herbal therapy, can prevent or slow progressive telomere shortening. Serums with teprenone (Renovage) or astragalus extract include: Chella Master Protocol 7 Cellular Defense ($135); Medik8 Red Alert Solution ($60 in the shop); Osmotics Renovage Cellular Longevity Serum($85); Your Best Face Correct eye serum ($150 in the shop); and Prana Reishi Shield ($42 in the shop) and M.A.D. Skincare Youth Transformation Age Corrective Serum ($60).

Pamper stress away: Face masks say “me time” and Eslor Comforting Mask ($38) stands out as one of the more relaxing with seaweed extracts, aloe vera gel, kaolin, and glycerin. Described by our reviewer as sent by the skin goddess, Your Best Face Private Reserve ($75 for 1.7oz in the shop) will give your skin a dewy and refreshed look and, appropriately comes in a special blend called Comfort.

Beat the by-products of stress

Stress-related breakouts: If stress causes your skin to protest, then get some relief with Astara Flame Purification Mask ($42 in the shop). I’ve controlled a breakout in 10 minutes with this magical stuff. Another seriously good breakout beater is Envy Medical’s Skin Clarifying Acne Treatment Pads ($25 in the TIA shop), and, of course, daily cleansing with a power brush such as Ultra Clear Facial Cleansing System ($86 in the shop) will keep pores free of zit-inducing debris and the action is really relaxing to boot.

Stress-related hair loss: If you are literally (if unintentionally) pulling out your hair with worry, regular use of a hair growth serum will likely help. The most effective active ingredient that I have found for hair growth is copper peptides and you’ll find it in Truth Vitality Hair Vitality Complex ($49 in the shop) and Skin Biology Folligen ($22 in the shop)

Worry lines: If life is causing you to furrow your brow and knit in those 11 lines then hit serums with growth factors and/or Matrixyl 3000: Medik8 Growth Factor Youth Activating Serum ($160 in the shop); like Medik8, Skinfinite Peptide Repair Serum ($69 in the shop) also has oligopeptide-1, but in this case it is recombitant human (rH); for the power peptide Matrixyl 3000, there’s MD Solar Sciences Evening Facial Repair Serum ($96).