Whether you feel that you are living in the United States of Anxiety or that it’s merely the season to be stressed out (the holiday shopping, the parties, the time with extended family — need I say more?), there is no doubt that most of us are feeling more than a little harried. It turns out that stress can literally get under your skin, causing breakouts, premature aging, thinning hair and other not-so-pretty symptoms. Many nerve endings are connected to the skin and as emotions are played out neurologically, they can be expressed through the skin as well. Take a deep breath, then keep scrolling to learn the ways in which the mind affects your looks, plus how to stop the effects of stress on your skin.
Jaw tension and lip lines
I’ll start by fessing up to the fact that my tension expresses itself in my jaw. It gets tight, my lips purse and twist and, yes, I am a night grinder. I have now come to realize that my lip lines — my hated lip lines — are the direct result of stress. My dentist is sympathetic and keen on meditation. I followed his advice and, while I can’t say that I am devotee of meditation, I’m consciously trying to be aware of jaw clenching and lip pursing so that I can take a few breaths and relax my features. I still need as much help as I can get from anti-aging serums, but I like the idea that I am to manage my stress as well. I’m currently using Ao Skincare Rewind Retinal ($119.95 in the shop), which uses buffered retinal, to delicately treat the pesky lines that form around the mouth.
Typically, we should shed about 100 hairs a day. Stress causes your hair to go from the growing phase to the resting phase to the falling-out phase quicker, accelerating its natural cycle. The cause can be physical stress due to a change in diet or medication, or a hormonal change. Or it can be the result of — you guessed it — extreme emotional stress. Natural hair growth treatments like my Truth Vitality Advanced Complex ($59 in the shop) can help encourage stronger and longer growth, as well as reduce shedding.
Vertical lines are common on nails and are mostly due to dryness. A nourishing hand cream or oil used daily will make a big difference. In some cases, they may indicate a lack in certain vitamins, but they're harmless, according to docs. Horizontal ridges that, on the other hand, are called Beau's lines and tend to appear when the body is compromised from stress. Treat them to a strengthening mani and Deciem Hand Therapy Retin Oil ($20 in the shop).
Eleven line and crow’s feet
Squinting and frowning are telltale signs of stress and will result in those vertical lines between the eyebrows, commonly called 11s or periorbital lines. Of course, you could always try one of those sticky tape solutions, but that would be social death. So try to catch yourself doing it and relax your facial muscles. You’ll be pleased to know that help does come in a bottle with a class of peptides, known as neuropeptides, that inhibit expression lines. Find them in ClarityRx Get Fit Serum ($119 in the shop).
Stress releases cortisol, a steroid hormone which creates a hormonal imbalance that increases the production of oil in the skin. The result is often breakouts on your face or body that take the form of rashes, pimples or hives. Keep things in check with a soothing day cream. Try Your Best Face Balance ($45 in the shop); it uses niacin to absorb excess oil and vitamin B5 to treat acne while helping to prevent new breakouts.
Dry, flaky skin
Stress-released cortisol can also prevent your skin from retaining moisture and can trigger an elevation in blood sugar, which — via a process called glycation — damages collagen and elastin. The result is dry, flaky and lined skin. A helpful ingredient is hyaluronic acid, which is able to retain 1000 times its molecular weight in water. I’m a fan of Your Best Face Hydrate B ($45 in the shop) when my skin is dry and dull.