You stand facing your frustrated reflection in the bathroom mirror.
You: “Why Skin Gods! Why today…”
Skin Gods: *silence*
You: “My presentation is today! A break out on today of all days!”
Skin Gods: *distant laughing* lol.. mortal, you did this… not us…
“No” you decide and begin rifling through drawers of expensive skin creams. You channel your inner alchemist as you start formulating a 15 min longshot miracle.
Skincare vials, tubes and bottles pile up on the counter when suddenly you notice a very happy little blue human-like person peeking around one of the bottles. It offers a familiar smile and strolls casually into view.
Blue: “Oh no… thats a hell of a pimple you have there.”
You: “Shut up! What are you — and what are you doing in my bathroom!?”
Blue: “Why don’t we stop playing with these expensive topicals and I’ll tell you a little secret about that breakout you are having.”
You: “I’m desperate… so tell me your secret or I will feed you to my cat.”
The little blue being smiles happily and begins to flutter its arms in a wave motion.
Blue:“Great! We are going two weeks into the past where this all began…”
You: “2 Weeks! Wait!… I have a huge presentation this morning, I don’t have time for this bullsh…”
You find yourself in your office watching a conversation that happened between you and your colleague 2 weeks earlier. She is asking you to take on the presentation for the upcoming client meeting. Your team has been working on this for months.
Blue: “This is the moment where your outbreak started”
You: “How does this make any sense, this was weeks ago…?”
Blue: “I thought you would feel this way, let me explain the chain reaction that leads to the breakout.”
A quick wave of Blues hands the you of 2 weeks ago becomes translucent revealing your nervous system…
You: “Oh for gods sake… gross… this is traumatizing”
Blue: “Lol, pay attention please. Look at your brain, see all that activity?
When you were put you on the spot and asked to take on an uncomfortable situation your brain sensed danger and started producing stress hormones.
“This isn’t bad, in fact, this is great. We want our bodies to do this when confronted with a challenge. It gives us a bolt of energy to take action. Our brains figured this awesome trick out in ancient times when we were running away from wild animals. As soon as we escaped certain death our brain would send out signals that said “Yay, we are safe” and you would enter a more relaxed state.
However… in today’s modern world there are not wild animals trying to eat us. Instead, it’s a “future perceived danger” that is largely imagined. This creates a problem, our brain wasn’t built to naturally manage this continuous stress response. You basically existed in a moderately stressed state for the entire 2 weeks leading up to the presentation.
But where you really messed up was not managing this stress at all, in fact, what you did for those 2 weeks actually increased your stress further.
You poured all your time into that presentation. This caused you to miss workouts, eat grab-and-go processed foods, lose out on a ton of sleep, and not one second was spent on any self-care.
Then you looked in the mirror this morning and saw the stress manifesting on your face.”
You: “All this is true… but I don’t understand how stress literately caused my skin to breakout.”
Blue: “I can explain that with some really simple science.”
Stress & Skin Chain Reaction
Step 1 – Your upcoming presentation kicks off the stress response. Your brain releases the 3 stress hormones: adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. You get a spike of energy and focus to overcome “the danger” sweet… kinda.
Step 2 – Since the “the danger” isn’t immediate but you are still aware of it, your brain decides to keep releasing stress hormones… just in case you need them.
Step 3 – These stress hormones are like your internal hype men that are constantly getting you ready for action. This turns down your ability to relax and repair.
For example, sweat gland activity increases and releases water, which begins to dehydrate your skin. At the same time, your skin oil glands increase production, a double whammy. Everyone is different, but the outcome is dry skin, oily skin, or dry and oily skin. None are good.
Additionally, this active state makes falling and staying asleep difficult. Losing out on sleep further accelerates all of the damaging effects of this stress response.
Step 4 – These stress hormones also tell your blood to forget about the skin and focus on going to muscles. This is because responsive muscles are more important than skin when we are in danger.
This decrease in blood flow negatively affects skin health and repair functions further.
Step 4 – Several weeks of stress hormones will start overpowering your gut bacteria, creating an imbalance that can cause issues throughout your body.
Step 5 – Now that your insides are completely distracted and worn down, your immune system starts getting neglected. A compromised immune system cannot fight off invading bacteria/viruses.
Step 6 – Eventually your body has ignored skin repair long enough to start showing the signs of a breakout. You can see this doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a process that builds.
Importantly, we are just talking about negative short-term skin effects, but having an ongoing stress response will negatively affect mental health, libido, accelerate aging, and much more.
Here is the good news… there are ways you can stop all this damage, and it does not involve having to buy expensive topicals that don’t even address the underlying issue.
We need to decrease your body’s overreacting stress response!
External ways to lower the stress hormones that negatively affect your skin.
For a lot of this is a loaded word that sounds uncomfortable or scary. Exercise does not have to mean lifting weights in a gym.
It can just be constant in movement for a period of time.
On the low energy side, a brisk walk with a friend or pet preferably in nature while listening to some peaceful music. On the high energy side, this can be a 45 min high-intensity interval training. Just find out what feels right for you and do it consistently.
Short workouts will increase acute stress hormones to lift your energy up for the workout. At the same time, you will release a host of other hormones that level out the amount of the stress hormones naturally.
The increase in blood circulation from your workout will also counteract the natural restriction of blood circulation from the stress response.
Our workouts can act as a mental release of the built-up stress from the day. Remember these stress hormones are wanting you to move and take action. Mentally you will feel much better after processing through that energy actively.
Exercise will lead to lower stress hormone levels at night which will prep us for our very important sleep.
Important note: In times of high stress its smart to not overdo the physical exertion, and you will want to make sure to cleanse your skin of any sweat residue right after your workout is over.
Sleep is the time in which our mind and body recover.
Our stress hormones decrease when we sleep, and they increase when we miss sleep. These are the same stress hormones that eventually wreck your skin.
Any damage your skin takes externally or internally throughout the day is getting accelerated repair while you sleep. This includes stress that leads to breakouts.
Sex is one of the healthiest activities we can do.
Benefit: It is a physical workout (see exercise above), it releases endorphins, engages deep breathing, and involves touch which is a powerful means of feeling connected. All of these have a positive effect on lowering stress levels.
Now, if you are single this may not be an option. So the other way of getting the same benefits is to practice deep breathing while stretching, do a quick workout, and then get a massage. Not quite as fun, but the outcome is also great.
Internal ways to lower the stress hormones that negatively affect your skin.
A high quality CBD oil like Jupiter is often called the magic button for stress relief. This is because it can immediately lower your body’s overall stress response.
When you take CBD to lower your stress it becomes much easier to not obsess over the “intangible” dangers facing you at work or home. You are able to focus on what you should do, and not worry as much about other things.
By dropping your stress immediately it’s is much easier to fall and stay asleep. This gives your body the time to repair damage and balance you for the next day.
It’s obvious that drinking water is good for your skin, but the less obvious benefit is how water lowers the stress that damages your skin. Studies have shown that stress hormones begin increasing when you are in a dehydrated state. This dehydrated state begins long before you start feeling thirsty. So make drinking water a habit that you do throughout the day.
This is my least favorite one… When we are stressed, our willpower drops and sugary junk food / processed food sounds wonderful. But this type of food will actually increase your stress levels. *sigh*
One of the stress hormones is called cortisol. It plays a major role in the stress response, but it also has the job of managing our blood sugar level. So when you eat a candy bar, the sugar enters your blood and your brain has to increase cortisol levels to balance out your blood sugar… I know, this sucks to hear. Guess what else does this to your blood sugar… processed carbs. So yeah, basically junk food and processed food is going to exaggerate your stress response.
On the other side, these types of foods can be a mini mouth vacation for us. The best advice is to moderate the amount, especially in times of high stress.
Blue: So now you see that the health and appearance of your skin are directly linked to your stress levels. An overall better complexion is your reward for keeping daily stress in check.
Don’t wait until you are face to face with a breakout to start managing your stress. Preventing a breakout is much easier than resolving one that’s already got momentum.