Today's post is the third post in a series of six tackling the lifestyle factors (outside of diet) that affect the skin. We have known for a long time that there is a gut-brain connection, but did you know that there is what is called the brain-skin connection? They are all tied together in the brain-gut-skin axis. This axis is the connection between the gut microbiome and the brain's emotional state (we know that serotonin, a mood modulation neurotransmitter, is primarily located in the gut) and the skin's physical state. The skin has a pretty immediate stress response. You can see this when you get embarrassed, and your skin might begin to flush. The brain and the skin are intimately intertwined, and many people who have chronic skin issues can tell you that emotional distress is often a trigger.
Acute stress, lasting just a few minutes, is a normal bodily reaction. It's there to save our life if need be. The problem is chronic stress, the state that many of us live in today. Just scroll through the comment section of a news article online; you will feel the effects of stress when you aren't actually in danger! (Just kidding, don't do this, it's terrible for your skin). The stress hormone cortisol almost immediately increases inflammation in the skin. This inflammation decreases blood circulation and irritates the nerves in the skin, which increases inflammation. The immune system jumps into action to help here, which can trigger inflammatory responses such as rosacea, acne, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis (eczema). From this, you see a breakdown in collagen, a decrease in skin moisturizing and plumping lipids, the skin's ability to repair itself is impaired. When we are stressed, our skin may look dull, lackluster, flakey, blotchy, red, and have the appearance of broken blood vessels. Conversely, emotions that are more positive, like happiness, release endorphins and neurotransmitters, reducing skin inflammation.
If this resonates with you, know that you are not alone. 50% of those with acne, 80% of those with eczema, and 90% of people with rosacea tie it to an emotional trigger. It makes sense that most people's skin issues do not respond to product application alone. I think of topical products as the icing on top of the lifestyle cake when skincare. Read on to check out some tools for your toolkit to reduce cortisol levels and calming the skin's inflammatory response.
Skin affirmations- I'm telling you this works! What you speak out regularly changes your beliefs and your brain through neuroplasticity, as we have seen, the power of the brain on the body.
Some of my favorites include: I trust the healing process. "My skin is healthier and healthier each day." "I love taking care of my skin." "I am grateful for all that my skin does for me."
Write everything that is worrying you right now and then tear up the page.
Even though I feel stressed right now, I can't help but smile when I think about…
The three things I love most about myself are…
The things I can control about this situation are…
Right now, I feel challenged by… But I also feel supported by ...
Please read my blog about how breathwork benefits the skin and a list of awesome breathing exercises to try: here!
Sleep During sleep, cortisol levels are the lowest, and the skin has a chance to repair itself. Sleep or lack of affects every single function of the body. Giving intention to sleep hygiene is essential to improving sleep quality.
If you consume caffeine, give yourself a curfew on this.
Regulate your circadian rhythm by getting adequate sunlight during the day
Going to bed at the same time every day
Turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime
Keep the air in your room fresh and cool.
Make your room dark
While exercise initially increases cortisol levels, it is not the same cortisol that
triggers the stress response. Additionally, exercise released anti-inflammatory endorphins!
Nurture a plant or animal
Nurturing other things like a plant or animal can reduce cortisol and improve mood by releasing a hormone called oxytocin, the love hormone. Caring for pets can also lower blood pressure. Gardening is an age-old stress-relieving practice that soothes overstimulation that we are constantly exposed to with social media, the news, and our fast-paced lifestyle. Gardening is a way to slow down and connect with the earth. Studies have shown that when our skin connects with the electron-rich earth, this balances out cortisol levels. Not to mention the microbes in dirt may have anti-depressant effects!
There is a strong connection between our mind and our body. As our skin is not separate from the body but rather intimately intertwined with all other systems, it is no surprise that supporting our mental health also helps to keep our skin healthy. Use these tips next time you feel overly stressed, and let me know how they work or have ay others who support you!
9 ways to get totally hydrated: hint- it's not about the amount of water you drink; it's about the amount of water in your cells.
The first thing I hear anytime I analyze skin and mention to my client that their skin feels a bit dehydrated; "I drink so much water!" However, it's not always about the amount of water we are consuming; it's more about the water reaching our cells. Do you drink tons of water every day but still your lips are chapped? Do you wake up (or walk around during the day) with bad breath? Are your nails soft, cracked, or brittle? Do you have achy, stiff joints? Itchy, scaly, flaking skin, or small bumps on the back of your arms or torso? These are all signs of dehydration, and the fix might be a few small adjustments to ensure that water is reaching your cells for full, proper hydration.
Water (along with sunlight and oxygen) is a primary source of life and vitality. 99% of our molecules are water. Drinking enough water helps the body flush out toxins. Water is the lubricant for our body. It helps to absorb shock, helps to maintain the balance of fluids, transports nutrients around the body, supports proper digestion, maintains our body temperature, and so much more. Because our skin is an organ that is not an isolated, separate part of the body but an interwoven organ tied to all of the other systems, we know that proper hydration has a significant impact on our skin's health.
Benefits of proper hydration for our skin include:
Improves skin elasticity
Improves the ability to heal
Reduces swelling and puffiness in the face
Symptoms of chronic dehydration include:
Dry, flakey skin
Constant muscle weakness
But if we are drinking multiple liters of water every day, and still experiencing the symptoms of chronic mild dehydration, what gives? The answer to that is we may also be consuming lots of dehydrating items or that we may be taking in lots of water but aren't properly absorbing it into our cells.
Everyone experiences acute dehydration from time to time, but the real problem for our health and vitality is chronic dehydration, even if it is chronic mild dehydration. "The first signs of dehydration are brain fog and sleepiness; if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated." -Dr. Dana Cohen, functional medicine doctor and ½ of the fantastic duo who authored Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration.
When we are dehydrated, blood is thicker, and the heart must work harder to pump it. You are expending more energy. Blood is 83% water. A decrease in hydration by as little as 2% can have the same impact on blood vessels as smoking a cigarette! "But what if I have all of these symptoms, but I don't feel thirsty, maybe my body just doesn't need to drink that much water?"- an actual thought I have had in the past, haha! Our bodies are unique and incredibly adaptive. The body learns to suppress thirst when it is chronically dehydrated.
Let's talk about what might be counteracting hydration. Diuretics are substances that increase urine flow, and with a high intake of diuretics, You can lose water and electrolytes. Coffee is a diuretic, alcohol is a diuretic, common, table salt, some medications are diuretics, and even many herbs (like in your herbal tea) are diuretics. Just because something is a diuretic does not mean it is "bad" - (except for ordinary table salt, sea salt is less processed and a much better option). But if we are consuming multiple diuretic substances, we need to compensate for that with additional hydration.
What if you are doing all of this and still have classic signs of chronic dehydration? The answer may lie in something called "structured water." Structured water is a relatively recent discovery. Structured water is also known as gel water or "EZ" (exclusion zone) water. Dr. Gerald Pollack discovered EZ water; you can find his Ted Talk about how he discovered it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-T7tCMUDXU. We all grew up understanding that water comes in three stages, liquid, gas (steam/vapor), or solid (ice). However, this discovery shows a fourth stage of water, a gel, also known as structured water.
Structured water: the biggest game-changer in hydration ever!
Structured water exists in all living cells, in both plants and animals. It has a unique structure, and it is three atoms of hydrogen, two atoms of oxygen, H3O2. Because of this unique structure, it conducts electricity very well, and according to Dr. Cohen, it is MORE hydrating than regular water. Much more hydrating than regular water.
Ways that we can get more structured water:
Now that you know the newest science taking place in the beautiful world of water note that it takes up to two weeks of proper hydration to start feeling the benefits. As you begin to hydrate properly, you may notice an increase in urination; this is a good thing! We should be getting up to urinate often. Our body needs movement! If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration by
Dr. Dana Cohen and Gina Bria. It is truly a life-changing book, chock full of useful information.
*Note the information presented here is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. I am not a medical doctor; consult your medical professional for medical advice.
Emily Davis is the owner of Stratum Aesthetics and has been a licensed esthetician since 2007. She is a holistic esthetician specializing in cannabis skin care.