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!
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.