Your stressful skin is not pretty. Stress hormones such as cortisol can trigger rashes, dull skin, accelerate aging, and exasperate skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

This is especially true when your internal pressure cooker remains at a constant boil – and who isn’t too stressed out these days?

“Consistently elevated cortisol levels have been shown to inhibit the production of collagen, hyaluronic acid, and healthy lipids like cerimide by the skin,” said Dr Whitney Bowe, dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

“Collagen is like the scaffolding of the skin that prevents fine lines and wrinkles,” Bowe explained.

“Hyaluronic acid keeps skin plumped, and cerimides are healthy fats that create a barrier to prevent permeability of the skin, thereby trapping moisture in the skin.”

Long considered the largest organ in the body, your skin microbiome plays a key role as the body’s first line of defense against pathogens.

When the skin barrier is functioning properly, it locks in moisture and keeps the skin hydrated, while blocking the entry of allergens, irritants, pollutants and pathogens.

Stress hormones weaken this defense, slowing the production of beneficial oils that help lock in moisture in the skin. When this happens, your skin may start to “leak” water in a process known as transepidermal water loss or TEWL.

As the water evaporates, the skin can become dry and compromised, allowing pathogens to access the deeper layers of the skin, said Bowe, author of “The Beauty of Dirty Skin. : The Surprising Science of Looking and Feeling Radiant from the Inside Out “.

“When the skin barrier is not functioning properly, it results in chronic low-intensity inflammation levels and an increase in free radicals which can damage your skin and accelerate aging as well as increase your risk of developing allergies,” said Bowe.

Fight with “recovery nights”

Take a close look at your skin regimen, suggests Bowe, especially some of your anti-aging products.

“Some of the most potent skin ingredients known to have dramatic and amazing effects on the skin are known irritants,” Bowe said. “Retinoids, including over-the-counter retinol, are dermatologists’ favorites, but they will irritate the skin, especially if you use the product every night.

“Alpha Hydroxy Acid or Glycolic Acid is an amazing ingredient that helps lighten dark spots, even skin tone and promote collagen production, but it can also be a known irritant,” he said. she adds.

You can continue to use them, Bowe said, if you go through your skincare with “active nights and recovery nights.”

One night, use anti-aging solutions like retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acid, or glycolic acid – prescription or over-the-counter – then skip a night or two, depending on how dry your skin is.

“You don’t want to further compromise your skin barrier by using irritating ingredients every night,” Bowe said.

Recovery nights are used to take care of the skin, “using ingredients like glycerin, sunflower oil, jojoba oil or squalane” – which is a hydrogenated version of squalene, a naturally produced compound. by our sebaceous glands, Bowe said.

“You use nourishing and hydrating ingredients that will repair the skin barrier, support the skin microbiome, and restore a healthy pH to the skin,” she said.

How do you know if stress has oversensitized your skin? Start by washing your face and pat it dry.

If it feels tight, if it’s dry, and “if you put any product on your skin and you feel tingling, you feel a burning sensation, or if you suddenly develop these little red bumps all over your face, then your skin is sensitive.” , ”Bowe said.

Sensitive skin should avoid harsh sulfates in cleansers, Bowe said, such as SLS, or sodium lauryl sulfate, and SLES, which stands for sodium laureth sulfate.

“You also don’t want to scrub your skin with a physical scrub or a rotating brush,” Bowe said. “People now realize that using a roller brush is actually very damaging to your skin barrier, and it makes you much more likely to have sensitive skin.”

Many women shave their faces today, and it’s not a good idea if you have sensitive skin, Bowe added. The use of a perfume is also not.

“It’s really important to point out that it’s not just a synthetic scent, it’s a natural scent that can be harmful,” Bowe said. “A lot of people assume that if something is natural, it’s inherently safe and won’t cause any irritation or inflammation. But in reality, some of the more powerful irritants are natural.”

Watch out for essential oils

Many people turn to essential oils such as lavender, orange, lemongrass, and chamomile to naturally relax, reduce stress, and improve sleep. These oils are highly concentrated plant substances – for example, it takes around 220 pounds of lavender flowers to produce one pound of lavender oil, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

In addition to their use in aromatherapy, manufacturers sell essential oils for use on the skin and in baths. However, if a person is sensitive or the oils are misused, Bowe said, these oils can cause skin irritation and further damage the skin barrier.

Some people were seriously injured. Citrus oils such as orange and lemon contain furocoumarins which, when exposed to UV rays from the sun, can cause chemical burns. A 7-year-old girl squeezed lemon juice on her skin while playing in sunny Arizona, and in less than 24 hours, she was hospitalized with first and second degree burns on his face, neck, chest, arms, legs and feet.

Additionally, “essential oils are a known source of allergens,” Bowe said. “In fact, some of the most powerful allergens in all skin care are found in essential oils, so using them will increase the risk of developing skin allergies.”

When stressed, many of us will turn to sugar and processed carbohydrates, which unfortunately “can damage the skin’s collagen over time through a process called glycation,” said Dr. Rajani Katta, author. from “Glow: The Dermatologist’s Guide to a Whole Foods Younger Skin Diet.”

Glycation occurs when sugar molecules attach to fats and proteins and create advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, which can make collagen and elastin proteins less flexible and the skin more prone to wrinkling. .

“Foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties can help provide an extra layer of protection for your skin and can help promote your skin’s defense and repair systems,” Katta suggested.

Try anti-stress techniques

Be social. “Add social interactions – real social interactions, not just on social media,” Bowe suggested. “Going out and taking a walk with a friend in nature, or something like that, is a great way to help reduce stress.”

Take physics. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and helps release endorphins, the body’s wellness hormones. Exercise also pushes oxygenated blood to all parts of your body, including the skin, which can stimulate the skin barrier recovery process.

Be calm. Try yoga, meditation and deep breathing to calm your stress levels, Bowe suggested, “All of this has been shown to decrease cortisol production and stress levels.

Sleep well. “It’s called beauty sleep because sleep regenerates your skin at night,” said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, sleep specialist, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. .

“Surprisingly surprise, there is a hormone called growth hormone which is secreted during the deepest phases of sleep and which stimulates the growth of fresh skin cells,” Dasgupta said.