Skin Stress

Yes skin stress is a ‘THING’ called Skin Fatigue

It is no surprise a combination of lifestyle factors; stress, lack of sleep and exercise, smoking and unhealthy diet, environmental factors like pollution, chemical skincare ingredients and sun exposure all take their toll on the skin causing skin stress and skin fatigue. These factors all cause stress on the body aside from psychological stress you may be suffering, especially over the last year. It has a bigger impact on our skin than we might realise.

Our bodies cope well with major stresses there is a rush of hormones and this subsides when the stress goes away and the cells can repair post stress. The problem arises when stress is chronic as too much stress hormone cortisol is released, it becomes destructive. The hypothalamic pituitary (HPA) axis is often referred to as the master pathway, as it controls the stress response from the brain to the adrenal glands where the stress hormones are released to affect the whole body.

The Stress response

Cortisol is a hormone that can be classified as a “steroid hormone” or a glucocorticoid. Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands (the ones right above your kidneys) and released into your bloodstream, which means it is transported throughout your body. Nearly all your body’s cells have receptors that can absorb cortisol, which is why cortisol can have such a major effect on us. Some of the areas that cortisol can affect include your blood sugar levels, metabolism, water balance, memory, blood pressure, and more!

For most of us, cortisol production is at its highest when we wake up in the morning, so that its release is linked up with when we are going to be the most active. Although dysfunctions with chronic stress. This is where the stress response is sustained, the hormones don’t subside to allow recovery. Over a period of time, it impacts all the metabolic pathways affecting cell energy, detoxification and immunity and causing inflammation.  You can read more in a blog about stress

The Skin and cortisol

Cortisol limits other bodily functions that are considered non-essential, taking the blood supply away from the skin a signal for the rapid breakdown of collagen, the proteins in skin which give it its structure and firmness. Too much cortisol can have a serious knock-on effect on skin ageing. Caused by the increased oxidation, inflammation and glycation, this is also related to a high sugar diet.

Somewhat unusually, the skin, as well as being a receptor of stress hormones it also actively participates in the stress response via a local effect of the hypothalamic pituitary (HPA) axis.  This occurs in the peripheral nerve endings and local skin cells, meaning it’s effect and therefore its exposure to harm is two-fold.

Additionally, the reduced blood flow prevents essential nutrients reaching the cells for repair and renewal, this also increases free radical damage and hinders your skin’s ability to repair itself.

Signs your skin is stressed

Cortisol can also trigger more oil (sebum) causing acne or breakouts pores may be larger.

It is lightly dull or sallow: looking a bit yellow?

It can feel more parched than normal and yet you have breakouts

Or there persistent dryness, leaving it lacking in lustre and generally looking tired.

It may not be responding to your usual products and you are likely run down too.

What can you do

An inside out approach means we need to address stress in our lives as well as looking at skincare that can support us through this time.

  • More sleep
  • Eat less sugar and refined carbohydrates. High blood glucose raises cortisol as it’s a stress on the body!
  • Drink more water.  Dehydration leads to increased cortisol levels.
  • Meditation App Headspace, offer a free trial and have 10-minute audio recordings that you can do anywhere.
  • Try just closing your eyes and taking three big deep breaths. This signals the parasympathetic nervous system the one that promotes relaxation.
  • Think positive. If it doesn’t come naturally try a gratitude journal. We can so stressed because we are complaining and forget to be thankful for all the amazing things (and people) that we have in our lives.

Your skin is a good signal of your wellbeing so please look after yourself. Start addressing lifestyle factors and also ensure your skincare is properly tailored to your changing needs to effectively fight back against skin stress and skin fatigue.

I can help you know where and how to start!

There are various options including a Skincare consultation (free with purchase) or Nutritional Therapy focused on your unique skin concerns.

From 20th April Skin Therapy Treatments start again!

You can book a free with purchase £30 online or in person skin consultation.

Contact me HERE 



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Misitzis A, Cunha PR, Kroumpouzos G. Skin disease related to metabolic syndrome in women. Vol. 5, International Journal of Women’s Dermatology. Elsevier Inc; 2019. p. 205–12.

Schagen SK, et al. Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging [Internet]. Vol. 4, Dermato-Endocrinology. Taylor & Francis; 2012 [cited 2020 Aug 6]. p. 298.