Is your skin under stress?
Adult acne, clogged pores, inflammation, pimples, … argh! Kind of makes you want to scream; and is sure to cause mild anxiety for anyone who cares about their complexion. Diagnostics is key when it comes to successfully treating your acne. Is it hormonal? Is it an inflammatory reaction? Does it arise from stress?
With any imbalances occurring with your skin, one thing is for sure, stress is going to make it worse! Stress causes sebaceous glands to pump out more oil that bacteria thrives on, this in turn leads to clogging and inflammation of the hair follicle, in effect causing a zit.
It is tempting to want to punish your skin and poke and squeeze it, but instead of picking your skin and spreading more bacteria, it is better to consider making a few lifestyle changes and find the right skincare solution that works for you.
There are four things to keep in mind when dealing with stressed out and acneic skin; cleansing, exfoliation, treatment, hydration.
First it is important to understand what is going on with your skin. Do you have oily skin and pimples or do you have inflamed acne? Is your skin sensitive or are you accidently drying out and irritating your skin? Oily skin produces more oils and can clog the pores. The white part of a pimple is a combination of oil and dead skin. Redness is caused by inflammation.
Oily skin produces more oil so it is common for people to use harsh cleansing products to try to reduce the oil production. The opposite is in fact true, you want to be sure not to dry out the skin because otherwise, your body thinks it needs to produce more oil to compensate. So find a gentle but effective daily cleanser and focus on the exfoliation and treatment phase of the skin to target the pimples. For inflamed acne, treat the redness first with a sensitive cleanser and the acne second. The treatment phase would be the appropriate phase to target the acne.
Your skin cells turnoever every 30 days and will slow down due to aging and stress. More oil means that the pores are getting more filled up and more stretched out, so it is important to exfoliate your skin in order to minimize the pores and to prevent build-up of dead skin. Exfoliate 3-5 weekly for oily skin and 1-2 times per week for more sensitive skin. Always be sure to use an exfoliator that is not abrasive and will tear your skin tissue. Enzyme treatments, peeling creams, and good quality scrubs are all good choices. Microdermabrasion facials and pore-minimizing enzyme treatments would be a great addition to your home care routine. Honey and youghurt are also great for a more gentle exfoliation of the skin. They both contain naturally occurring lactic acid which can be used to heal the skin. Honey in particular is good when treating the little white-heads underneath the skin known as milia and excellent for ingrown hairs.
As part of your daily skincare routine you will want to add specific treatments that target the inflammation of the skin. Salicylic acid for spot treatment, benzoul peroxide for killing the bacteria and vitamin A for speeding up the cellular renewal process are all good choices but must be used sparingly. In my experience they can also dry out and irritate the skin and even cause damage over time. For a more sustainable solution, I prefer a natural alternative such as green tea compresses on acne skin. Green tea is a natural benzoul peroxide and will keep the break-outs at bay. Neat tea tree oil is excellent for killing the bacteria and drying out the pimples. Birch bark is the natural equivalence to salicylic acid which is a beta-hydroxy that helps to dissolve black heads and white heads and reduce inflammation. You can buy it as a tincture and do spot treatments on the skin. Alternatively, ground up raspberries, strawberries and tomatoes will also do the trick. If your skin is particularly irritated, try applying ground up cucumber as it will also help heal the skin and soothe the redness.
You must hydrate even if you have oily skin. I see many clients who come in with oily dehydrated skin. A light serum, gel or oil will suffice for oilier skin types. For acne look for cleansing and antibacterial ingredients such as lavender, rosemary, green tea, and palmarosa. For irritated skin look for ingredients such as chamomile, rose, and lavender that are more soothing yet anti-bacterial in nature. If you drink, coffee, wine or green tea be sure to double up on your daily water intake so that your skin can stay hydrated and purge.
Now that you have adjusted your skincare routine it is important to see where you can improve in your lifestyle. Remember that continuous elevated stress causes higher levels of cortisol to be produced in the body, which produces inflammatory agents in the body – all bad for your skin if you tend to break out. Find a way to stay calm and incorporate relaxation and deep breathing into your life. Mindful breath lowers cortisol levels significantly allowing nervous system to be calm down and your mind and body to relax. Your skin will start improving and you will feel much better!
Have you noticed a correlation between stress and acne? If so, I would love to hear about it! Please, share in the comments below.
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