Body & Mind

How stress affects your skin

 Dr. Amy Wechsler

About Dr. Wechsler: Amy is one of a small handful of physicians in the country board-certified in both dermatology and psychiatry. She is frequently called upon by the media to demystify complicated dermatological topics.

Skin issues can certainly be a source of stress — yes, we’re talking about you, large forehead pimple that invited itself along to Saturday night’s festivities. It’s not just about the occasional pimple, though: according to Dr. Amy Wechsler, author of The Mind-Beauty Connection and one of a small handful of doctors in the United States board-certified in both dermatology and psychiatry, stress can have a major impact on the condition of our skin — particularly as we age.

To learn more about this and find out what we can do to minimize the effect of stress on our skin, we interviewed Dr. Wechsler herself. We kept this interview short and sweet so that reading it will be easy and stress-free!

AYLA: You mention in The Mind-Beauty Connection that stress can actually make us look 3-6 (or more) years older than our actual age. Why does it have such a dramatic effect on our skin? 
DR. WECHSLER: Stress raises the levels of certain molecules and hormones in our bodies, such as cortisol. Cortisol breaks down collagen, which leads directly to wrinkles. And stress can slow down the healing of brown spots, which is another sign of aging.

AYLA: What about adult acne and red, irritated skin—does stress contribute to those two common skin concerns?
DR. WECHSLER: Yes, it does.
• Cortisol causes inflammation in the skin’s follicles, which leads to breakouts.
• Cortisol also breaks down the skin’s natural protective barrier by allowing more trans-epidermal water loss, leading to drier, more sensitive skin.

AYLA: What types of products should we all have in our skincare regimen to keep stressed skin under control?

DR. WECHSLER: I would recommend:
1. A gentle cleanser
Ayla suggestions: YULI Halcyon Cleanser for balanced to oily skin and TWELVE Purifying Cleansing Beauty Cream for balanced to dry skin
2. A mild toner
Ayla suggestions: YULI Cocoon Elixir for balanced to oily skin and TWELVE Ultra Revitalising Elixir for balanced to dry skin (though they'll both work on any skin type)
3. A daily moisturizer with a broad-spectrum sunscreen
Ayla suggestion: Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream SPF 30 is a quick 2-in-1 moisture lotion and sunscreen. It's also available with a tint.
4. A nighttime moisturizer without sunscreen
Ayla suggestion: Luzern Force de Vie Creme Luxe is a perennial favorite on many skin types. We also love blending a bespoke moisturizer with Kristina Holey + Marie Veronique Soothing B3 Serum and Marie Veronique for Ayla Dara's Oil

AYLA: It can take awhile to cut down on major stressors. For example, if you’ve just gone through a bad breakup and your skin is behaving like it’s 13 again—and not in a good way—what other small steps can you take to give your skin some extra help while you’re trying to deal with the larger issue?

DR. WECHSLER:
• Reconnect with friends. Time with friends and family is amazingly therapeutic, especially in person.
• Focus on getting enough sleep. Sleep makes the biggest difference in how a stressed-out person looks.
• Exercise. This will help release pent-up energy and increase beta-endorphins, which fight the effect of cortisol.
• Get outside during the day. Take in the little details that you rarely appreciate in day to day life—this will encourage you to focus on the present moment.
• Deep breathe or meditate. Deep breathing will bring your body more energizing oxygen and boost the lymphatic system, which delivers nutrients to cells and and collects cellular waste. Meditation will promote a relaxed state and help exercise your brain so that you can more easily relax over time.
• Pamper yourself. Put aside some time to just care for yourself—perhaps by booking a massage to unknot your muscles while releasing oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over.
• Cuddle with your loved one. Intimate touch releases soothing oxytocin, too.

Any topic discussed in this article is not intended as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please check with your doctor.

About Dr. Wechsler: Amy Wechsler, MD is one of a small handful of physicians in the country board-certified in both dermatology and psychiatry. She is well known for her unique approach - administering traditional practices only after thoroughly understanding her patients’ emotional state of mind and the impact it is having on the outer surface. Equally respected by her peers and her patients, Dr. Wechsler is the author of The Mind-Beauty Connection and is frequently called upon by the media to demystify complicated dermatological topics. She's been featured on the Today Show and the Dr. Oz Show, as well as extensively in print publications. Learn more about Dr. Wechsler's impressive background here.

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