Whether it is the changing seasons, a new schedule or even something more, like a crisis at work or instability in your family, stress has a way of sneaking into our lives and wreaking havoc on our emotions. Adding insult to injury, it shows on our skin! But rest assured that if you are struggling with stress and skin issues because of it, you are not alone. Every week I see dozens of patients in my NYC practice asking for help managing this issue and resolving their skin issues. The good news is most of the visible signs of stress can be reversed by making a few simple changes to your lifestyle.
Start by focusing on the things you can do immediately to make yourself feel better. Take a look at the products that you have been using on your skin. Chances are, you have been overtreating your skin, which can lead to dryness and irritation — even breakouts. If you can afford to, toss your old products and start fresh. The good news is you will only need three products: a gentle facial cleanser, a morning moisturizer with a sunscreen, and a nighttime moisturizer. As an added beauty bonus change your sheets and pillowcases to help set the stage for a good night of sleep.
I always tell my patients that sleep is free cosmetic medicine — plain and simple. When you are asleep, your body produces hormones that help to keep you fueled throughout the day, and also help to combat signs of aging. They produce collagen and keep your skin looking young and refreshed. If you have trouble sleeping — and many people do — start about six hours before bed. I know that seems early, but that is when you want to cut any caffeine. Two to three hours before do not eat a full meal as digesting food can keep you awake. One hour before cut all electronics. Thirty minutes before, drink something you find soothing like a cup of chamomile tea. And last but not least, five minutes before, make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool. Night, night!
Spending time with friends is one of the greatest de-stressors available. Whether it is arranging for an in-person meal or coffee or simply talking on the phone, the laughter and ability to share your burdens with another person can instantly make things seem more manageable. If you are in a committed relationship, sex can also relieve stress. Not only does sex release all kinds of stress-reducing hormones, but it has also been shown to boost immunity and reduce one’s risk for heart disease. Not to mention the sweat that you work up during a good session in the sheets acts as a natural moisturizer, getting your skin silky and smooth.
Spend time taking care of yourself. Indulge in a massage or whip up some at-home beauty treats. One of my favorites is a soothing milk bath — odds are if Cleopatra liked it, you will too. Mix two to four cups of whole milk in a warm tub and then soak for 20 minutes. After the time is up, give your body a gentle scrubdown with a washcloth or loofah to slough off any dead skin cells, leaving your skin smooth and silky. Apply a rich moisturizer while your skin is still damp to lock everything in.
And remember, as you go through these steps, you’re not only going to look better, but you will feel better as well.
A dermatologist practicing in New York City, Dr. Amy Wechsler is board certified in both dermatology and psychiatry. She is the author of the "Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Reverse Stress Aging and Reveal More Youthful, Beautiful Skin." With a philosophy that draws on her unique and diverse experiences, Dr. Wechsler is recognized for being as approachable and progressive as she is professional.