A lot of you know that you should be working on stress management and you definitely notice that when you’re stressed, your skin gets worse. But for some reason, when it comes to healing our acne, stress is something we don’t really take all that seriously – we tend to try skincare, diet changes or supplements before we’ll even think about actually trying to manage our stress.
I think that’s because managing stress is so, so hard and most people have no idea where to begin or think it’s simply not possible. Well, you are in for a treat because next post I am going to share the most powerful stress busting tips the internet has ever seen, so be prepared.
This post is meant to prepare you in the sense that I want you to understand how big (huge!) of an impact dialing back the stress will have. I want to show you exactly how stress is REALLY doing a number on your skin. My hope is that if you see how stress is causing your acne, you’ll have much better receptivity to the next post. 🙂
1) Chronically elevated cortisol makes us insulin resistant
When cortisol is elevated, that is a signal to our body that there is a need for fight or flight. It prepares by making sure we have the necessary energy for a burst of life-saving activity by inhibiting insulin. This is because when insulin is inhibited glucose stays in the blood where it can be immediately used instead of being transported out of it for storage. The problem is, if the body is in a chronic state of stress, this means our cells are chronically being rendered insulin resistant. Which means more and more insulin is being created. It’s like the more deaf someone gets, the more noise we have to make.
This triggers a hormonal cascade you might be familiar with – more insulin means more insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). That’s simply the way it is – they get secreted in tandem. IGF-1 means sebocyte (the body’s sebum producing cells) stimulation, increased sensitivity to the acne androgen DHT, and increased conversion of androgens into DHT. And DHT is a powerful androgen that causes our skin to get more oily, more clog-prone, more inflammation prone and less resistant to bacteria. Yes, IGF-1 is responsible for all of this!
2) Stress gives us hormonal acne
The most common type of hormonal acne in women by far is caused by estrogen dominance. When our body perceives our estrogen to be high, it balances the other hormones accordingly. Which means testosterone goes up. The more testosterone we have, the more of it gets converted to DHT – and, well, see above: not good. More DHT means more skin misbehaving and giving us blemishes!
One of the most common ways our body perceives our estrogen as high is when our progesterone gets too low. Our estrogen may not ACTUALLY be high, but the delicate ratio between the two is unbalanced, and estrogen appears – to the body – to be high. So up goes the testosterone!
How does stress make us progesterone deficient?
Well, again, it comes back to cortisol. When we are constantly stressed, we are constantly pumping out cortisol. When we deplete our natural stores of cortisol, the body recruits other hormones and converts them to cortisol. Progesterone is one of the early recruits. Once we have converted our progesterone to cortisol, there is no way to replenish it except to wait until we ovulate again (or supplement with a progesterone cream).
Not only does our progesterone keep our estrogen balanced, but it also keeps us happy and serene. It has a soothing action on the brain and body, promotes sleep, boosts thyroid and metabolism. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and promotes healthy and thick hair. So the more progesterone we steal for cortisol, the more of an anxious, unhappy, stress-inducing state we put ourselves in. It is a vicious cycle.
3) Stress inhibits healing and detoxing
Stress, as you may know can do a number on our digestion. Some people get constipated, some people have to go more. Either way, the health of our digestive system, when compromised, affects our skin significantly. Some people believe that over 80% of all cases of acne are caused by an unhealthy gut!
Elevated cortisol levels slowly eat away at the healthy immune-boosting flora that lines the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Cortisol also increases inflammation in the GI tract and prevents the cells that line the GI tract from regenerating. This leads to increased infections from parasites, yeast, mold, fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Leaky gut is another consequence of chronically elevated cortisol levels. All of these digestive problems stress our adrenals even further: another vicious cycle.
Sleep is when our bodies repair, rejuvenate and detox but high cortisol during sleep inhibits or altogether prevents this from happening.
4) Stress causes us to eat poorly
When our adrenals are fatigued from working so so hard to keep making cortisol, then our body begins to get mixed signals. The more energy deprived and fatigued we feel, the more rash and unhealthy our food choices will be. In fact, in many people fatigue often presents itself as hunger! In addition, we’ll get far more ultra-strong, impossible-to-resist cravings for foods containing lots of sugar and salt. We’ll eat emotionally more often, and foods that we crave to heal our emotions are the ones that are the worst for our skin: starchy, heavy, sweet and creamy “comfort foods.”
And when our diet goes south, so does our skin – big time.
I could actually go on, but I think I’ve given you enough to really show that managing stress may need to become your front-line, #1, most important acne clearing tool.
Stay tuned for my BEST tips on how to get your stress under control. Coming soon!
In bliss and beauty,