You’re doing everything right. Your diet is clean. You haven’t been going out for late-night drinks. You hold your skincare regimen to the highest standards and never miss a step, let alone a night. You’re using clean beauty. But wait, what’s this? A breakout? And it’s not even your period.
We’ve all experienced it. We might be holding ourselves to the tightest criteria in wellness to keep all systems operating optimally, and yet, a wrench still gets thrown in our gears. Or rather, a pimple along our chin, or jawline, or even the neck. Thank you, stress, anxiety, and worry. Really great work. Just excellent.
The lower extremities of our faces are typically the zones that showcase a stress breakout. And this uncertain time might be the culprit of many a stress pimple, despite all our best efforts. And while we might feel like ruling out hormonal causes for our breakouts when we pin it on stress, it all might still boil down to hormones at the end of the day.
Studies show that when we are stressed, our primary stress hormones like cortisol are released in large amounts, and as a result, our body tries to adapt to it. However, since modern fight or flight is more like receiving a snarky email from our supervisor rather than the age-old comparison of outrunning certain death from a predator, the stress hormones produced are in far more excess than what’s required, which can trigger or exacerbate inflammation, and even purging via the pores.
Right now, we know it’s a bit more than a snarky email triggering our stress. With the coming election and of course the global pandemic, we are experiencing higher, totally justifiable amounts of angst. And yet, all we can do is sit in our homes and wait it out. This is the perfect storm to brew a stress breakout here and there.
The research confirms that skin is both an “immediate stress perceiver” and a “target of stress responses.” What that means is, normally, cortisol levels respond to our circadian rhythm, peaking in the morning to give us juice for the day, and drastically dipping by nightfall. Stress triggers our adrenals to pump out more cortisol, thus disrupting this cycle, which can majorly compromise our immune system.
The health of our skin hinges on the health of our immune response in a major way—pimples are a sign that our hormonal balance (or lack thereof) is freaking out, too. But not all hope is lost. When we feel a wave of stress coming on, we can take special care to notice, and heed these tips.
Work out in the morning, when your natural cortisol rhythm is meant to be highest, and don’t overexert. Intense workouts can cause adrenals to overproduce, so if anxiety already has that going, you don’t want to exacerbate the issue. Make sure to do a cool-down and stretch, which is a soothing way to tell your bod everything is OK.
Yep, try breathing to clear up your skin. A great basic breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 breath, in which you inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7, and exhale fully for 8, repeating as many times as necessary. Studies show breathing exercises like this have an immediate effect on lowering your heart rate and controlling your body’s stress response.
Foods high in antioxidants like dark berries and cacao will seek out free radicals produced by stress. Foods like ginger and garlic will strengthen our natural immune response, which has a direct effect on skin health. Herbs like ashwagandha and rhodiola help control stress and aid in relaxation for restful night’s sleep.
Since stress breakouts tend to stick to the lower part of the face, you don’t want to overtreat all of your complexion. Apply a clay mask where the stress manifests itself, exfoliate a little more, and spot treat when necessary.