How Stress Affects The Skin And Herbs To Help
Ever been through a severe period of stress and sworn you have gained about 900 grey hairs (unfortunately not in one sophisticated streak) and wrinkles to match? Turns out that maybe you are not tripping! Yes, you see cortisol and all the agitated stress that causes its release can cause premature aging. So although you may be thinking you are going to age gracefully ending up in looking like Jane Fonda, you may be hurtling towards Golum.
So whats happening here? Why does stress cause premature aging? Well, ladies - let me count the ways... and this list is totally not exhaustive ( although quite exhausting)
Stress really f's up the immune system. This of course can cause bigger issues than having a few wrinkles but can also reduce the first defences in the skin. This means you might suddenly become allergic to your fave creams and get a rash. Maybe that eczema that you thought you had conquered in your teens suddenly make a comeback.
Stress increases free radicals Being under pressure up regulates metabolism and thereby increases free radicals which cause damage to your tissues and DNA! AHHHH!
Stress reduces collagen synthesis. It does this is two ways- by reducing the absorption of nutrients so your poor bod don't get the nutrients it needs to make collagen and secondly it reduces circulation to the periphery, thereby reducing collagen regeneration and healing.
Stress messes with gut flora. Yes, the lovely cortisol changes the pH in the gut which for some lovely reason allows the bad guys to proliferate more freely and the good guys to get forced out. This means you may be more prone to gut stuff but also reduced nutrient absorption and reabsorbtion of hormones that are supposed to be excreted and that means the dreaded wrinkles and pimples- at the same time.
Stress messes with hormonal balance Yes, I wont go into the minutiae but stress effects hormones en masse from both a higher brain level and then down into your bits. This can mean reduced or increased sebum synthesis resulting in either the pimple brigade or the wrinkle brigade or both.
Stress can bugger the melanocytes - the jury is out but there is the thought that stress can at once cause hyperpigmentation ( those dark patches that are super hard to cover with concealer) and depigmentation in the hair ( those grey hairs that are super hard to cover with hair dye) Perfect!
Which Herbs Support Skin Under Stress?
Herbs called adaptogens are helpful to try and minimise the physiological and psychological effects of stress and in turn the effects that stress has on your appearance. The key adaptogens that I think of when I think about supporting both healthy aging and hormonal skin issues are schisandra and the medicinal mushroom- reishi. Both of these adaptogens have benefits for detoxification and liver support which definitely has an impact on skin health and clarity. They are also both highly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which translates to healthy aging processes and a less redness and irritation.
Schisandra berry from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), schisandra is a potent true adaptogen, reducing the physiological effects of stress on the body but also has other key actions which make it the perfect beauty boosting stress berry. Schisandra promotes tightness and moisture in the skin and also enhances circulation for nutrient delivery and collagen synthesis. It also helps to detoxify through the liver so perfect for those who get hit with the monthly pimple plus wrinkles battle. Schisandra is also packed full of antioxidants which help to reduce the damage from free radicals which are ramped up when the bod is under pressure! It is the five flavour berry so has a pleasant flavour and the benefits are so varied! Every fellow naturopath I know , when i mention schisandra , says " I love that herb" and I can see why!
Reishi is also used traditionally in TCM, where it is renowned as a longevity and spiritual tonic. From a western perspective, reishi is an adaptogen with a particularly calming effect, which can be helpful for those who struggle with nervousness and sleep issues which definitely show on your face. It also has a documented action on the liver, whereby it helps to detoxify and prevent recirculation of excess hormones ( make sure you are getting enough soluble fibre in your diet as well!) From a beauty perspective, reishi is a very strong antioxidant which supports healthy aging both inside and out. It also contains vitamin D which supports the skins barrrier function and modulates immunity which can be of benefit for those with immune mediated skin issues. When applied topically it is also though to help reduce excessive melanin production which can cause age spots. Spiritually, reishi gives a lightness to the spirit, creates space for new things and creates a glow from within.
Schisandra and reishi are the key adaptogens in Pretty Potion .
So, there is no magic bullet for stress as we all know . You have to address your stressors. Look at the things you can change in your life and make the changes. Talk to a friend or a professional. See your doctor. Do your homework. Take care of your diet. Get the right skin care regime going and maybe take some adaptogens!