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Stress doesn’t just damage your health, it can wreak equal havoc on your skin. Joyoti Mahanta gets two dermatologists to list out breakout busters

Arecent study by the Women of Tomorrow organisation revealed Indian women are the most stressed on earth, with an astounding 87 per cent claiming to feel stressed most of the time. Biologically speaking, women are more vulnerable to stress than men. We all know stress is unhealthy for our heart and brain, but what we perhaps don’t know is that it’s just as bad for our skin. Studies show that stress—even the run-of-the-mill, day-to-day variety—can trigger or heighten skin problems. If your skin is under duress, revive its vitality with changes in your beauty routine.

“When you are stressed, your brain releases cortisol into your bloodstream,” says Mumbai-based cosmetic physician Dr. Rashmi Shetty. This hormone affects the skin’s hydration, collagen and elastin and push your oil glands to work overtime—the perfect recipe for breakouts.” Many studies conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology link factors that affect our emotional well-being, such as stress, to an increase in skin problems.

Indeed, how we feel on the inside could well affect how we look on the outside. Mumbai- based cosmetic dermatologist Dr. JaishreeSharad adds, “Stress can cause dark circles and baggy eyes. It can constrict your blood vessels, leading to poor circulation. This decreased blood supply to the skin can leave it feeling dry, faky, and prone to irritation.”

When you’re stressed, the skin’s repair mechanisms are compromised. “Stress also dehydrates your skin and decreases your skin’s immunity levels, making you more susceptible to infections and allergies causing itching, redness and hives,” says Dr. Sharad. Stress primarily makes the skin more sensitive and more reactive.

It exacerbates existing skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema, rosacea and seborrhoeic dermatitis. It also releases free radicals in the skin resulting in early wrinkles, fine lines and hair loss.

Nothing beats stress as effectively as a healthy diet. “Drink plenty of water and tender coconut water, and make sure you have your daily serving of fresh fruits, salads and yoghurt,” says Dr. Sharad. Also, watch your oil, sugar and salt intake,” When stressed, most of us tend to consume increased amounts of tea and coffee and smoke profusely too.This causes greater harm to the skin. Through the day, munch on almonds and walnuts as they are rich in vitamin E— an antioxidant that bolsters the immune system. Almonds also contain vitamin B, which helps your body hold up in stressful situations. Science backs the old warm milk remedy for insomnia and restlessness, as calciumis known to reduce muscle spasms and soothe tension.

Citrus fruits too are rich in vitamin C and are known to fight free radicals and relive stress. You can also take to spinach as it is packed with cortisolregulating magnesium.

Dr. Shetty also feels that Indian women may be luckier than others when it comes to beating stress through food.“Indian food is rich in ingrdients like garlic and curcumin (turmeric extracts): both have anti-infammatory
properties that help cut down the skin’s reaction to stress. Other cooling foods include cucumber, bottle gourd and white pumpkin.”

Cosmetic treatments are available in plenty for wrinkles, fairness, soft skin and hair removal. Similarly, cosmetic procedures for stress-related skin are also gaining popularity. Several skin rejuvenation procedures have been shown to significantly improve a person’s outward appearance. “Deep hydration treatments like Juvederm fillers are now a big thing,” explains Dr. Shetty. These FDA- approved fillers help restore hydration and volume of the skin.” Alpha hydroxy acid treatm ents (AHAs) and prescription-based steroid creams have also proven to offer significant improvements in facial skin tone.

As concrete evidence of this link between stress and skin gathers force, a growing cadre of doctors, especially in the US— many identifying themselves as psycho dermatologists—are combining traditional skin treatments with psychotherapy, hypnosis, imaging, bio-feedback and meditation. It is believed that such treatments not only help relax patients but also teach them to control physiological factors such as body temperature and skin moisture. Some psychodermatology clinics in the US even have an acupuncturist, a bio-feedback therapist and a massage therapist as part of staff, besides dermatologists and clinical psychologists. We hope such clinics touch Indian shores too. “As a massage involves rhythmic pressure of the hands, it improves blood circulation and relaxes your skin. A massage with chamomile oil is known to de-stress both the mind and skin,” confirms Dr. Shetty.

With the mind-skin connection gaining credence, exercises can prove to be a powerful ally to beat stress. Any workout improves blood flow and also helps normalise blood sugar and hormone levels, which are altered due to stress. Remember the flush on your cheeks after a brisk walk? “Just half an hour of cardio, daily, in the form of jogging, skipping, zumba, treadmill, any form of dance or even swimming are big stress busters,” says Dr. Sharad. Stress-reduction techniques, like yoga and meditation, also refresh the skin.

Kiehl’s Skin Rescuer Anti-Stress Skincare & Face Cream Moisturizer has been voted as the most popular cream online by women with stressful jobs. With ingredients like glycerin and shea butter (moisturisers), rosagallica extract (anti-inflammatory), and chamomile extract (skin soother), this paraben-free skin-care treatment fights irritation and inflammation and reducessigns of stress. VIVITÉ Night Renewal Facial Cream, with 20 per cent glycolic compound, is a super-rich formulation that promotes overnight maintenance and assists in skin repair. Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm rids your skin of the most tenacious of eye makeup and sunscreens, soothing and calming the skin in turn. Several night creams come with glycolic acid as the primary ingredient, which aid exfoliation and cell regeneration to awaken tired skin. Even face washes containing salicylic acid help unclog pores that can harbour bacteria.

Taking beauty sleep to the next level, many brands like Estée Lauder and Lakmé have night-repair capsules that can be an asset in your stress-busting skin-care arsenal. Even moisturisers containing aloe vera, cucumber or mint will hydrate and soothe your skin.Thermal water mists rejuvenate a tired face, and their pure-mineral content combat free radicals. But the best solution to all of these problems would be to try and cut down on the stressors as much as possible. Your body and skin will thank you for it.