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Stressed-Out Skin – Here’s How to Treat it!

Stress is a common factor is most people’s lives, but in the middle of a global pandemic, stress levels are higher than usual. Stress wreaks havoc on our mental and physical health, but it can also be detrimental to the skin. In this unprecedented time, clients are likely experiencing new skin concerns like dullness, irritation, and expression lines – all of which can be attributed to a high-stress lifestyle. In this article we will share the impact that stress has on the skin and how to treat it! As Dr. Howard Murad says, “Stress is a fact of life. Looking stressed is not.”

Defining Stress and Cultural Stress

Stress is a basic principle of survival, helping us to either take on a threat, or run away from it as quickly as possible. Without stress, we would not be here today! But as society has evolved, we are now encountering different forms of stress; like that email inbox that never seems to empty or endless traffic on the way home from work. These modern stressors are what Dr. Howard Murad, dermatologist and founder of Murad Skincare, calls “Cultural Stress”. In 2003, Dr Murad coined this term when he started to notice that his patients started arriving to appointments exhausted and emotionally worn down. This Cultural Stress was causing fatigue, physical health issues, and significant impacts on the skin. It was at this point that he began extensive research into this topic and began developing solutions to help treat the impacts of stress on the skin.

How Stress Impacts the Skin

Whether it is a traditional stressor or a form of Cultural Stress, our body is naturally reacts with a “fight or flight” response. Internally, this “fight or flight” response is triggered by the release of the hormone Cortisol. Cortisol is designed to make the body work more efficiently in the face of stress, shutting down nonessential processes like digestion and focusing all energy on reacting to the stressor. In the moment, cortisol is essential, but prolonged exposure to cortisol can have damaging effects on our physical health and the health of the skin.

Impacts of Prolonged Cortisol Exposure on the Skin:

  • Decreased keratinocyte proliferation leading to dullness and rough skin texture.
  • Decreased fibroblast proliferation causing expression lines and crow’s feet.
  • Decreased Langerhan Cell antigen presentation leading to redness and irritation.
  • Increased peripheral vascular tone causing dark circles and puffiness.

Treating Your Client’s Stressed Skin

As a licensed skincare professional, you hold the ability to help your clients treat stressed skin. We recommend starting with a consultation that involves a holistic look at your client’s   lifestyle – identifying areas where they are experiencing high stress levels. From there, we recommend exfoliating the skin with Murad AHA Rapid Exfoliator, a gentle exfoliating formula that sloughs away dullness and rough texture revealing healthy skin. In addition to exfoliating the skin, we also recommend treatments that soothe and hydrate. Murad Soothing Seaweed Infusion Treatment is a rubberizing treatment mask that soothes stressed skin while infusing necessary hydration. Finally, we recommend infusing facial massage with a crystal roller or soothing ice roller to help increase the skin’s circulation and reduce puffiness.

Treating Stressed Skin Holistically

Dr. Howard Murad was one of the first dermatologists to place skincare at the intersection of mental and physical health. Skin type diagnosis and topical treatment is just the beginning. Taking a person’s emotional and physical state into consideration is the framework of Dr. Murad’s holistic approach to modern wellness and is achievable through the 4 main pillars of health: Nourish your skin, eat your water, be kind to your mind, and awaken your body. Dr. Murad has conducted multiple research studies that have shown the efficacy of stress intervention in reducing stress, and ultimately the impact that stress has on the skin. In one such study, Dr. Murad studied patients over 4 -week as they incorporated positive insight quote cards into their daily routine as form of stress intervention. By simply reading these positive quotes and journaling about them daily, participants showed a significant reduction in subjective stress levels.1 By helping your clients to infuse stress intervention practices, like journaling, meditation and exercise, into their daily lives, you can help them to treat their stressed skin from the inside out.

Stress and Cultural Stress are facts of modern life. But in this unprecedented year, your clients are likely experiencing higher stress levels than ever. This increased stress is taking a toll on their skin in the form of dullness, irritation, and expression lines. As a licensed professional, you are uniquely positioned to help your clients treat these skin concerns through professional services and holistic interventions.  While we cannot rid ourselves from stress, we can work to reduce its impact and live healthier lives.

1 Murad, Howard, and Timo Giesbrecht. Effectiveness of Positive Insights for Emotional Wellbeing and Stress Reduction: A Four-Week Intervention in Participants Experiencing Cultural Stress.

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