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Stress-proof your skin for good

Does your skin go crazy when you’re stressed? Are you prone to dryness, redness, or random spots? When we’re stressed, the signs pop up all over our body — starting with our skin. So when you’re worried, it shows. We spill on how to heal stressed-out skin.

Young woman using skin cream

Dermatologist Dr. Michael Rich from EnRich Clinic tells us about the link between stress and skin: “There is no question that stress affects you from the inside out. Not only does it impact on your inner resilience, but stress can take a toll on your outward appearance too.”

The problem: Dryness

When we’re feeling anxious, our body releases a “stress hormone” called cortisol. Cortisol leads to all sorts of side effects as it floods your body, but in terms of skin, it damages its ability to hold onto water. Cue dry, dehydrated skin. Without moisture, skin looks dull and less-than-luminous — and nobody has time for that.

The fix: If your skin is feeling drier than usual, switch to hypoallergenic, fragrance-free skin care. The gentler the products, the better for your skin. Even though it’s so tempting in winter, avoid taking long, steaming showers and washing your face with hot water — stick to lukewarm water instead. Finally, start taking fish oils and invest in a thick night cream to lock in moisture.

The problem: Redness

Is your face redder than Santa Claus’ hat? While these kinds of flare-ups may seem random, in reality they are one of the signs that stress is taking its toll. When we’re under pressure, our blood flow increases dramatically, which causes our capillaries to expand. Dr. Rich says, “Blood vessels open up and create an undesirable red hue.” For women who suffer from a skin condition called rosacea, this “flushing” can last hours and even days.

The fix: No lady wants their emotions splashed all over their face. If redness and hot flushes are becoming a regular thing, it’s time to update your beauty stash. Look for creams with “anti-inflammatory” on the label and apply them daily — and religiously. Dr. Rich adds that using sunscreen is super important. In most cases, you can keep redness at bay with topical products that can be bought over the counter.

Check out what sunscreen is right for you >>

The problem: Fine lines

If fine lines are popping up faster than they should, it may be time to assess the amount of stress in your life. Chances are, some of those creases are directly linked to anxiety. You know how your heart starts thumping when you’re nervous or worried? Well, that’s cortisol rearing its ugly head again. Cortisol slackens the collagen and elastin in our skin, the two key fibres that help keep it plump and smooth. As Dr. Rich explains, “When we feel stressed, we turn our smile upside down and start to frown. This dynamic facial movement increases the appearance of lines between the brow, creating an angry look.”

The fix: If Botox and injectables are not an option, don’t fret — there are plenty of hard-working products on the market that can help get rid of, or at least reduce, the appearance of those lines. Head to the anti-ageing section of the beauty store and try a serum loaded with antioxidants and retinol.

The problem: Breakouts

Do pimples always pop up at the most inconvenient times? Is your face spottier than a typical teenage boy’s? You guessed it — stress may be to blame. In a nutshell, stress triggers the kind of inflammation that causes breakouts. This kind of inflammation can stick around for days or weeks, especially if you’re constantly working late, not eating properly, or dealing with problems in a few areas of your life. Dr. Rich says maintaining your skin care routine is even more important during stressful times:  “It is paramount that we continue to be diligent so as not to create an opportunity for stress to impact the health of our skin.”

The fix: If breakouts are your main concern during stressful situations, ditch “gentle” and “normal” products and buy ones that are specifically designed to combat acne-prone skin. The key ingredients to look out for are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide — together, these will reduce bacteria and clarify and smooth out skin. Add an oil-free moisturiser to your shopping trolley too. Acne-busting products can be quite drying, so a quality moisturiser will help with that.

The stress-proofing commandments

  1. Listen to what your skin is telling you. If it’s going crazy, it may be time to evaluate your career/relationship/health, or take a break.
  2. Exercise three to four days a week. This will release tension, boost your mood and get endorphins — the “feel good” hormones — pumping through your body.
  3. Get at least eight hours of quality sleep a night. They don’t call it “beauty sleep” for nothing.
  4. Treat yourself to relaxing treatments like massages and acupuncture regularly. You deserve it.
  5. If your skin doesn’t get better, don’t just live with it — see a dermatologist.

Stress-busting buys


Lanolips Lovely Lanolin Golden Ointment
This little beauty gives skin an intense hit of hydration when it needs it most. (LanoLips, $28.95)

Kosmea Skin Clinic Rescue Balm

Kosmea Skin Clinic Rescue Balm
This multi-tasking organic ointment treats everything from chapped lips to flaky elbows. (Kosmea, $29.95)

SK-II Facial Treatment Gentle Cleanser

SK-II Facial Treatment Gentle Cleanser
Loaded with SK-II’s “miracle product”, potera, this cleanser leaves skin feeling clear, fresh and hydrated. (SK-II, $90.00)

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum If your eyes are betraying one too many late nights, this concentrated serum packs a serious punch. It’s expensive, but worth it.
(Estee Lauder, $105)

Dermalogica Ultra-Calming Relief Masque

Dermalogica Ultra-Calming Relief Masque Perfect for sensitive skin, this gentle yet effective mask stops inflammation in its tracks. (Dermalogica $62)

More skin care advice

Skin care tips for sensitive skin types
We’ve got you covered: The best skin masks
Acne treatments for your skin type

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