Everyone experiences stress at one point or another. It’s just a natural part of life, and no one is immune. Whether it’s your job, your family, or the bills, there’s always something to worry about. No doubt, 2020 has added a whole new set of stressors that many of us never even saw coming (looking at you, global pandemic).
And while not all stress is bad, long-term stress can wreak havoc on your body. Truth be told, it might be written all over your face (read: redness, acne). But the good news is there are plenty of things you can do to manage the fallout. And, in true Reviewed style, we’ve got you covered with some great products to help you find your way back to healthy, glowing skin.
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How stress affects your skin
If you’ve ever noticed that you’re more prone to breakouts when you’re feeling stressed, it’s not in your head. The fact is when you’re under stress, your body produces more cortisol. The extra cortisol, in turn, signals your sebaceous glands to produce more oil. The result of this chain of events is—you guessed it—acne.
Moreover, when you’re stressed, chances are you’re not getting enough sleep. As we all know, our bodies go into repair and recovery mode while we sleep, and that includes your skin. If you’ve ever had a few restless nights, you’ve undoubtedly seen the results all over your face, as a lack of sleep can amplify fine lines, dark circles, and puffy eyes. I guess we now know where the term “beauty sleep” comes from.
Beyond causing acne, stress can also trigger a flight or fight response, which in turn causes your body to release histamine. Similar to an allergic reaction, you may develop hives, itchiness, and or redness. Ultimately this response can lead to a flare-up of skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema.
Additionally, stress can lead to dehydration and dullness. This is because prolonged bouts of stress cause your adrenal glands to pump up the production of stress hormones. Eventually, they will get tired—and that’s not good. Why? Because your adrenal glands are also responsible for the production of aldosterone, the hormone that regulates water levels in your body. And when the work of your adrenal glands is diverted to dealing with high-stress levels, your aldosterone drops, and before you know it, you’re dehydrated. Now that you know the science, let’s get into how you can soothe your stressed-out skin, step by step.
Step 1: Gently cleanse to get rid of external irritants
When your skin is already irritated, the last thing you want to do is aggravate it even more and worsen the problem. Instead, try a gentle cleanser. Look for one that claims to soothe with ingredients like cucumber extract and chamomile and hydrate with glycerin while also removing dirt, oil, and makeup. Not only can gentle daily cleansing hydrate your skin and rid it of irritants, but it can also keep acne at bay.
Try the SkinCeuticals Soothing Cleanser, which soothes with cucumber extracts and glycerin while sweeping away dirt and oil.
Get the SkinCeuticals Soothing Cleanser on Dermstore for $35
Step 2: Exfoliate to remove dead skin cells
Just as dehydration affects your body’s ability to perform optimally, it also affects your skin’s ability to perform its essential functions like cell turnover. So if your skin is looking a bit dull, it probably isn’t naturally sloughing off dead skin cells as it should. However, you can give your skin a helping hand with a little gentle exfoliation. Remember the keyword here is gentle. Again, you don’t want to cause any further irritation, so try to steer clear of “scrubbing” aggressively and using harsh products.
Instead, try a gentle exfoliator like Shiseido’s Waso Soft & Cushy Polishing Exfoliator. Made with a blend of soy and plant-based cellulose granules, this exfoliator gently cleanses and exfoliates without stripping your skin.
Get the Shiseido Waso: Soft & Cushy Polishing Exfoliator on Sephora for $34
Step 3: Moisturize to replenish lost hydration
Not only does excess cortisol pumping through your body reduce your ability to retain water, but it also weakens your skin’s protective barrier, further exacerbating the issue of dry skin. As you might have guessed, the only way to soothe dry skin is to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
If your skin is particularly dry, you may want to start with a hydrating serum and follow that up with a rich moisturizer. Look for moisturizers that contain hyaluronic acid (a moisturizing ingredient) or ceramides (lipids found in the outermost layer of the skin). Both of these superstar ingredients will help your skin retain moisture, keeping it hydrated and plump. The CeraVe Oil-Free Face Moisturizer with Sunscreen is suitable for all skin types and absorbs quickly.
Get the CeraVe Oil-Free Face Moisturizer with Sunscreen on Amazon for $11.89
Step 4: Try a face mask for a serious skin rescue effort
While moisturizers can certainly do their part to soothe and hydrate stressed skin, you might need something more intense from time to time. While some face masks deep clean your skin, tackling stubborn dirt and oil, there are many masks on the market that are specifically formulated to soothe stressed skin.
Glamglow’s popular Thristymud face mask is made with a blend of hyaluronic acid, ginger, honey, and coconut to moisturize and soothe all skin types.
Get the Glamglow Thirstymud 24-Hour Hydrating Treatment Face Mask on Sephora for $60
Step 5: Refrigerate your eye cream for extra-soothing benefits
Stress often leads to a lack of sleep, and a lack of sleep immediately shows up on (or around) your eyes. To counter the effects of tired, puffy eyes and dark circles, use an eye cream … and try storing it in the fridge. When it’s time to apply, the cold cream can temporarily reduce the puffiness around your eyes—and it’ll feel amazing.
If you’re looking for a new cream, reviewers love First Aid Beauty’s FAB Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream with Triple Hyaluronic Acid for its use of retinol and hyaluronic acid that claim to tackle puffiness, dark circles, and fine lines and wrinkles.
Get the First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream with Triple Hyaluronic Acid on Sephora for $42
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.