This common problem is a bigger factor in forming fine lines and wrinkles than you might think.
But how does stress make fine lines and wrinkles worse? What can we do about it?
Stress has always been a problem. We all talk about it; we all experience it.
But many people have a hard time controlling stress, and the effects show in their health and on their faces.
Stress, facial muscles and the formation of wrinkles
Stress effects health and wellbeing, and its effects show up on your face immediately. You can read emotions and stress on your face as the muscles bunch up around your eyes and mouth and your lower jaw sticks out as you clench your teeth.
Your face express the stress you experience. Think jaw tension and teeth clenching, grimacing and worrying, squinting and eye strain, poor posture that causes neck strain.
As muscles tighten from chronic stress, there is less efficient circulation, causing not only the wrinkles but dullness and areas of puffiness like under eyes and under chin. This happens when circulation of blood and lymph is impeded.
Wrinkles are made worse through these facial actions over time, but there’s another factor to consider.
Stress, hormones and skin wrinkles
Hormones play an important role in skin wrinkling. Stress greatly affects adrenaline and cortisol, causing problems with premature wrinkling and fine lines.
Here’s how it works.
Hormones go into action when faced with a perceived danger.
Adrenaline, a fast acting hormone, provides your immediate reaction - like yelling, moving faster or withdrawing in fear. But adrenaline also redirects blood flow to where it is needed, like heart and lungs to gear up for the immediate danger.
Adrenaline is taking blood flow away from skin to support heart and lungs.
Cortisol, which has a longer effect, elevates blood sugar and increases fat and carb metabolism so you can “run away” or otherwise get away from the situation. It also dulls pleasure sensations by suppressing dopamine (the “feel good” hormone), and suppresses immune function.
But extended cortisol release increases the breakdown of hyaluronic acid so we have decreased ability to bind water in our skin, less ability to repair and heal, increased inflammation, less ability to maintain and promote collagen.
Hyaluronic acid breakdown and its cascading effects:
What is Hyaluronic acid
Many of you have heard of hyaluronic acid as a serum you can apply to skin. However, it is naturally occurring throughout the body, in the form of a large molecules that serve many functions including hydration, collagen support, and repair.
Stress and hyaluronic acid
Chronic stress breaks down hyaluronic acid, which supports and promotes the collagen that plumps your skin. New collagen is made at a slower rate as you age in part because of hyaluronic acid breakdown.
Without adequate hyaluronic acid in the tissues, your skin has impaired ability to hold water in the cells, leading initially to dehydration.
Hydration level in cells are crucial not only for the “plumping effect” on skin, but also impacts skin’s repair function, whether replacing worn out or damaged cells and tissues.
Dehydration also causes chronic muscle shortening. When skin sits over shortened muscles, they look wrinkled because the skin has fit well over the muscle when hydration was better (among other factors), but now is loose.
Types of stress and some suggestions to reduce it
Since stress is a problem almost everyone experiences, let’s look at the types, causes, effects and finally, some solutions we can implement.
The body perceives physical stress when there is;
- physical danger or threat
- pain - everyday pains like tension headaches and sinus pain, joint aches and more serious injuries and illnesses
- physical strain or demand - working too long, too hard, no rest or recreation
Mental stressors have the same effect on the body and include:
- not keeping up with life’s demands, whether they are demands you’ve created or society’s expectations; overwhelm
- anticipation of and how you perceive danger - namely fear and anger.
Top causes of stress in the US:
- job pressure
- relationships (divorce, death of spouse, strife, loneliness)
- poor nutrition (inadequate nutrition, caffeine, processed foods, refined sugars)
- media overload (tv, phone, radio, social media)
- sleep deprivation (inability to release adrenaline or stress hormones)
Where are you in these statistics?
- 77% said they regularly experience physical effects of stress
- 73% said they experience psychological effects of stress
- 33% said they feel they live with extreme stress (in 1982 only 10% said this)
- These statistics are from the American Institute of Stress in New York, but were released after their study in 2012. Is stress worse today?
What to do about stress
Finding the way to reduce stress can be a matter of personal preference, but here are some things to consider;
- prayer or meditation
- breathing exercises like square breathing or 3 part breathing
- exercise - experiment with vigorous and gentle forms
- being in nature
- engaging hobbies
- time in a quiet spa (body massage and massage based facials like gua sha and buccal massage are very popular because they release so much tension held in facial muscles)
- promoting positive mindset; faith is helpful in this area
- preventing stress - many of us take on too much and say that we “don’t have a choice”. Unfortunately we must find ways to prevent it or we suffer the consequences
- managing sources of stress once its happening - like stopping to take a breath, walking away from a situation temporarily, or confiding in a friend
Note: these should be undertaken without your phone, electronics, social media, tv, etc. For the most part, these are stress producing.
Although you may have been reading this because you are concerned about wrinkles, stress can affect every aspect of your life and negatively affect your physical and mental health. Make today the day you take a step toward caring for yourself.
Look better when you feel better! Book a facial for relaxation and include buccal massage and/or gua sha to ease chronic tension in facial muscles.