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Too much work, too much partying and too little sleep can all take a toll on your skin. But why? More and more studies have shown that stress - even small amounts of stress - can trigger skin complaints or make existing problems even worse.

We all have stress. Day to day stress, like dealing with emails, navigating the commute to the office, queuing for coffee or waiting for our computer to load up. As silly as it might sound, those day to day stresses - as small as they are - can add up. If you're under added pressure, or if you have even more stress (perhaps a change of job, a change of relationship or you're feeling a bit poorly), things can be even worse. Personally, whenever I'm a bit stressed out I always get a flaky and itchy scalp that can't be treated with regular anti-dandruff shampoo - I have to turn to steroid shampoo and cream to sort it out. A growing school of medicine is catering to this problem, with doctors who call themselves psychodermatologists - a cross between a therapist and a dermatologist, often using traditional dermatology treatments alongside de-stressing techniques such as meditation and therapy sessions. If you can't afford to see a psychodermatologist, or if it isn't covered by your insurance, there are a few things you need to know - and a few self-help techniques that you can use to calm your skin down, leaving you with a bright, dewy complexion, even if all you want to do is cry. 

Why Do Stress Levels Effect Your Skin?

The connection between the mind and the skin has been known for quite some time - after all, the skin is the largest organ in the body, so it's little surprise that when our stress levels increase and hormone activity changes that it shows up on our skin.

One of the biggest outward signs of stress is weight gain, and this is due to a hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol is our body's natural defense against stress and it gets released whenever we encounter stressors. Once released, it helps us cope with stress and slowly dissipates. But if you're stressed all the time or encounter hundreds of tiny stressors throughout the day, cortisol gets released over and over again. Because the body doesn't have time to dissipate the cortisol, it ends up building up in the body. This build up contributes to a number of things - weight gain (your body ends up thinking that you either have to fight, or flight, so it stores those extra calories in case something bad happens), as well as a number of skin complaints.

What Does Cortisol Do To Your Skin?

Cortisol prevents your skin from absorbing water, which means that if you're stressed, you could suffer with dry, flaky skin. It also increases your blood sugar levels and in turn, this can lead to glycation. This process causes damage to the collagen and elastin within the skin, which makes fine lines and wrinkles appear deeper and much more obvious. 

When you're stressed, your capillaries tend to expand due to increased blood flow - and this can lead to redness and in the worst case scenarios, rosacea.

Increased inflammation leads to breakouts and acne, while heightened anxiety causes sleepless nights, which could lead to tired, puffy eyes and dull, lacklustre skin.

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