How Stress Affects Men's Skin (And How To Control It)
Whether you are a hard-working professional, a stay-at-home dad, or a student cramming the perks of university life around cramming for exams, every man experiences stress in one form or another. And now more than ever - these are stressful times.
While you may behave utterly in control - the proverbial duck floating on still water while paddling ferociously beneath the surface - that stress will inevitably show on your skin if you don’t put practises in place to address it.
Why? Well, here comes the sciencey bit…
It all comes down to the stress hormone cortisol. This is what controls our fight or flight response. And under moments of stress, our body releases surges of the stuff to kick-start those defence responses to combat whatever it is that our bodies have identified as a ‘threat’. After all, we are, still, cavemen as far as our biological responses go, regardless of how dapper and refined we look in a well-cut suit.
Fact: Stress also impacts your hair as a man. Telogen effluvium is a very common hair loss problem often brought on by psychological stress. So even if skin isn’t your thing - when it comes to fight or flight responses to stress - your hair is not sticking around. Premature balding is one of the biggest giveaways when it comes to visible signs of ageing and, let’s face it, just something every man wants to avoid.
So now what?
That surge of cortisol may be a good thing when it comes to enabling us to respond to the ‘threat’ at hand, but it wreaks absolute havoc on our skin.
The key impact of high cortisone levels is oily skin. We talk a lot on this blog about the sebaceous glands being so active in the male skin and, when cortisone levels rise, these oil-producing glands go into overdrive. And this layer of increased oil on the surface of the skin creates the ideal environment for blemishes and breakdowns.
Stress isn’t going anywhere, we all experience it in one way or another. If you are lucky enough to have a fully stress -free life, there is no need to read on. But for the rest of us, what can we do, practically speaking, to remedy its impact on our skin?
Despite looking tired around the eyes, lack of sleep causes the body to release cortisone, resulting in inflammation and break-outs. Don’t just look to the length of your sleep but the quality. Studies have shown that the latter is more closely linked to your health and wellbeing. We’re all about ritual at Hommage and extending this to your bed time routine will vastly improve the quality of your sleep. This could include taking a warm bath, removing all electronics as you wind down and saying no to caffeine in the afternoon or that night cap which, while it might relax you in the immediate term, is likely to disrupt the quality of your sleep.
No one is saying you have to start pumping iron or even join a gym. Just a simple half an hour worth of walking is a step in the right direction (pun intended). Outdoor exercise is, in fact, more valuable when it comes to the skin.
Studies have shown that outside physical activities lower your blood pressure, heart rate and, most importantly, stress levels. You also don’t need to worry about coming into contact with the surface bacterias that are rife in shared indoor exercise spaces. Three thirty minute exercise sessions per week is enough to see a visible difference in the impact of stress on your skin.
Again, this does not mean undergoing a huge dietary transformation (we are strictly anti-fad dieting due to the impact on your skin but that’s another story for another time). When you are stressed and pushed for time, it is all too easy to make poor food choices and often reach for fast food or quick sugary pick-me-ups. And these stress-led decisions lead to….you guessed it… stressed out skin.
Try to have skin-friendly snacks such as nuts at hand for when you are on the go and include foods rich in vitamin C into your diet (strawberries, oranges, broccoli and peppers are good choices). Vitamin C is a crucial factor in the synthesis of collagen in the skin. And collagen is the key protein that forms the foundation of the skin. We naturally lose collagen as we age, so anything you can do to top it up is beneficial.
Overcooking can destroy the vitamin C in food - so keep it raw or al dente when it comes to fruit and veg.
We’ve saved the best ‘til last. Your skincare routine is, arguably, the most important and effective of all when it comes to the visible signs of stress on the skin.
Because it’s also the easiest to incorporate into a busy lifestyle.
Ritual, ritual, ritual. Such is the Hommage credo.
Twice a day, spend 5 minutes following a basic routine and those stress signs will wash away. And when we look good, we feel good.
The 3 skincare essentials that every man should make a habit of using are a purifying face cleanser, moisturiser and eye serum.
As for shaving, this should also be a 3 step ritual, sandwiching the shave itself in between applying a softening pre-shave oil and then a post-shave balm.
There is a reason that stress is often referred to as the ‘number one killer’. It’s because it is medically linked to the six leading causes of death. Stress has even been labelled by the World Health Organisation as the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century”.
Combatting stress and its impact on our bodies is, and should be considered, a duty - not only to ourselves but others around us. Because as the WHO’s evidence suggests, it is contagious.
If you’ve read this far, you know exactly where to start so, from all of us at Hommage,