Is Your Skin Stressing You Out?
By Sarah Z. Wexler
Photo Credit: Marcus Ohlsson/Trunkarchive.com
INTERNAL AFFAIRS: LIFESTYLE FIXES
Sure, topical treatments can offer temporary benefits, but you can slather on as much retinol as you want and still create a forehead crevasse if tension keeps your heart rate on par with that of a neurotic hummingbird. Experts agree that some of the most effective long-term ways to improve your skin are to chill out and to drink more water, though they offer a variety of methods for finding your Zen place.
· REALISTIC GOALS
"It's very easy for me to tell a patient to reduce her stress, but it's not so easy for her to go home and do that," says Hirsch. "The most critical step is realizing what your stress triggers are and then creating a plan for dealing with them. That could mean setting specific times twice a day to check your e-mail inbox, taking a weeklong Twitter holiday, or outsourcing what projects you can. It is really helpful to set limited, achievable goals so you don't always feel like you're falling behind. You may not clean all the closets in your house, but maybe you can organize your sweaters for winter."
· STRESS-FREE EATING
Crazy-high expectations for yourself and being obsessed with perfection are a recipe for stress that many people handle with a bag of chips or a brownie. No, chocolate doesn't cause acne, but "processed foods can worsen skin by causing inflammation," says Murad. Instead, reach for snacks that can actually improve your complexion, like raw fruits and vegetables, thanks to their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits. (The fact that they'll keep you in your current jeans size is a double bonus.) "If you have redness, stay away from spicy food and shellfish, since they can cause blood vessels to flare," says Wexler. A good bet is whole-grain crackers or pasta. "To encourage collagen production, I eat whole grains plus foods rich in amino acids, like eggs, beans, and seeds. Eating cold-water fish and almonds, which contain omega-3's, will help dry skin," says Murad.
· TOUCH THERAPY
Murad also recommends ways to reduce stressed-out skin that are more touchy-feely--literally. "Hands-on therapies like Reiki, craniosacral bodywork, and even hugging a friend help. I actually refer my patients to get massages," he says. Other experts recommend visual imagery of your "happy place," behavioral modifications like tensing and then relaxing each area of your body one by one, and doing yoga--so long as you get a teacher who doesn't point out your wrinkles.