By Nwadiogo Quartey-Ngwube

The Number One Thing You Can Do For Healthy Skin? Relax!

A lot of times when we see imperfections on our bodies we try to cover them up--conceal the pimples, pluck the gray hairs, wear sunglasses to hide the dark circles. Even when we use natural skincare products and eat healthily to try to address the root of the problem, we often ignore a major factor that actually has a considerable impact on beauty: stress.

We’ve all felt that grinding stress, when you’re overwhelmed, anxious, and can’t think about anything but the tasks you have at hand. But beyond just making you want to pull you hair out, there are a number of physical manifestations of stress that start to show if you can’t keep it under control.

A stressed body starts to produce certain hormones, namely cortisol, which can lead to increased blood sugar levels, constriction of blood vessels, a weakened immune system, and even weight gain. These effects deprive the skin of oxygen, directing blood instead towards other organs, muscles and parts of the body needed for survival. It can also lead to a flare up of pre-existing conditions like eczema, acne, or hives.

All of this is exacerbated by the fact that when we’re stressed we stop taking care of ourselves. We don’t sleep as much, exercise as much, eat as well, drink as much water, or perform our full self care and skincare routines.

Basically, if you’re walking around stressed out of your mind for a few days straight, people will eventually take notice. Your skin will lose its shine and become dull and dry, you may have acne breakouts, dark circles under your eyes, and over time, graying hair, hair loss, and weight gain.

So what can you do about it all?

There are always gonna be times when stress is a fact of life. What’s important is to recognize it as the root of your problem so you can address the cause and not just the symptoms. Applying heavy makeup may hide the problem in the short term, but could lead to more breakouts by reducing your skin’s access to external oxygen, since it’s already receiving less from your blood in a stressed out state. Similarly, many people turn to alcohol and cigarettes to “unwind” in stressful times, but with an already-weakened immune system, this may also exacerbate the symptoms.

The best thing you can do for your body is face your stress head on. Get some sleep and do something that relaxes you. That may be meditation or listening to some soothing music, or it may be cooking a healthy meal for you and some friends.

One of the best ways to tackle stress is getting outdoors and doing something active. The deep breathing and blood flow associated with exercise will start bringing oxygen back to the skin to return your healthy glow. Yoga, and especially backbends, also reduce the production of cortisol, helping to regulate your hormones and immune system, bringing them back to normal levels so you can finally relax.