Stress is inevitable. It gives us energy and provides stamina in emergency situations, it is motivating and stimulating and helps us to keep up with our busy lives. While short-term stress is unavoidable, stress is problematic when it becomes a constant and common occurrence in our day-to-day lives. If you search stress + cortisol in pubmed (your free online resource to access studies) you will find hundreds of articles describing how stress negatively impacts the immune system, digestion, mental health, sleep patterns and skin health. Acne loves stress and excessively high stress is a massive contributor to the adult acne epidemic that I’m seeing more and more frequently in my clinical practice.
Stress and the stress hormone cortisol directly affects your skin in the following ways:
- It causes insulin dysregulation (you can read more about insulin and acne here)
- Stress causes inflammation and it suppresses your immunity leaving you more prone to infection (as we discussed earlier, acne is caused by inflammation, excess oil and bacteria)
- It can cause a deficiency of progesterone leading to even more acne, irregular cycles, anxiety and even sleep disruption
- It increases oil production and congestion in the skin
The fall season is a stressful time for many of us and the end of the summer is therefore an excellent time to start building healthy stress-reduction habits and to begin a targeted supplement routine to prevent acne flare ups through the cooler months. Feeling like stress is sabotaging your skin health? Here are some lifestyle adjustments you can work on now to get clear glowing skin in the cooler months:
- Keep your blood sugar levels steady by eating small regular meals and adequate protein throughout the day. This will help to avoid the erratic insulin spikes that can lead to acne breakouts.
- Get yourself some quality zzz’s: aim for 8-10 hours of sleep per night and consider seeing your Naturopath for additional support if you’re unable to sleep through the night or have difficulties falling asleep.
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption: you can try my relaxing lavender latte or honey-based cocktail for drink options that will have less of a negative impact on cortisol & blood sugar levels.
- Exercise in moderation: skip the high intensity stuff and opt for yoga, pilates, walking or swimming. High intensity training can increase cortisol levels while these low intensity activities lower stress hormone levels.
- Visit your natural doctor for a customized supplement prescription to support your adrenal glands during times of stress. Adaptogens are herbs that help the body adapt to stress, meaning that they can either lower or raise cortisol levels depending on which herb you take. This is why it’s not advisable to self prescribe any adaptogenic herbs, if you’re someone with either chronically low or excessively high cortisol levels many common adaptogens will leave you feeling a lot worse. If you’re interested in taking a supplement to support your stress please visit your Naturopath to help you determine what your cortisol curve looks like in order to support your stress hormone output safely and effectively.
- Start a mindfulness practice: this can look differently to everyone but it’s essential and I always encourage my patients to develop a daily stress-reduction practice. Some of my favourite mindfulness habits include journalling with my 5 minute journal, guided meditation with the headspace app, or daily walks in nature.
If you’re looking for a Naturopath in Oakville to treat your acne apply to book an initial consultation with Dr. Sarah White, ND. Patients see the best results when they are following personalized lifestyle and dietary measures along with customized prescriptions for herbal and dietary supplements that we can discuss on an individual basis in consultation to reduce cortisol levels and help you to achieve optimal physical and emotional health and clear, glowing skin. Book your in-person appointment here.
*Note: online services provided by Dr. Sarah to those of you living outside of Ontario are delivered as a Certified Functional Medicine practitioner consult and not as an Naturopathic doctor appointment & as such they will not be eligible for reimbursement through private insurance.