Stress Ages Our Skin


AntiStress plays a major part in the health of our body and of our skin. At times of stress our body produces excessive amounts of cortisol which is responsible for a variety of concerns including anxiety, weight gain and sleep disturbances. Aside from the adrenal glands producing cortisol, keratinocytes in the epidermis, the outer cell layers of skin, also manufacture cortisol which increases when the body is stressed or when skin is exposed to external stressors such as pollution, UV radiation and dehydration. Stress in this case refers to physical, emotive or environmental stressors.

Since cortisol is an inflammatory hormone, it is known to cause a wide range of skin concerns and depending upon your skin type, cortisol can make your skin very dry, wrinkled, fatigue-looking, reactive and sensitive, oily and/or acne-prone. I am going to briefly discuss skin concerns:

Ageing skin

Stress is by far the single biggest causal factor for ageing skin and can affect the health and appearance of skin. During stress, skin cells in the epidermis produce large quantities of cortisol which results in elevated sugar levels in the bloodstream. Sugar levels are normally kept within finite levels and so the body metabolises sugars which results in by-products called Advanced Glycation Endproducts, (AGEs), which cause the destruction of both collagen and elastin as well as the hardening of the collagen matrix. These effects result in the loss of elasticity of skin as well as encouraging the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.

Dark under eye circles and eye wrinkles

Stressed skin around the eye tissues may arise as a result of emotive stress within the body or due to exposure to UV radiation and/or visible blue light created by the over-use of devices many of us are glued to, such as mobile phones. Whatever the causal factor, the increase in cortisol breaks down the thin tissues surrounding the eyes making the tiny blood vessels more visible and of course being inflammatory in nature encouraging fine eyes lines and eye wrinkles.

Dry and dehydrated skin

The outer layers of your skin protect you from bacteria and prevent skin from dehydration. High levels of cortisol, whether due to pollution, UV radiation or other factors, break down the ceramides between skin cells which allows the loss of water resulting in dehydration. Additionally, cortisol hinders the production of hyaluronic acid, a compound that holds hundreds of times of its weight in water helping to plump our skin cells.

Dehydration causes the skin to look dull and skin loses its plumpness. Dehydration may also result in inflammation which is not desirable since this can affect the collagen matrix resulting in the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.

Acne-prone skin

The link between stress and acne is well documented since stress is known to either cause or exacerbate acne breakouts. The increased cortisol from hormonal imbalances, pollution and other external aggressions results in inflammation of the sebaceous glands causing them to over-produce sebum. This increased sebum can clog pores allowing the acne-causing bacteria to thrive with the results of acne-prone skin. Typically, this type of acne shows up around the mouth and the chin area.

Sensitive and reactive skin

Have you ever noticed that when you are under stress, you can get irritated very quickly? Likewise stressed skin, with its increased levels of cortisol, can make your skin more prone to rashes and can result in skin sensitivity and reactivity to products which you normally have not reacted to in the past.

How to reduce cortisol in skin

There are many causal factors for stressed skin, some which we cannot control such as pollution and hormonal stress, whilst others we can try to limit such as UV radiation and visible blue light exposure.

Sleep plays a major part in limiting cortisol levels in skin. When we sleep, our skin repairs all the damage that has occurred during the daytime. A lack of sleep can create stressed skin and this often shows up, so try to have at least seven hours of sleep. Supplements for sleep may be an option to consider.

Relaxation can be important in reducing the amount of cortisol produced by the body and by the skin. Meditation, deep breathing and massage may be options worth considering; supplements such as Magnolia Rhodiola Complex can help to reduce cortisol in the whole body.

A face serum for every skin type

Through evolution, the brain and skin are derived from the same tissue and work in tandem to synchronise external and internal danger signals through a series of complex chemical and hormonal interactions. At times of stress, the body produces excess cortisol and other hormones in order to fight or flight from the stressor. Since the body cannot sustain this reaction for long periods of time, there is a built-in mechanism to restore balance, but this does not always occur because in many instances the stressors are constant with the result of what is termed “adrenal fatigue” causing the symptoms of anxiety and fatigue.

In the case of skin, the skin cells produce cortisol as a result of stressors, which include pollution, mechanical aggressions, chemical exposure, smoke, UV exposure, sleep deprivation and of course emotive stress whether due to hormonal imbalances or otherwise. Skin unfortunately does not have the body’s built-in mechanism to restore balance. The result is constant production of cortisol within skin which is the major reason for accelerated ageing as well as acne, reactive skin, sensitive skin, dry skin, dehydrated skin, skin reactions, dark under-eye circles and fine lines.

Neurophroline™ is a unique bioactive cosmetic ingredient belonging to Givaudan, a group of companies in Switzerland. This exclusive and sustainable extract is derived from Wild Indigo, Tephrosia purpurea, a native Indian plant used for its skin benefits.

In studies, Neurophroline™ serum was shown to:

  • Work quickly, within a few hours, to reduce cortisol production by almost 70%
  • Enhanced the markers for iron and heavy metal detoxification which improved appearance of dark circles
  • Enhanced anti-inflammatory markers to comfort skin and ease sensitivity
  • Significantly enhanced skin luminosity, clarity and a reduction in skin redness; a hero anti-ageing serum

Neurophroline™ Serum by Garden of Wisdom contains the hero ingredient, Neurophroline™, together with two types of hyaluronic acid including super low molecular weight hyaluronic acid to deliver this active to the skin cells within the epidermis. Apple polyphenols and all-trans resveratrol are both powerful antioxidants that may help shield skin from environmental pollutants and UV rays. This face serum is not just an anti-ageing serum and almost all skin types would benefit from its usage.

The Problem With Sunscreens

SPF written in sand

Sunscreens are unique skincare products; we are supposed to apply a thick coat over large areas of our face and body and subsequently re-apply often dependant on time and our activity. It follows that the ingredients within sunscreens should be non-irritating and should be able to withstand powerful UV radiation without losing their effectiveness or potentially form harmful products from their breakdown.

The ingredients used in sunscreens may be inhaled when sprayed onto the body or may be absorbed when applied to certain areas such as near the lips. As a result, many sunscreen ingredients are absorbed into the body and can be found in urine, blood and breast milk.

Chemical sunscreens

A large percentage of sunscreens use chemical filters typically containing two or more of chemicals such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, homosalate and octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC). Studies indicate that some of these may be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and end up mimicking hormones or disrupting the hormonal systems within our bodies.

The most worrying of all sunscreens is oxybenzone which is used in more than half of the sunscreens currently on the market. In laboratory studies, oxybenzone was found to display weak oestrogenic activity as well as blocking the male hormone testosterone. Aside from this, there were higher incidences of skin reactions.

Mineral sunscreens

Mineral sunscreens are made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide usually in the form of smaller particle size. To date, there is good evidence that little if any of zinc or titanium penetrate the skin to reach our tissues and hence these are generally deemed to be safer than their chemical counterparts.

The downside to the use of mineral sunscreens has always been that those offering superior protection have to have larger amounts of zinc and titanium, which often results in a white superficial layer that is not cosmetically pleasing. Many manufacturers have got over this hurdle by using nano-particles which if sprayed could enter the body through the respiratory system.

Inactive ingredients

A typical sunscreen will contain 60% inactive ingredients which may be a cause for concern. Some preservatives used such as MIS are known to cause skin sensitization or allergies.

Vitamin A is often added to sunscreens because manufacturers believe that it offers anti-ageing benefits due to its antioxidant properties. Whilst this may be true for oral forms, a study using a topical form of vitamin A found that this may speed the formation of cell growth when skin is exposed to sunlight which is clearly not desirable. The use of retinyl palmitate, the most common form of vitamin A used in some sunscreens, may result in damaging free radicals which is exactly the opposite of what this ingredient is supposed to do.

What should you use?

So far we have ascertained that many chemical sunscreens can disturb our hormones and may cause skin sensitivities and rashes. Mineral sunscreens, though generally regarded as a safer option, may be photoactive. Titanium dioxide can react with sunlight to create free radicals that can damage the skin, damage our genetic material and equally damage the sunscreen’s ingredients rendering it less effective.

There is of course always a possibility that one or more of the non-active ingredients used in sunscreens may change due to UV exposure resulting in inflammation or damage to skin. Additionally, ingredients used in one’s skincare may interact with the sunscreen or its non-active ingredients.

Aside from all these potential reactions, chemical sunscreens such as oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate are the most powerful free radical generators known to man! Free radicals damage our skin tissues and the most widely accepted theory of ageing so your chemical sunscreen is actually ageing your skin and your body.

Aside from the cosmetic concerns, there is a rising awareness of the damage chemicals found in sunscreens can have on the delicate coral and marine life. It is estimated that 25% of the sunscreen ingredients we apply end up in the water.

Certain chemical sunscreens including oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate and octinoxate have been identified as particularly dangerous for our eco-system deforming coral, making coral susceptible to bleaching and making it less resilient to climate change. And this does not apply to chemical sunscreens only; paraben in sunscreen products is thought to awaken the dormant viruses inside some algae that live inside coral reefs.

These algae are essential to the well-being of coral providing it with its food energy as well as vibrant colour. Once the virus begins to thrive, the algae literally explode resulting in the spread of the viruses to the surrounding coral communities. This infection can occur within a few days and it only requires small amounts of these chemicals to initiate the infection.

Coral is only part of the problem. Chemical sunscreens and many of their ingredients are also toxic to many species of fish and other creatures living in water. Any imbalance in one species invariably affects other species.

Some sunscreens contain organic or natural ingredients that can still damage the skin or affect marine life. Biodegradable is meaningless as degradation of these may still cause a chain of reactions detrimental to skin and the oceans.

Aethic Sôvée is the world’s first eco-compatible, reef-safe sunscreen. It contains three of the most photo-stable filters on the market which means that it provides a broader spectrum of protection against the sun’s harmful rays than most leading sunscreens.

The filters used in Aethic Sôvée sunscreens are:

MBBT – provides full UVA I and II protection as well as protection against UVB rays; shows little photo-degradation which means that it is not converted into toxic compounds; dissolves poorly in both oil and water; minimally absorbed by skin and is non-irritating.

DHHB – absorbs UVA rays, photostable, compatible with other UV filters and also provides protection against some free radicals.

EHT – provides UVB protection, completely insoluble in water; water resistant and provides long lasting protection.

Each Aethic Sôvée sunscreen contains organic moisturisers including olive oil, beeswax and coconut extract providing ideal hydration and nourishment for your skin. Vitamin E is added to ensure free radicals are neutralised. Each ingredient has been tested to ensure it has no impact on marine life and is skin friendly. Food grade preservatives are used to ensure that again these have no impact on skin and the environment and the product is free from parabens, petroleum derivatives, artificial preservatives, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, alcohol and lanolin.

Aethic have also gone a step further in that the packaging is recyclable and the ingredients within the sunscreen are biodegradable. The bottles are made from corn plastic whilst the boxes are made from sustainable paper and do not contain glue.

If you are going out into the sun for prolonged periods of time, you need to protect your skin and a sunscreen is absolutely essential. That is exactly what Sôvée does with its unique triple filter protection. Aethic protects you, your skin, the coral reefs and the marine life of our delicate planet.

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