Remember when you were a frolicking, fearless first grader? You weren’t Googling “anti-aging cream,” that’s for sure. No, the most stress you had was deciding which color marker to use.
You’d get home from school with enough natural energy to power a car, and you’d propel yourself around the house until your stressed-out mother would exclaim that you were giving her gray hair.
Fast-forward. Now you’re busy with deadlines and meetings by day, and busy with chores and household duties by night. The good news is that early gray hair is predominantly determined by your genetic makeup, and not the busyness of your life. The bad news is that chronic stress and exhaustion has been linked to premature crow’s feet, frown lines and under eye wrinkles. (Are you reaching for your favorite wrinkle cream right about now? Because we are.)
What Exactly is Stress?
Whether you realize it or not, stress affects your body both mentally and physically. While the exact definition of stress has been disputed over the years, it is essentially our bodies flight-or-fight response, and it’s triggered when our sympathetic nervous system senses a threat.
Whether this threat is an approaching deadline at work, or an approaching bear in the woods, your body goes into action and produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. You may experience a quickened heart rate, extra sweating and increased alertness when you are stressed, all things that could potentially help you get out of a bad situation.
How Chronic Stress Could Cause Wrinkles
Research has shown the impact of stress can cause premature wrinkles and constantly being stressed certainly doesn’t help your anti-aging routine.
Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, has been known to break down the collagen in your skin, among other things. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol your body produces. Eventually, your skin cells won’t be able to naturally rebuild the elastin and collagen as well as they used to.
And what causes wrinkles? That’s right, a loss of elastin and collagen.
Other Ways Stress Interrupts your Anti-Aging Routine
While extra amounts of cortisol may directly connect chronic stress with wrinkles and premature signs of aging, there are also some indirect ways that stress can take a toll on your youthful appearance.
Think about the last time you were stressed for more than a day or two. How was your lifestyle during that stressful time? Chances are you weren’t living the healthiest version of yourself.
Maybe you spent many late nights at the office, running on only a few hours of sleep. Maybe you didn’t have the time or the desire to eat much more than some vending machine chips and fast food, as stress can suppress your appetite. Maybe you got in the habit of oversleeping and then skipping your daily anti-wrinkle cream application in the morning.
And let’s be honest, if you were short on time, you definitely didn’t make it to the gym.
Little sleep, poor diet, dry skin and lack of exercise are all things that can negatively affect skin’s appearance, leaving your younger looking skin looking dull and tired. If these stress-induced unhealthy occurrences become regular habits, then it’s no wonder that you may see more forehead wrinkles, under eye wrinkles and frown lines form.
Don’t Let Stress Age You
If you’re noticing that your stressful life is getting the best of you and taking a physical or mental toll, it’s time to slow down. It’s OK to take a breather and focus on YOU for a change!
Meet up with friends for a walk in the park or a healthy lunch. Get some exercise by going to that aerobics class you used to like so much. Try some retail therapy by visiting the aromatherapy store around the corner that you keep saying you’re going to check out. Then indulge yourself in a calming bubble bath, followed by your favorite anti-aging moisturizer cream (don’t forget that hot water really dries out your skin!)
There are many different ways to reduce stress to minimize its negative effects. Just like you have to find the best anti-aging cream for your skin, you have to find the best stress relief method for yourself. (And it’s totally fine if it turns out to just be sleep.)