And a brief hint to the gut-brain-skin axes

▻ Indeed, there is a connection between stress levels and skin health. And -whether you’re on the frontline to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, or you’re staying at home- the straining mixture of your quarantine routine plus the uncertainty about the future might be pushing your cortisol levels higher than normal. What are the consequences for our skin?

When we feel stressed, our body increases the production of cortisol, a hormone made by the adrenal glands. Cortisol is generally a positive thing as it plays a crucial role in our body’s response system. It kicks off a wide array of chemical reactions to contrast inflammations and allergies and to reinforce our resistance to stress, helping us to stay calm and focused. Cortisol reaches its highest peak from about 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., when we wake up, and subsequently declines throughout the day. As cortisol falls, melatonin rises, creating a natural sleep-wake cycle driven by endogenous hormones.

In a stressful situation, our brain signals the adrenal cortex to release more cortisol. Cortisol activates the fight-or-flight response, a physiological reaction that occurs to counteract a perceived threat to survival. In sustained-stress times, our body is constantly receiving inputs to keep the fight mode permanently on.

Stressors to which our body responds can be surprisingly diversified. Sometimes they involve serious health issues, psychological conditions or actual dangers, which require our body to produce such a response. However, more often than we think, they are related to poor diet, lack of sleep, emotional discomfort or unfavourable chemicals in the environment as well. Stress has also been linked to the amount of time we spend using computers, multitasking or on social media. This digital stress, of which you can consult here a dedicated infographic by Online Universities, has been known for some years but seemed to have ramped up during the pandemic era. 

Essentially, stressors make us fight wars we should not be fighting. 

But what does cortisol have to do with our skin? When its level overflows our habitual threshold, cortisol can inhibit certain biological functions to save energy for the battle it’s supposedly fighting. The skin’s production of collagen, hyaluronic acid and lipids is among those biological functions limited when cortisol is too high. Like previolsly discussed, hyaluronic acid is a key player for a moisturised, plumped and healthy skin. In isolated, acute episodes of nervousness, this hormonal unbalance usually manifest itself in the form of acne, pimples and rashes. However, stress can become a chronic issue to the point that it thins the dermal layer of the skin, causing wrinkles, crepiness and persistent dryness. This is the why stress contributes to premature aging. As a result, in tougher times, oral intake of low molecular weight HA supplements, such as SinoHyal FG-HAC, FG-XS or FG-VL, can contribute to make up for the lack of hyaluronic acid endogenously produced, thus restoring our skin health. Still, bear in mind that physical exercise, paying attention to our diet and maintaining a regular and regenerating sleep cycle are three simple and yet effective daily habits to counteract stress.

The idea of stress as a systemic trigger for our physiological the fight-or-flight response perfectly falls within the theory of the gut-brain-skin axes, which several studies have been suggesting as a channel of communication between multiple body organs. We will dedicate some time to explore deeper the concept of gut-brain-skin axes down the line, please follow us to keep abreast of this topic. 

Stress has always been and will always be a daily element in our lives which we should learn to coexist with and manage better. Still, as it can seriously impoverish our skin of hyaluronic acid and collagene, we can also supply our body with these exact nutrients, restoring our endogenous building blocks and our skin health. Beauty may manifest on the outside, but it comes from within, and its connection to our health may be deeper than you think.