During a time when you feel like you're barely holding it all together (i.e. right now)— the last thing you need to hear about (or feel badly about) is the way you look. But even when you think you're hiding stress, lack of sleep, or anxiety from your friends and loved ones, it shows up in sneaky ways. And while the remedy for those feelings is up to you, there are a few helpful tips we've picked up over the years. See, your body, skin, mind, and health are all connected. And while vanity doesn't have to be your main priority, taking care of those parts of you will help you feel better.
Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, Columbia University professor and founder of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services in New York City, suggests, "When you notice changes in your facial appearance, take inventory of what is going on in your life and what may be stressing you out. Simple things like sitting quietly for 10 minutes focusing on breathing, writing in a journal, exercising, or taking a walk outside, reading, baking, painting, listening to music, and reaching for an activity that takes [the] focus off the stress is helpful. Clearly, there is a connection between how we look and how we feel and think."
Hafeez, whose expertise is in understanding neural pathways as they respond to anxiety, stress, and trauma, notes, "How we think directly impacts how we age and how youthful we appear. The routine stressors in our lives really impact how fast or slow we age. When stressed, we see it in our skin tone, texture, elasticity, and overall glow."
Dehydration, unhealthy diets, and stress can all make us look tired regardless of how much sleep we get. Below, Hafeez and a few other health, skincare, and wellness experts provide tips for how to help.
"Capillaries under your eyes are fragile and break under stress, leaving your under-eyes looking sallow and tired, which make dark circles seem more apparent," says Hafeez. Additionally, "Tomorrow's to-do list can weigh on your mind, keeping you from getting enough beauty sleep. This can cause fluid to pool below your lower eyelid area, leaving you puffy come morning (especially if you sleep on your stomach)," he says. The antidote? Dieux Skin's 100% medical-grade silicone eye masks. Once applied, the reusable eye patches hold gels, serums, and creams close to your skin for maximum absorption (i.e. they make the products you already love work better)—and they're reusable for up to a year.
For: Sallow Skin
"First of all, take a hot shower," suggests celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau. "Heat dilates (relaxes and opens) lymphatic vessels to help assist with drainage of fluids (wastes and toxins) and increase blood flow to bring oxygen and new nutrients to the skin cells. Afterward, use stimulating skincare products. Ingredients like vitamin B12, ginseng, and peppermint in skincare products work to give the skin a circulation pick-me-up. When applied topically, these ingredients dilate the blood vessels, allowing the skin to accommodate more nutrient-rich blood. With continued use, you can see the skin getting visibly more radiant," continues Rouleau.
Plus, "There's nothing quicker to get your skin glowing than massaging a gentle facial scrub over the face for 60 seconds on damp skin. Massage helps to encourage circulation and the exfoliation works to remove surface cells that can make the skin look dull." In fact, according to Rouleau, you should be massaging your face each time you moisturize. "Close your hand to make a fist, and use your knuckles to massage the skin in small circular motions for two minutes. This helps to gently stimulate blood flow to the skin to bring new nutrients to the skin cells, as well as a vibrant glow."
Though, if you're looking for a quick tip that doesn't cost a thing, Rouleau can help with that too: "Hang your head upside down for three minutes. You can do this easily over the side of your bed, and after three minutes you should notice a slight redness appear on the skin. This will immediately bring fresh blood circulation flowing to the face to give an inner glow."
For: Stress-Related Food Choices
We're right there with you—in times of stress, we can't be held responsible for our comfort foods. And that's OK. But we can make specific decisions to offset the stress-related food choices. "A diet high in processed foods can make us look exhausted," says Jessica Rosen, certified holistic health coach and president of Raw Generation. "Processed foods promote inflammation, which diminishes collagen, causing our skin to sag and look worn out.
"In addition to getting more sleep," Rosen says, "it's essential that you drink more hydrating fluids like water, cold-pressed juice, and coconut water. Eat foods that are rich in vitamin C and amino acids to give your body the nutrition it needs to have youthful, refreshed-looking skin. Kale is especially rich in both. Foods that fight inflammation will also help you look more rested. Some examples of powerful anti-inflammatory foods are turmeric, pineapple, leafy greens, green tea, and blueberries."
"Many adults breakout due to stress hormones," notes Hafeez. "What makes it worse is tense people often can't leave pimples alone—squeezing, poking, and picking at them becomes an almost obsessive way to release tension. But, it also makes breakouts worse, exacerbating the inflammatory response."
Instead, use a spot treatment that combats bacteria without over-drying or irritating your skin. Osmia Organics has a formula made from just evening primrose oil, lavender essential oils, lemon, parsley, thyme, cypress, and rosemary. Each ingredient soothes your skin (and your stress) while it heals your skin.
For: Premature Aging
"Life's stress impacts our brain chemistry," notes Hafeez. "When we feel sad or anxious, are crying or not sleeping well, it's common to see deeper lines around the middle of the eyes, forehead, under-eye area and mouth. That same stress can lead to inflammation like rashes, rosacea, eczema flare ups, and changes in your skin's moisture.
"Make sure you're keeping your skin properly hydrated with a moisturizer that soothes, has anti-inflammatory properties, and regenerates the skin. Apply a few drops extra to your forehead and neck, as those tend to dry out and age faster than the rest of your face." Hafeez adds, "When you tend to clench your jaw or furrow your brow. Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention even when you’re engaged in a task, and attend to the feelings and behaviors as they arise. By being mindful, one can address the stress before it becomes chronic or devolves in a full blown panic attack, by realizing what you’re doing to your face, mindfully smoothing the forehead back into place, unclenching the jaw, maybe massaging it, and taking deep, purposeful breaths."