Prolonged stress causes an overproduction of the primary stress hormone cortisol, which in turn may lead to skin barrier impairment. Our skin barrier is the uppermost layer of the skin which provides protection from outside irritants and bacteria as well as restricts water loss, thus preventing skin dehydration. When this protective layer becomes compromised, it leaves our skin vulnerable to imbalances and inflammation.
Our skin barrier needs 3 things to thrive according to dermatologist Dr. Bowe:
Oil, water, and microbiome (more on that later). Cortisol depletes them all.
It also slows the production of lipids (good oils) adding to the dryness and irritation. Without adequate lipids to seal in hydration, the skin starts to “leak” water in a process known as transepidermal water loss (TEWL).
At the same time, cortisol stimulates excess sebum, the type of oil that can cause more breakouts for acne-prone skin. Clearly, prolonged stress and ongoing cortisol production are not good for any skin type.
We will continue this series by looking at the first step in the prevention and control of stressed-out skin from a physical viewpoint. The right cleanser(s)!
Stay tuned :)