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Stress and the Skin

By: Kirsten Sheridan
Posted: June 23, 2008, from the June 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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So, what does this have to do with the skin and your role as a skin therapist? Stress is a fact of life, and how you manage it matters. It affects you physically, psychologically and behaviorally. Skin care therapists often are faced with conditions that are triggered or exacerbated by stress. Your role in the treatment room involves helping clients to feel as relaxed as possible. This will assist them in dealing with the cause, and not just the symptoms, of stress. There are many ways to facilitate this.

Although you shouldn’t move away from practicing serious skin care in order to turn your business into a pamper party, it is important to recognize that stress affects the skin and may set off many conditions that you see on a daily basis. Part of ensuring improvement in certain instances is initiating clients’ awareness of stress. For example, it is known that, although it is not caused by stress, rosacea can be impacted by it—resulting in a flare-up or worsening symptoms. Similarly, acne symptoms often are magnified by stress, particularly in the case of adult-onset acne. Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis also are exacerbated by it.

Deep breathing. A very simple, yet effective, coping mechanism is deep breathing. During the stress response and times of chronic stress, breathing often becomes shallow and labored. If you are breathing correctly, your diaphragm is engaged. If your breathing is shallow, secondary respiratory muscles often are used instead of the diaphragm; this alters the gas exchange between the lungs and the air. Poor breathing techniques can lead to altered carbon dioxide levels in the blood, resulting in increased anxiety levels. The lack of oxygen causes fatigued, tense muscles and metabolic waste buildup in the tissues. Encouraging deep breathing, as well as controlled inhalation and exhalation, can improve your clients’ health.

Have them take a few controlled deep breaths before beginning any treatment. In order to promote good inhalation techniques, consider incorporating an essential oil, such as chamomile, neroli or lavender. Place your cupped hands just above the client’s nose and mouth, taking deep breaths with them. Just remember, they don’t want to smell the pizza you ate for lunch.

It is important to note that essential oils have powerful effects on the emotions when transferred via the olfactory system, where they are interpreted in the brain. Your essential oil blend should elicit calmness and serenity. These responses actually target the brain waves.