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Combating Harmful Lifestyle Effects on the Skin

By: Terri Wojak
Posted: January 31, 2013, from the February 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Stress has been shown to have many adverse reactions in the body. Besides anxiety, depression and illness, stress can have harmful effects on the skin. Existing skin conditions including psoriasis and rosacea can be aggravated from an increase in stress. However, the most common visible presentation of stress is an acne breakout. Stress can increase sebum production through hormone responses and cause inflammation: two of the main factors that lead to acne.

Long-term effects of stress on the skin also can be caused from an increase in cortisol. This hormone depletes the amount of hyaluronic acid, the ground substance for many structures of the skin, and leads to dehydration and dry skin. The combination of the effects from cortisol and inflammation can lead to the breakdown of collagen and elastin, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles.

Stress should be managed regularly by clients. Routine exercise and adequate sleep are vital to reducing stress. Exercise has been shown to improve self-confidence, self-esteem and the ability to handle stressful situations. Lack of sleep also may have a direct effect on stress management. Intuitively, if physical stores are being used up by the body to maintain alertness, then resources are being diverted from the skin and other systems. Mood is clearly affected by sleep deprivation as well, and appearance is negatively affected by mood. If clients are serious about looking their best, valuable sleep and regular exercise are necessary. As a skin care professional, it is not only important to discuss the negative effects that stress can have on the skin, but also to assist your clients in developing relaxation techniques. During treatments, ensure that the client receives a relaxing massage. If a facial massage cannot be performed due to protocol, a shoulder and neck massage can be substituted. You might also recommend manual lymphatic drainage, a technique that assists in overall body relaxation, working on the sympathetic nervous system, which is part of the body’s reaction that causes flight or fight. In addition, the use of essential oils, such as lavender, chamomile and ylang-ylang during treatments can help to induce a relaxed state of mind. Playing soft, soothing music and dimming the lights in the room create a calming environment and ambiance. Make every effort to ensure that, from the moment clients step into your skin care facility, they enter an oasis of serenity.

Don’t smoke

Awareness of the negative effects of smoking has grown. It is common knowledge that smoking is detrimental to health, leading to various medical conditions and diseases. It is also bad for the skin. Cigarette smoke is a vasoconstrictor that dramatically decreases oxygen supply to the blood. This affects the levels of nourishment and oxygen available to the skin, which is needed for cellular renewal and repair. The immediate effects of asphyxiation include a visible yellow or gray tone with very little radiance or glow. The long-term effects lead to collagen breakdown, and skin disorders, including psoriasis and squamous cell carcinoma.

Smoking also is associated with poor wound-healing. Lack of circulation and oxygen can dramatically slow down healing processes in the body, including the skin. Therefore, it is especially important to eliminate smoking before an invasive procedure, such as cosmetic surgery or deep ablative skin-resurfacing treatments. These procedures, performed by medical professionals, actually can cause more harm than good if the skin’s healing capabilities are compromised. Skin care professionals should also be cautious when performing chemical exfoliation treatments.

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