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How stress affects us – Part 2 – stress affects skin biochemistry

Hello readers, so as promised, this post is about how stress can affect the appearance of the skin. As outlined in a previous post, stress helps us to handle pressing situations and is not bad or harmful in itself. The detrimental effects of stress comes from the prolonged exposure to stressful conditions.

The effect of stress hormones on the skin
Image from Chen and Lyga, 2014

 

Image from Chen and Lyga, 2014
The effect of stress hormones on the skin

The diagram above, shows the biochemical pathway within the body in response to stress. The pituitary and hypothalamus (structures within the brain), release hormones that exert their effects on the skin cells (amongst cells of other organs and tissues).

Prolonged stress can manifest in the appearance of the skin in ways listed below:

Wrinkles: When cortisol is released, sugar levels in the blood can increase, which, in a continual flow, can cause such things as diabetes. On the skin, it encourages a process called glycation, a stress effect on the skin that damages collagen, hardening it, increasing the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Stress can also induce overeating, which can cause similar effects due to the elevation of blood sugar levels. This can be seen in cases of acanthosis nigricans, in which areas of thickened skin with hyperpigmentation are prominent. Acanthosis nigricans are often seen in the neck, groin, knees, elbows, knuckles, etc.

Dryness: Another stress effect on the skin is dry skin, which has to do with cortisol yet again. In this case, cortisol decreases the skin’s natural production of compounds like hyaluronic acid, a natural moisturizer found in young,  healthy skin tissue. It can also damage the skin’s protective qualities that allow it to keep hydration levels up. When these things are compromised, the skin, as an effect of stress, becomes dry, damaged and susceptible to the elements.

Dullness: Another major way that stress effects the skin is by affecting the complexion. When stressed, our bodies also produce adrenaline, which is helpful if you’re out in the woods running from a predator, but, in daily life, it only can hurt. When adrenaline is present, blood flow to the skin is decreased, taking important nutrients (most importantly, oxygen) away from the skin. This allows for toxins to build up, a step that leads many types of skin to develop cellulite as well. Reduced vascular perfusion can lead to poor proliferation of skin cells and reduced production of intrinsic skin moisturising factors.

Acne: Stress hormones can upregulate sebum production in the skin, which can lead to clogged pores and acne. Although it was mentioned earlier that stress can cause dry skin; you would probably doubt this, but oily skin can also be dry. Dryness is as a result of reduced moisture levels and not oil. Trapped dirt and excess oils can turn to those pesky raised bumps full of the nasties!

Inflammation: Stress hormones can exacerbate and prolong inflammatory diseases like eczema, psoriasis, rashes, itching, etc.

In the next post in the series, I will outline a few ways to handle stress. So stay tuned!

How does stress show up on your skin?

References
1. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014 Jun; 13(3): 177–190. Published online 2014 Jun.
2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071109194053.htm
3. WebMD

 

 

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When emotions can cause physical pain – my journey with pain.

Hello my readers, I thought I should write this post and bare my thoughts to you all. This isn’t my typical natural or herbal cosmetics blog. You can say it fits into the wellness category. From the title, you can guess I am about to talk about my journey with pain.
Those who know me offline know this about me. I have been friends with pain for most of my life. I’m always shifting, adjusting, stretching and what not (so restless sometimes). I started physiotherapy from around age 14. Name it, I have tried it. Infrared, physical therapy, chiropractic therapy, hydrotherapy, hypnotherapy, massage (every possible kind). The pain always returns maybe because the root cause has not been addressed. At age 16 I was prescribed some strong pain killers and became dependent on them, so I had to stop. I have also had a podiatrist, acupuncturist (this was just one session and I had to move back to Nigeria shortly after) and many many massage therapists. I have had X-rays and visited many medical professionals about this (especially) and they have done what they can. I currently manage the pain with yoga, daily stretching, massages – self and otherwise.
Let me just state here that I live a normal life but I cannot remember when I have not felt this pain/discomfort. I am not bedridden or disabled or anything like that. It’s more like the background music to my life but I usually do not let it affect much. I just look forward to a day that I would go about my day and not be in pain. It has been over a decade and I am tired of it! Some days I wonder if this is how my life will be forever but other days I am hopeful.
I joined a biomedical research team so I could learn more about the role of ion channels in pain (my area of research was Sodium channels Nav 1.7) and how to inhibit these channels. The research is probably still ongoing but I needed something immediate as it takes years to develop and approve pharmaceuticals. Around that time, I began a journey (this has not been a straightforward one) to understand myself and many other things about life, emotions, etc.
In this research, I learned that most pain comes as a result of stress and tension which can be brought on by unresolved emotions. I started to notice situations that aggravate pain and do my best to stay away from them but this is life and sometimes I just deal. Sadly this is something I have not yet found a ‘cure’ for but I will keep searching until I do so.
So I’ll just post this photo that summarizes everything and hope you get the picture. It supports a more holistic approach to pain resolution and is good to have this in mind while undergoing any physical pain therapies.
Naija formulator, physical pain, emotional blockage, physical therapy
How different negative emotion and emotional                         blockage cause pain.
It is also worth it to be consistent with whichever therapy you choose while making sure that it addresses all aspects and facilitates release (emotional and physical). I would admit that I have only been consistent with self massages, yoga and stretching. So far I have only one massage therapist that did the job well enough and absolutely understood the condition (he also had some pain which helped him understand the principles of pressure points and realignment). I always left therapy in a state of freedom (for a few days too). Sadly I can’t always run to 18, Widegate Street, Aldgate, near Spitafields market and opposite Liverpool tube station in East London. His outfit is called Brock Body Balance but I’m not sure if he still operates there (it has been over two years). I am currently on a search for a Nigerian therapist that can understand the condition and not just massage on whatever way they have been taught in beauty school (so hook me up if you know someone I could try!). On the bright side, because of this, I have become quite good at self massage and giving massages to other people (those who know me know this and take advantage of it lol).
Do you have persistent pain? What about random aches and discomfort? What do you do to take care of yourself? Until next time, try to take care of your emotional body.
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How stress affects us – Part I

I don’t think I can avoid stress, it is a part of life and in itself is not the enemy. Stress keeps us on our toes, our fight-or-flight response serves us when we have to avoid or escape from dangerous situations and achieve goals. It polishes and sharpens us mentally, physically and emotionally. I find that some of my best work were done under stress and can even go as far as likening it to exercise.

With all these said, I can bet you are wondering if the doctors were wrong about it this whole time. Of course not! In my opinion, what happens after our stressful times is what we should be more concerned about. Do we allow our bodies to return to equilibrium or do we just jump on the next task that requires our attention?

Physiologically, prolonged stress tasks and depletes the body. Our muscles stay tense, our minds stay racing, and we lose touch of our emotions. This can be more appropriately termed distress. At this stage, it has become harmful to health and painful to the body and mind. Physical symptoms like headaches, muscle cramps, insomnia, increased blood pressure, anxiety and digestive issues may arise.
It can be argued that the starting point of all ailments is uncontrolled stress on the body and mind. On the emotional level, feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious and low self esteem are experienced. In fact, depression may even tag along.  The physical manifestation of stress can be seen in all organs like the skin and heart. While the heart works harder and faster, in times of stress, the skin can get reduced blood supply. A high and prolonged level of stress hormones in the blood can also cause increased blood sugar which can contribute to the production of acne.
For the sake of brevity, I will continue this topic in the next post. This post was about the effects of stress on the body in general. In the next posts, I will list out the effects of stress on the skin and ways to alleviate stress the effects.
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Why your cosmetic products may not work. 

You are doing  everything possible as regards to your cosmetic regime and you still wonder what’s up. As a formulator, one would expect me to have perfect skin but the truth is, I don’t always. I wish I did but…. I took some time out to think about why my skin acts up from time to time and after some research, studying and all, I found out a few things that need to be changed. I know this may not apply to just me so I decided to share. 

  1. Eat right: I love junk food as much as the next person, even though I try from time to time to eat healthy. How can I say no to ice cream, bread (it bloats me up), cakes, chips with ketchup and suya? The best way to reduce the intake of these things is to replace with healthy options. Ingesting more vegetables and herbs will definitely work wonders for health and beauty. 
  2. Drink enough water: I try to keep up with my eight glasses but in Lagos, I sweat so much that eight really should be eighteen! I started taking cool lemon water because it’s delicious and will replace soft drinks. 
  3. Reduce stress and sleep better: I am a major culprit especially because I work so hard to bring you the best. Sometimes I remember things in my sleep and once I wake up to do them, that’s the end oo. I’ll be up till morning. I’m working on this though because how can I share so much when I’m in poor health? 
  4. Wash your pillows every couple of days: I change my sheets every week (or two). Gross I know, especially in Nigeria that sweating during sleep is not new to many people. Our sheets can breed microbes that feed on our dead skin, moisture and other things. If you can’t wash everything, just wash the pillowcase till the next laundry day! 
  5. Check your bath water: Is it clean, are there irritants included? Run a test, use boiled water, or bottled water to wash your face. The skin on the body is a bit more resilient compared to the face so you can used purified water for just your face. 
  6. Get regular treatments: At home treatments are very good but once in a while, go to a professional. You’ll see the difference and it’s fun and relaxing to be pampered. Just talk to your therapist about their ingredients to be sure that they are all natural. 
  7. Stick to a routine but listen to your body: Although I’m not a pro at this, I found out that I don’t need to exfoliate my face everyday and after washing my face with a mild cleanser, I may not need to put on a facial moisturiser if I’ve used my facial oil the night before. 
  8. Get regular medical check ups: Getting spots on specific parts of the face can be an indication of issues within the internal organs, so please get regular medical checks done. 
  9. Stop doing the most: This relates to point 7 above. Sometimes it’s best to let the skin breathe. Avoid heavy makeup and abrasive treatments. 
  10. Detox and exercise: This point ties with all the others listed. Exercise helps to cleanse the body through sweating so endeavour to drink a lot of water when working out. It can also lead to vasodilation and hence, vascular persuasion of the skin and hair. In plain English, more nutrient-rich blood can reach and nourish your skin and hair. There are other detox options available to you as well e. g. Detox teas and herbs but you don’t need to over do it. My best forms of exercise are yoga and dance while I love spearmint and moringa teas when I can. 
  11. Wear sweat bands when working out: Especially if you use a lot of hair styling products and comedogenic oils. Using sweat bands will stop sweat from your scalp from transporting these products to your face. 

    I hope I follow through all these and hope you do too. I’ll be challenging myself (and you!). Let me know how you get on! 

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    Barefoot running! 

    Image from google

    I was fortunate to have been assigned barefoot running as my final year project in my physiology and pharmacology. When I received that topic I was a little pissed because some of my friends got to do the so called hard core biomedical research in the fields of neuroscience, developmental biology, cancer research and and all that. 

    I came to appreciate my topic when I started my library research i. e. Reading research articles on barefoot running. Apart from the detrimental effects of running shoes on the planta fascia (tissues of the foot), tibia and fibular (shin) stress and fracture, loss of the foot arc, amongst other things, I started to understand the principles of acupressure and reflexology. I had heard these terms before, and on many occasions but reading those articles really made me understand why I felt much better walking around without shoes or slippers, and why I loved the feel of the moist loam of a farm or sandy soil at the beach beneath my feet. I learned about grounding, earthing and became a whole new barefoot walking and running enthusiast. I didn’t get a distinction in my research project (mostly because I added the part about earthing and grounding, which is borderline science at best because I didn’t have any scientific evidence to back it up), but a whole new me was born. 

    Image from google

    I already had the interest in taking herbs, making natural cosmetics, doing yoga and living the spa life but this added an almost spiritual aspect to this because I couldn’t explain it (scientifically). I don’t do it as often as I would like but I would like to encourage you to try it from time to time. Many people have reported mood improvements, lowered blood pressure, increase in energy and lowered stress levels from just walking barefoot. Absorption of negative ions from the earth, offering anti inflammatory and antioxidant effects to the body. 

    Image from google

    Note: please don’t go barefoot if you have any open sore/wound and especially not on grounds compromised by glass and other pollutants that can cut through the skin. Care should be taken when walking or running on concrete as they can be very hard compared to untarred grounds.

    So go forth into your gardens,  parks and enjoy the feeling of grass, soil and stones under your feet. Trust me it’s like getting a mini foot massage!

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    My spa experience : Greenleaf spa, Gbagada. 

    So on this day I just needed a facial. My face has suffered a lot as I felt stressed, had been eating unhealthy, drinking and all that. I had a mini break out, and a few black heads but that was enough to

    Continue reading My spa experience : Greenleaf spa, Gbagada. 

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    My luxury day spa experience – Spa Naturel. 

    I remember it ‘just like it was yesterday’. I had been to a quite a few massage parlors and was a frequent mall massage receiver by the time I found an offer on UK Groupon for a couple’s (they didn’t specify genders) spa day at only £12 pounds. My birthday was coming up (March 20) and I wanted to have a spa day with my friends so I bought 5 of the tickets (birthday giveaway, I guess). I invited 6 friends on the 19th day of March, 2013, using only 3 of the tickets.

    I should mention that the spa is Continue reading My luxury day spa experience – Spa Naturel.