The New Era of Peak Stress: How To Stress Less and Support Health & Skin

We sat down with medical doctor, neuroscientist and one of Almora Botanica’s circle of experts Dr Tara Swart, to find out how stress has the potential to damage the quality of our skin and what we can do to actively reduce its side effects.

Q. How does stress really effect the skin?

Stress is our body’s natural response to a perceived threat, which was an evolutionary function to protect us from things like predators or natural disasters. The way that stress works is, that depending on your age or your gender, there’s a normal range for the stress hormone cortisol which comes from our adrenal glands. If you have a challenging deadline, for example, you could get a spike of cortisol, but then it should go back to normal range for most of the day. This is our adaptive stress response and is a good thing. But when we are chronically stressed, that level is at the top end of the range or even higher all the time which can ultimately lead to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and even diabetes. As for the skin, the physical impact of stress can include dryness, flakiness, redness, increased sensitivity, loss of elasticity and dullness, and due to the inflammatory nature of the stress response, it can trigger conditions such as dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis. Excess cortisol can also lead to an over production of oil and therefore break outs.

Q. Why do you think stress is so prevalent in modern society?

A recent statistic shows that if you read one newspaper from start to finish today, it would be the same amount of information someone would receive in their lifetime 100 years ago! We live in a fast-paced environment and because of modern technology, we can be switched on all the time. If we don’t put good boundaries in place, it can affect our sleep, resilience, and our social relationships. When we lived in keeping with the light-dark cycle, we naturally walked bare foot in nature, we looked at the stars in the sky at night, we sat around a campfire in the evening and slept when it was dark. Now that we don’t naturally tend to do those sorts of things, it isn’t as easy to recover from stress and recoup our resilience, unless we are mindful about doing so.

Q. What are your top tips for alleviating stress, therefore having a positive impact on your health and skin?

Maintain a balanced, gut-friendly diet.
Consume a mostly plant based diet rich in antioxidants, good fats and water, with varied colours of vegetables and some fruit (grapes, blueberries and pomegranate are all packed with skin-friendly anti-oxidants) to nourish your skin from within. It’s important to also eat foods that have pre and probiotics to keep your gut microbiome balanced, as we know now that the gut and brain are very much connected. They signal to each other via the vagus nerve using neurotransmitters and gut hormones. This flow of information can influence how they each function (and how you feel and look) – also known as the gut-brain axis.

Stay hydrated.
We are made of over 60% water so it’s crucial to stay hydrated! Drinking good amounts of water helps detox our bodies and remove waste which is crucial for glowing skin. Drinking mindfully is also incredibly important, we often gulp down water on the go, but if you take a moment, sit down and take mindful sips your body will be able to absorb it properly. In Ayurveda, drinking warm black pepper first thing in the morning can help detoxify and cleanse the body from within, as it secretes more hydrochloric acid in the stomach, improving the health of the digestive system which in turn helps skin glow from within.

Exercise regularly
Sweating via aerobic exercise helps to release cortisol, and deep breathing oxygenates all our cells. Moving your body also releases endorphins and makes you feel great – so can help snap you out of a funk if you’re feeling low or stressed.

Get enough sleep
Prioritise getting good quality sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Improve your sleep quality by saying ‘no’ to artificial light at night. Even low levels can delay melatonin release - the sleep hormone - and could lead to health disorders.
Sticking to a sleep schedule can also help your body recognise sleep-wake cycles by sleeping and waking up at the same times daily.

Soak up the sun.
When you wake up, get up and get out of the house to soak up the morning light. It resets our biological clocks and can enhance sleep quality and mood – just 10 minutes outside (even on a gloomy day) can have a huge impact.

These three exercises can help us to quickly regain control from feelings of stress or anxiety:

1. Physiological Sigh - by mindfully sighing a few times, you can manually reduce two key symptoms of stress within a few seconds.

2. Inhaling twice causes the collapsed alveoli to reinflate with air. As a result, the surface area of the lungs increases and CO2 is removed from the body much more efficiently. This makes the body feel more relaxed.

3. Long exhales cause a slight increase in pressure to the receptors in the heart. This sends signals to the brain to slow down the heart rate which creates a relaxed feeling.

Face Yoga Fitness with Almora Botanica.
The products are largely oil based but light as a feather, so if your system becomes dehydrated from stress, the oil can create a barrier to help lock hydration in. And the act of self-massage releases oxytocin which can counterbalance the effects of cortisol.

Address the Route Cause.
If skin issues persist, try journaling and/or speaking to a to a mental health professional to identify and address the causes, and help manage any unhelpful emotions. Increased cortisol levels over a prolonged period of time can trigger inflammation in the body, leading to dryness and flare-ups of existing and new skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne; as well as imbalance your gut microbiome.


Almora Botanica Radiance Day Face Oil, RRP £85
‘I travel a lot, and I don’t take too many large products with me. The Radiance day face oil is the one product that is perfect for keeping my skin hydrated, whether I’m on the plane or going in and out of air-conditioned buildings. It works in all climates, and is light and highly absorbable so I can easily apply make up over it for filming days.’

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