Stress. It’s a fact of life for just about everyone. Whether we’re worrying about work, finances, family, love, or some other part of life that isn’t going the way we want it to, the symptoms are the same: that cold feeling in your chest as your insides seem to plummet into your guts, your heart and mind both racing, visions of worst case scenarios vivid in your thoughts. And to add insult to injury, stress has a detrimental effect on skin, too.
There are many different ways to manage stress. I’m personally not good at any of them, so I’m going to talk instead about what stress does to your skin and what you can put on your skin to mitigate those effects.
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Stress hormones affect many parts of the body, including its largest organ: your skin.
In a 2014 paper on the connection between the brain and the skin, authors Ying Chen and John Lyga explain why skin is so sensitive to stress. Skin is both our “primary sensing organ” for physical stressors and particularly responsive to stress hormones, which Chen and Lyga write are also produced in skin cells themselves. “The skin is highly innervated so peripheral nerves can also impact skin health through secreted factors. … They serve as local responders that mediate neurogenic inflammation,” the authors state.
Chen and Lyga attribute many skin problems to neurogenic inflammation, including psoriasis and dermatitis flare-ups and acne. Citing several studies, Chen and Lyga go on to explain that stress also weakens the skin barrier, leading to an increased rate of water loss, presumably due to the inhibition of lipid synthesis. In other words, stress dehydrates your skin. And as we K-beauty fans know, hydrated skin is plump and glowing skin; dehydrated skin develops dullness and fine lines.
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The paper’s authors mention the increase in free radical production during periods of stress, further accelerating skin aging. Looking elsewhere, a 2005 literature review asserts that inflammation degrades the skin matrix and causes cellular damage in skin, accelerating skin aging.
What can we get from this? Stress-related inflammatory responses are a very bad thing for skin. I’ve always been a fan of anti-inflammatory ingredients in my skincare, and after reading Chen and Lyga’s paper, I’m even more in favor of those ingredients. So let’s take a look at one particularly compelling one: camellia oil.
Not to get all Ancient Oriental Beauty Secrets™ on you guys, but camellia oil is one of those ingredients that actually has a long history of cosmetic use in East Asia.
We may not always have understood its benefits, but recent research is beginning to shed light on why it works so well at smoothing and beautifying skin.
In a 2012 paper published by researchers at Eul-Ji University in South Korea, a group of researchers demonstrated that camellia oil significantly “exerted anti-inflammatory effects by downregulating the expression of pro-inflammatory mediators.” The researchers used camellia seeds from Korea’s famous Jeju Island, whose name K-beauty fans are used to hearing — in fact, the researchers call Jeju “the island of camellia trees.”
Stress causes and exacerbates skin-damaging inflammation; camellia oil looks effective at reducing that inflammation. But that’s not where camellia oil’s research-demonstrated benefits end. In addition to its well-known antioxidant activity, a 2007 study suggests that camellia oil may help promote Type 1 collagen production in skin and, unlike other collagen-increasing actives like retinoids, reduces rather than accelerates transepidermal water loss and does not cause adverse reactions.
I’ve talked a lot about using botanical ingredients as a complement to any stronger actives in a skincare routine, and as it turns out, camellia oil may be one of the best for this purpose. Not only does it reduce skin-aging inflammation and free radical damage but it also improves water retention in skin, a serious concern for anyone using acids or retinoids regularly. No wonder it’s featured in East Asian beauty routines for centuries.
What all this means is that if you’re interested in delaying visible skin aging caused by stress and stress-related inflammation, camellia oil is a valuable asset as long as you don’t have a sensitivity to it. Which brings us to our final topic of discussion: where to find your daily dose of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, collagen-boosting Jeju camellia oil.
Plenty of brands utilize camellia oil, but few of them as well as Beautytap editor favorite SanDaWha, which features cold-pressed virgin camellia oil from Jeju Island in its products. Beautytap contributing editor and K-beauty blogging legend Coco Park loves the rich, silky SanDaWha Ultra Rich Hydrating Camellia Floral Water Cream and has replaced her morning cleanser with SanDaWha Liposome Skin Softener.
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Personally, I’m a huge fan of the SanDaWha Camellia Flower Antioxidant Cream Mask. Despite the name, this is a lightweight and watery gel-type mask filled with camellia petals. Every use of it calms my skin into a new dimension of brightness while providing a noticeable lifting, firming, and smoothing effect.
If you want that camellia oil goodness straight up with no chaser, there’s always SanDaWha Extra Virgin Camellia Face Oil. Pat a few drops on under a sheet mask, mixed in with your moisturizer, or apply straight for an instant glow with long-term benefits.
As for that stress we talked about, the stress that causes so much damage to skin? Take a deep breath, get out for a walk, try some yoga or meditation, and relax. Everything is going to be all right, for you, me, and all of us. And hey — at least our skin will glow as we find ways to get through the stressful times!
How do you deal with your stress? And do you use any skincare products to fight the effects of stress on your skin? Share your experiences below and let out the stress!