2020 was synonymous with stress - and heading into 2021, it's not exactly like we're in a place of calm. When you're stressed, your body releases cortisol (as it should), and often this will send your oil production into hyperdrive, leading to sudden breakouts. Across last year, every major online beauty title published articles about 'quarantine skin' and the changes we were seeing in our complexion, coupled with 'maskne'.
To me, stressed skin is specific - it might be a series of smaller blemishes, one or two really angry ones, inflammation or a change in skin texture - it often crops up overnight or over the course of a day or two, when your routine has otherwise been normal. But you know that you've been under psychological stress, and it's immediately present in your body.
It's not very helpful though, is it? "Oh, just try and unwind." When you've got a lot on and your skin is angry, you often don't have time to dial everything back, and you can't help but feel ADDED stress from the fact that your skin is reacting this way.
There are some things you can do, that will (over the course of a few days) begin to combat the signs of stress in your skin, and they are the kind of thing that you can keep synced in with all the time to hopefully reduce sudden flare-ups.
Eat the good stuff - you know what that means for your body. It's no secret that I love zinc supplements - zinc suppresses sebum production and supports the skin's ability to heal, so that's a must. I really notice a difference in my skin when I skip taking these! But otherwise, lots of antioxidant-rich foods, fruits, vegetables and green juice will help to balance out your skin during a stressed time.
Do nothing. It's really important to not get drawn into the frenzy of trying new topical products when you experience a stress breakout, and if anything, you're better off laying off all skincare completely (except for a splash of water or two), and allow your skin to just do it's thing. Of course, this is tricky if you need to be out and about, but limit your face masks/actives/exfoliants and spot treatments if you can - layering these on during times of skin strife often prolongs the skin reaction or causes more trouble.
Sleep, rest, snooze, nap - whatever you call it. Usually if we're stressed, our minds and bodies are actives, but we need to slow down in order for our hormones to catch up. I've done another post on the importance of sleep for skin health and happiness, and it really makes a big difference. If you can go to sleep an hour early (or even more), do it! Think of it this way, you're just a snooze closer to waking up to calmer skin.
The reason these holistic changes help stressed skin work is because they are kind of "duh!". We KNOW these things go out the window when we're stressed, and the cycle continues. Even so, having an arsenal of strategies to get your skin back to where you like it I find eliminates the "Panic!" reaction, scrambling at anything and everything in arm's reach. When you know what works, you can simply put it into place for next time.