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Getting the perfect skin might be a more holistic process than it can at first seem. Jessica Lacey speaks to the experts about just how wide-ranging your considerations should be.
It turns out the concept of ‘skin deep’ is a raging oxymoron, because when we’re talking skin? We need to get real deep. Skin is an outward manifestation of everything that’s going on inside our complex bodies, and any unresolved issues are likely to be written across your face.
It won’t shock many of us to hear that stress can exacerbate pre-existing skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and eczema. A build-up of tension triggers the body’s inflammation response which then aggravates the skin, causing flare-ups to worsen. We’ve long understood that skin alters in times of psychological stress: back in 1984 The New York Times reported that "the skin can be a sensitive barometer of life's stresses. As one's mental state changes, so does the body, and particularly its most public aspect, the skin.”
More recent research has ascertained the reasons as to why our skin suffers when we experience heightened tension: “In stressful conditions, hormone relapse encourages inflammation and the decreasing blood flow to the skin". And now there’s even a specific terminology for this field of research - Psychodermatology.
Not a million miles away from the embarrassed child who starts blushing wildly, the teen sitting their exams who wakes with an angry acne breakout, the new mum leaving her baby to return to work exploding into hives or the middle-aged woman enduring a marriage breakdown who suddenly becomes consumed by itchy skin, we’ve all witnessed our emotional state manifesting on someone's skin. Not only can our anxiety levels intensify our skin woes though, scientists have also proven that the inflammation resulting from prolonged stress can also have a major impact on accelerating skin ageing too.
On the upside, our skin just as easily benefits from a positive mindset like returning from holiday looking well rested or the adage of radiating that ‘new relationship glow’ whereby the emotional high of finding yourself in love and boosted hormone levels of serotonin, dopamine and endorphins cause skin to start beaming. Orgasms have been long been proven to directly increase the rate of blood flow to your skin, circulating additional oxygen and nutrients, making the dermis more resilient and firmer. What’s more, research also suggests that sex boosts the production of oestrogen and oxytocin in the female body, which counteracts the stress hormone cortisol, therefore further bringing down inflammation in the skin.
The interplay between our emotional selves and our skin is so powerful that now the best facialists have become detectives, piecing together a mystery playing out on a cellular level. “There’s no such thing as normal. What seems barely worth mentioning to you could be the missing part in our solving your skin,” explains celebrity facialist, Joanne Evans, regarded among the top skin experts in the UK. Joanne opened the doors of her much-anticipated Skin Matters Wellness Clinic, in West London’s leafy Holland Park just last year, only you’ll have to wait at least three months for an appointment with her. “Divulging all you can to your skincare professional, will allow them to treat you holistically and from a place of full knowledge.”
Emotional honesty also helps you know what to steer clear of. “Traditional lasers that cause injury to the skin so as to encourage regeneration through collagen synthesis, cannot be used endlessly,” warns Joanne. “Skin has to be left alone to have time to heal and repair and that’s when I tell my clients they need to take a break from lasers and approach their skin a different way. You may come in one day stressed, have your period or be recovering from illness and it’s not time to attack your skin with a laser. When it's fragile, you could well have an adverse reaction to skin laser treatment, so all these individual stories are very important. It may be minor to you, like you were feeling under the weather yesterday and just took a day off work but it's important your therapist knows that.”
The exception to this rule however, is the LYMA laser which Joanne happily uses on all her clients, day in day out. A game-changing cold laser that operates at the exact power level to create laser speckle; the process of reawakening skin cells to switch their regeneration mode back on, boosting collagen production without causing any heat or damage to the skin. “It’s so incredible because it’s compatible with skin whatever your mental state, no matter how vulnerable your mind or skin is that day.”
With that in mind, here’s Joanne Evans’ outside-the-box advice to getting your best skin yet.
With modern life, it’s vital to look at skin from the full 360 degrees. Fine tuning what you're eating, how you exercise, your daylight exposure, pollution levels, sleep quality, daily water intake; these all count as skincare and contribute to your skin health.
I could be prescribing skincare continuously to somebody and they're getting limited results and then I find out they've got a yeast infection or a food intolerance that's creating more oil in the skin. You can't just rely on what you're putting on from a bottle, you need to look at all the other factors within your body.
Particularly women who are on low fat diets show significant dehydrated, pigmented, shallow skin from a deficiency of good fat intake and omega oils. Vegans who have very little protein or perhaps a poor protein source, can have very dry, sensitive skin. Skin tells us what it’s missing.
Our consultation forms are extensive but it’s often from talking with clients that we learn what’s going on from their personal lives. Clients will tell me they have no idea why they’re not responding to treatment and then mid-treatment they’ll pipe up there’s been a death in the family or they’re on their second round of IVF treatment, they’ve been working overtime for months, they’re still processing their divorce or their kids have just left home and suddenly their cryptic skin condition makes sense.
Women often accept huge life shifts as normal and can’t compute where patterns might be forming. This is where journaling helps because I write everything down, every tiny detail and through this journaling, I’m able to paint the complete picture and we’ll find that hidden trigger that’s behind all their skin troubles so we can begin to solve it.