These Are the Top 5 Things Stressing Out Your Skin—and the Expert-Recommended Solutions for All of Them

If you thought hormones and forgetting to wash your face were the only culprits behind the new blemishes sprouting near your chin, think again. Beyond the usual suspects that can leave you with less-than-thriving skin, stress plays a huge role in the status of your complexion—and the definition of "stress," according to your skin, goes beyond just worrying over work deadlines.

"Stressors trigger inflammation, and inflammation is at the root of almost all skin issues—including signs of aging and breakouts," says Desiree Stordahl, director of applied research and education at Paula's Choice. "Preventing and reducing the impact that stressors have is crucial to achieving the healthiest version of your skin possible."

So, what exactly is stressed out skin, and how do you prevent it? According to Stordahl, stressed skin is skin that's been compromised in some shape or form. "In some cases, the visible effects of stressed skin show up almost immediately, resulting in breakout-like reactions or sensitized, reddened, and dehydrated skin," she says. "In other cases, years of stressor assaults slowly chip away at skin's natural ability to look and feel healthy."

"...years of stressor assaults slowly chip away at skin's natural ability to look and feel healthy."

The fix? First, check in on what might be stressing your skin out the most (more on that below!), and get a game plan for tackling it. "We can’t avoid all the stressors life throws at us, but we can control how we respond to them," says Bryan Barron, director of research at Paula’s Choice. "The bottom line: The more positive, affirming, healthful things you routinely do, the better your mind and body will handle stress no matter its source."

Once you've identified your skin stressors, tune into Stordahl's expert-backed solutions and Paula's Choice product recommendations for soothing your (skin's) stress and upgrading your glow.

Keep scrolling for 5 of the most common causes of stressed out skin.

1. Sun exposure

This might not come as a surprise, but sun exposure is one of the main skin stressors that can cause long-term issues. "Essentially, sun damage destroys skin’s ability to maintain the vital components (such as antioxidants, essential fatty acids, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and vitamins) it needs to look young and healthy," Stordahl says.

To help counteract that effect, Stordahl says to prioritize products that include all those ingredients that sun damage depletes—namely, antioxidants (which intercept free radicals), hydrators, and of course, SPF. Paula's Choice RESIST Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50 covers your bases with soothing antioxidants plus SPF that make it a total multi-tasking win for your routine.

2. Air pollution

Protection from the sun? Check. Now, we have to worry about, well, the rest of the atmosphere affecting your complexion. According to Stordahl, all forms of pollution cause free-radical damage to the skin—with smog being an especially harmful source. "This damage leads to the breakdown and deterioration of everything skin needs to look healthy," she adds.

To fight off these free radicals, opt for Paula's Choice DEFENSE Antioxidant Pore Purifier, which—as the name suggests—acts as a daily pollution defense system for your face. "The salicylic acid helps clear out debris within the pore, while specially-selected antioxidants neutralize airborne pollutants," Stordahl says.

3. Harsh products

Even if you think your skin can handle anything you throw at it, that doesn't mean you should, since harsh products can sometimes do more harm than good. Some top offenders range from abrasive face scrubs, super fragranced formulas, and products front-loaded with drying forms alcohol, says Stordahl.

If you're dealing with red, aggravated skin, Paula's Choice Redness Relief Repairing Serum contains the ultimate hydrating blend of ingredients, like glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, as well as super-soothing antioxidants to give you that instant feeling of "ahh."

4. Potent actives

How many times have you jumped into a brand-new product or routine without taking a look at the actives list? (Guilty.) "It can be tempting to slather on all the highest strength superstar ingredients you can get your hands on, but that can backfire in the form of sensitized, reactive, or flaky skin," Stordahl says. "It’s always smart to start slowly with actives and ease your way in gently."

Bring back your vibrant complexion with Paula's Choice RESIST Barrier Repair Moisturizer that carefully combines a low-strength retinol with skin-soothing antioxidants. "This formula carefully combines an innovative mix of research-proven ingredients to reinforce skin’s barrier–all without going overboard and stressing skin out," Stordahl adds.

5. Psychological stress

If you've been stressed with work or just life, you know the way your body—including your skin!—can react. According to Stordahl, psychological stress can signal an uptick in inflammatory substances in the skin, while simultaneously decreasing the calming peptides that the brain would normally release. "This can make skin look fatigued by weakening its support structure," she says.

Not to mention, stress impacts your sleep, and Stordahl says being chronically sleep-deprived keeps your body in a near-constant state of stress, which further impacts your overall health and appearance. (There's a reason they call it "beauty sleep.")

"For a relaxing cleansing experience, try the Omega+ Complex Cleansing Balm and finish off your routine with the Radiance Renewal Mask to reset stressed skin," Stordahl says. "Sometimes pampering yourself is just what the doctor ordered." How's that for a de-stressing slogan?

Want to grab your de-stressing products for a steal? Click here and use code WELLGOOD and you'll score 20 percent off and free shipping site-wide through April 15!

Terms: Prices are as marked on eligible items. Kits, sets, sale, sample sizes and new items as noted on applicable product pages are excluded. Offer cannot be applied to previous purchases, auto-replenishment orders or be combined with other discounts or offers. Applies to in-stock items only; no rain checks. Offer expires 11:59 pm PT, April 15, 2022.

Top photo: Getty Images/Klaus Vedfelt

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