Take a deep breath: new research proves the link between stress and skin damage is real. And if that’s not enough, studies have also shown that the light emitted from your smartphone is actually attacking skin cells. But knowledge is power, and while it’s going to take a little more than a slather of sunscreen and a technology-detox to tackle these modern-day dramas, the experts have offered up some easy everyday solutions to address a new era of complexion concerns.
The inflamm-ageing effect
“The more inflammation that we have in the body, the faster we will age,” says Dan Perry, Education Manager for Perricone MD. Though most regularly referenced in relation to physical ailments—such as joint pain and muscular swelling—inflammation also exists within our skin’s cells, and one of the most common causes is stress. Emma Hobson, Education Manager for Dermalogica, explains: “When stressed, your body produces adrenaline and cortisol, which lead to a pathway of neurological inflammation that stimulates your nerve response and creates [physical] inflammation in the skin.”
So we know the cause of beauty’s new buzzword, but what ill effects will we see in the mirror? Richard Parker, founder and Director of Research and Development at Rationale, says there are four main concerns: “Dryness, fine lines and wrinkles, redness and breakouts.”
Inflamm-ageing ’s worst culprit is cortisol, the main stress hormone. “Cortisol disrupts the skin’s lipid production and the way it holds water, so it becomes dry, sensitive and dull,” Parker explains, adding that fine lines become more prominent when it “triggers an elevation in your blood sugar, [prompting] a process called glycation, which damages your [skin-plumping] collagen and elastin”. The body’s response to stress can also lead to expanding capillaries and enlarged pores.
The good news is there are simple lifestyle changes that can help. Perry says the key is a healthy, balanced diet that includes omega-3 fish oil from wild Alaskan salmon, while Parker recommends B vitamins and applying repairing formulations at night. Eve Lom’s Education Manager Jawn Marques suggests using products with “aloe vera, wild indigo seed extract, and anything [with] rosewater or rose oil”.
Products to try: Sisley Paris Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream; Dermalogica Stress Positive Eye Lift; Shiseido Waso Fresh Jelly Lotion; Estée Lauder Nutritious Micro-Algae Pore Minimizing Shake Tonic; Bioeffect Serum; This Works Stress Check Face Mask; Eve Lom Time Retreat Intensive Night Cream; Natio Rosewater Hydration Antioxidant Serum; Skyn Iceland Arctic Elixir; Perricone MD H2 Elemental Energy Hydrating Cloud Cream
The latest light damaging your skin
If you thought you knew everything there was to know about sun damage, think again. “The biggest breakthrough in the past 25 years has been understanding the totality of the sun’s energy,” says Parker. “We now understand that it’s not only made up of UV light, but infra-red and visible light, [too].” He refers to this as the “solar constant” and recommends using sunscreens that provide comprehensive protection. Indoor lighting also emits visible light, making it just as important to wear SPF inside as when you’re spending time outdoors.
Smartphones and computer screens are responsible for what Hobson predicts will be “the next big thing ” in skin care, explaining that “there’s a lot of research and development being done into blue light, because so many people spend so much time now with their face in front of a screen.”
Look for hybrid products such as Rationale’s illuminating fluid formulation, which Parker calls “omnispectrum” as it protects against all light forms. He also stresses that “80 per cent of facial ageing is caused by the sun”, so traditional sunscreens are still essential. Invest in vitamin-rich options that defend against the elements and treat as you wear, and make sure you apply the correct amount. “Cancer Council Australia recommends half a teaspoon per application for face, neck and ears,” Hobson says.
Products to try: Dior Prestige White Collection Rosy Glow Tinted Makeup Base; Ultraceuticals Ultra UV Protective Daily Moisturiser SPF50+; Rationale Beautiful Skin Luminizing Superfluid SPF50; New York Dermatology Group Chem-Free Active Defense SPF30; Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart With Sunscreens Hydrating Shield
“The World Health Organization has targeted [pollution] as one of the major threats to human health in this century,” says Parker. Scientifically known as particulate matter, “it creates free radicals in the body [that attack your healthy cells], but also acts like a magnifying glass that amplifies the [harmful] effects of the sun.” Made up of tiny molecules floating through the air—dust, auto emissions, petrol and paint fumes—the list of tricky-to-avoid nasties goes on.
“They are so tiny that 20 or 30 pieces of particulate matter could fit into the surface area of just one pore,” says Hobson. “On average, there is more pollution indoors than out, which is why you should [regularly open] your windows.” Responsible as it is for irritation, pigmentation, congestion and dehydration, it’s no surprise that there are now plenty of serums, moisturisers and spritzes on the market specifically designed to protect against pollution and neutralise free radicals.
“Cleansing has never been as important as it is today,” says Hobson of the need to remove the particulate matter from your face. Once skin is clean, add a cocktail of high-strength antioxidants, as well as calming anti-inflammatories to soothe—think green tea, marine extracts, niacinamide and turmeric. Then apply “everything that hydrates and seals the skin”, Hobson adds. “A healthy skin barrier provides less points for pollution to break through.”
Products to try: Dr Dennis Gross C+ Collagen Deep Cream; Clarins Double Serum; Verso Anti Pollution Mist; Youth To The People Age Prevention Cleanser; CHANEL Sublimage La Brume Intense Revitalizing Mist
Want to catch up on more skin care breakthroughs? These are some of the latest innovations in skin care.
For more skin care insights from InStyle, head over to instylemag.com.au
Do you already protect your skin from any of the above environmental aggressors? Have you tried any of these products? Share your thoughts and experiences with us below.
Image credits: Philip Le Masurier
After a decade in the industry, Laura's career spans across four of the biggest women’s magazines in the country; InStyle Australia, OK!, NW and New Idea, plus an online editorship at popsugar.com.au. An established expert in beauty, she also holds a wealth of knowledge across the lifestyle sector, with experience in fashion, health, wellness, TV and video. Laura has featured on morning TV multiple times and interviewed some of the biggest celebrities in the world, from Kim Kardashian West to Miranda Kerr. After freelancing for titles such as Gritty Pretty, Australian Traveller and Fashionista, Laura is now Fashion, Features & Beauty Editor of Hello May- Australia's largest independent wedding magazine and website.