Sunday 25 September 2016

What's your problem: Did you know your skin can be 'stressed' too?

Published 14/05/2015 | 15:20

Just like our brains, our skin battles against internal and external factors and can leave it exhausted, frazzled and stressed. Here we speak to beauty innovator Sarah Kugelman about her top tips for healthy and harmonious skin.

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Stress not only affects us mentally, it can also affect how we look. When our body reacts to stress, hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline become imbalanced and the results are quite literally written all over our face.

A combination of stress, lifestyle and other issues can lead to skin that is deprived, dehydrated and irritated. The first woman identify the link between stress and our skin’s appearance, was unsurprisingly a high flying career woman.

Sarah Kugelman was at the helm of a multimillion dollar beauty brand when her doctor told her that unless she managed her stress more effectively, she would not live to see her 40th birthday.

The American businesswoman was suffering with cystic acne, scars and dehydrated skin, and she knew her doctor was right.

Taking the situation into her own hands, she took a leave of absence and threw herself into researching skincare. What resulted was the world’s first brand to treat the external effects of a stressful lifestyle.

Skyn ICELAND was born after Kugelman enlisted a team of health and wellness experts in the areas of nutrition, dermatology, psychology, cardiology and holistic medicine. The premise of the brand’s products is to not only deal with surface issues, but to educate people that beauty and health come from the inside out.

A key mission of skyn ICELAND is to inform people on the causes, signs and effects of stress, while giving them tips on how to manage it.

Sarah Kugelman - The brains and beauty behind skyn Iceland
Sarah Kugelman - The brains and beauty behind skyn Iceland

Kugelman, who now lives in New York City with her husband and daughter, spoke to Independent Style about her top tips for beauty and balance which will allow women to glow in every sense of the word.

What is the best piece of skin care advice you ever received?

Stay out of the sun. The stress it puts on the skin adds up to the number one source of damage and aging. I was a total sun worshipper until age 25 and then I completely shunned the sun....it has made a tremendous difference in the health of my skin and I look much younger than I am. It's hard when everyone else is tanning and glowing....but that's what bronzers and self-tanners are for.

What should women avoid if they want to keep their skin as “stress free” as possible?

*I believe in a holistic approach and that means what you put in the body, shows on the outside. Major offenders are caffeine, smoking and alcohol -- all awful stressors on the skin - as they create free radicals, break down collagen, slow healing, dehydrate,  and create physical stress in the form of expression lines and wrinkles.

*Some people see them as ways of reducing stress but they actually increase life stress. Best to drink green tea (which has antioxidants and theanine which calms your nerves) , a glass of red wine now and then (for polyphenols and antioxidants)  and carry around homeopathic mints (with Vitamin B12, magnesium or Rhodiola Rosea) which can calm and fortify instead of smoking.

*In addition you want to avoid, what I refer to as "the white foods" refined sugar and white flour. These create yeast in the body and play havoc with your blood sugar, lead to bloating, lack of energy and dullness in the skin. Best to substitute with whole grains and sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and agave. 

*Don't ever go to bed with your makeup on.  This clogs pores, drags skin down (we have enough to worry about with gravity!) and for the most part feeds chemicals into the skin/bloodstream. Deeply but gently cleanse each night.  

What can women do day to day to become more mindful?

*Meditation forces the brain to turn off. We constantly do 'mental multi-tasking' as in 'How am I going to get to pick-up at 3pm?  I can't forget to get milk on the way home.   Oh! Need to make that doctor's appointment.   Shoot, I forgot to answer that email....etc etc"  it stops the continuous cycle in your brain of non-stop to do lists. This enables your nervous system to relax and to stop the flow of hormones and chemicals into your bloodstream which create that 'fight or flight' stress response.

*Those hormones (like cortisol and adrenaline) and chemicals (like histamine) directly impact your skin in the form of breakouts, aging and irritation.    Also, when your body relaxes you are able to take deeper more rhythmic breathes which relaxes you further and brings proper oxygen into the bloodstream and the skin.   This helps fortify, heal and replenish skin. My acupuncturist keeps telling me I need to meditate more.   I'm not good at slowing down, I will admit.   But it's so important and always makes me feel so much better.

Does exercise help improve the appearance of skin?

Exercise is life saving for the mind and in turn for the skin. I am an exercise junkie and I find this does a similar thing — completely turns my brain off to work and responsibilities and makes me focus on something healthy and fun. It also forces my body to get out of my work chair in front of my computer and move!  I mix cardio and yoga and try to go 5x a week.

Do you have any tips for busy women on how to incorporate a few minutes of “me time” into their busy lives?

*When I am having a really stressful day at the office I will sometimes just take 5 minutes to go for a walk. Often it's to Starbucks to get a green tea lemonade.  But just breaking the cycle and taking a 5 minute walk, can give a new perspective on the day and relieve stress.

*Sometimes it's as simple as focusing on your breathing. If I'm in a meeting and I can't leave, I concentrate on breathing in to the count of 6 and out to the count of 6.  I repeat 5 or 6 times and this regulates my breathing and oxygen intake to calm my nervous system. This works so well that I also do it at night when I can't fall asleep, by the time I get to the sixth round, I'm asleep without fail!

*At the end of a long day, I love to go home, light candles in my bathroom, turn on relaxing music and take a warm bath or shower with products that smell divine.   It's an incredibly easy way to really indulge yourself without a lot of time or money. Add a face mask or a hair mask and tell your family you are taking the night off!

*A great way to de-stress is to call a good friend on the phone and tell them you only have 10min to talk. It reminds you that there are important things in your life outside of work, family issues and financial concerns.   It's also a good reminder that there are people who care about you and who you can vent to.

Do you have any tips on how to combat the drying effects of air conditioning on the skin?

*Start by making sure that the air conditioning vents are directed away from your face/skin. Indirect air is better than having an air conditioner blow directly on you.

*Drink tons of water.  About 8, 8oz glasses a day.

*I'm obsessed with face oils right now....they really heal skin and intensively hydrate. The also really help protect skin's lipid barrier so all of that water you drink doesn't just evaporate.  Pick one rich in vitamins, antioxidants and Omega essential fatty acids. And use a good lotion or cream on top to seal in the hydration.

*Use makeup that is low in volatile silicones, these can really dry skin and most oil-free brands can be drying too.  If you are going to use a foundation, pick one that is more moisturizing and has added treatment benefits.  Pick ones with natural extracts and oils as well as high tech hydrators (like argan oil, shea butter, olive fruit oil, sodium hyaluronate, sodium PCA, glycerin, etc)

skyn ICELAND is stocked at Marks & Spencers nationwide.

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