Beauty


Matteo Scarpellini/Imaxtree.com

Anyone who’s had a rough week knows the look: puffy eyes, dark circles, the sudden appearance of fine lines. “We call it stress aging,” says Manhattan-based dermatologist and psychiatrist Amy Wechsler, MD. “Daily stressors such as a demanding job, a lack of sleep, and an unhealthy lifestyle can manifest as pallid patches, pimples, and wrinkles, which can add three to six years to your skin.”

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As dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin, explains, “Stress slows down digestion, which creates a shift in bacteria that can compromise the integrity of your gut lining. This can cause inflammation throughout the body and lead to acne flare-ups as well as premature aging.” Furthermore, the stress hormone cortisol is no friend to skin. “It’s infamous for breaking down collagen,” Bowe says.

Thankfully, much of this damage can be mitigated by focusing on daily moments of self-care. “When you trigger what’s called the relaxation response, it can stop psychological stress from being translated into inflammation,” Bowe says. “I have patients download the meditation app Breathe—five minutes a day can make a world of difference to skin.”

Regular exercise (and sex!) is also key. “Both increase levels of beta-endorphins, which fight the effects of cortisol,” Wechsler says. Even if you’re not feeling stressed, your skin may be. Environmental aggressors can also make your complexion freak out. “Pollutants cause the formation of free radicals, which damage DNA, resulting in skin aging,” explains Miami-based dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, MD. “Irritants like dust mites and airborne allergens activate enzymes that break down collagen to worsen wrinkles.” Look for products with skin barrier–protecting ceramides, anti-inflammatory ingredients such as rose, and antioxidants like vitamin C and green tea. Topical and oral probiotics “send calming signals to skin,” Bowe says, and cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, has shown anti-inflammatory and anti-acne benefits when applied topically.

Ingested in tinctures or gummies (like celeb-favorite brand Lord Jones, which will
debut a skin-care line this month), CBD can diminish anxiety and summon a stressbusting snooze.

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Can Botox make you happy?

Botox has moved far beyond its primary use as a cosmetic wrinkle reducer to become an FDA-approved wonder drug used to prevent migraines, excessive sweating, and overactivebladder issues. Next, it might supplant SSRIs as a treatment for clinical depression. The neurotoxin’s effects on mood are well documented—three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials have shown it can lessen symptoms of depression when injected in the “11 lines” between the brows—and now Botox manufacturer Allergan has begun the tests needed to clear it for widespread use. How does it work? One hypothesis is that by paralyzing the muscles that are engaged when you frown, Botox interrupts a biofeedback loop to the brain: “Facial expressions can directly influence emotions—smiling may cause people to feel happy, and frowning makes people feel sad,” says New York dermatologist and psychiatrist Evan Rieder, MD. But it’s not a balm for all. People who weren’t depressed, Rieder points out, “did not experience an elevation in mood in any of the studies.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of ELLE.

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