Yesterday, I was giving a facial to Sue, one of my lifelong friends who recently retired. Her focus in beginning this new chapter of her life is “wellness”, she said. Part of her new wellness regimen has been to see me for facials every 4-6 weeks. While I have always recommended facials for stress relief it really was one of those Gestalt moments for me. I had barely considered the holistic nature of receiving a facial. We talked about how the little things like having a scalp massage, letting someone fuss over your face, having your hands massaged, and simply letting someone else do for you things you can barely seem to do yourself can be so rewarding, recharging and amazing for your entire self. It’s not just the skillful choosing and application of products. It’s the whole experience. I know what you’re thinking: duh. I’m thinking “duh”, too. Obviously those things are great and contribute to stress relief but it’s what stress relief does that is so amazing. It normalizes what should be a temporary cascade of stress hormones that are usually only intended for “fight or flight” purposes.
The truth is, and we’ve heard all of this before, we need stress in our lives. It helps us through sticky situations by flooding our system with hormones that divert energy from the normal stuff so we can focus and get through whatever perceived threat we are encountering. The problem comes from having your fight or flight response turned on all the time. For example, norepinephrine takes energy from non-essential (at the moment) tissues like the skin and diverts the circulation to your muscles so you can perform acts of super human strength and speed. Pretty cool, right? Then we have cortisol which is great at giving you more energy (for your super human strength and speed) and can also temporarily give you a higher pain threshold. Too bad it contributes to acne! The internet also tells me it gives you that dreaded belly fat, lowered immunity and digestive issues but I digress. The point is, being constantly under stress can most certainly have an impact on your skin.
I have seen it so many times. Seemingly inexplicable breakouts in “abnormal” areas of the face, a dull and lackluster complexion… These can definitely be stress induced conditions. It’s not all about exfoliation, not using a bar of soap on your face (but please don’t use a bar of soap on your face), using $300 moisturizer, chemical peels, microdermabrasion… To really have beautiful skin you have to be healthy inside and out. I had always thought about skin care from the perspective of inside out. Healthy, beautiful skin starts when you have everything working inside your body; good diet, low stress, allergies under control, well hydrated, etc… Well, that’s true. But I think we can also think of it as something that can start from the outside. You can cause change to happen on your insides with simple, external, stress relief. Like having your hair brushed while a wonderful refining treatment is working on your skin, getting a hand massage with hot stones while your skin is being cooled with a refreshing hydrating mask… A facial truly is a holistic treatment, effecting your wellness on a level beyond your epidermis. Thank you, Sue, for helping me see skin care as bigger than the sum of its parts.