Radiant Thinking: How Our Mind and Skin Interact

Great skin doesn’t happen just because you’ve found the perfect moisturizer - though that obviously helps! Radiant skin is an inside out, outside in process. Everything you put into your body makes a difference. 

Just compare your skin on a dehydrated, hungover day to a morning after 8 glorious hours of sleep. It’s night and day. This is why we need to take a more 360-degree, holistic approach to our skin, paying attention to the mental, physical, and everything else in between.

Nutrition and hydration impact the quality of our skin, but an idea less explored is how our mental health and thoughts affect the glow factor of our face.  Your mindset and skin are more interlinked than you might realise...

Mind and Skin - What’s the Connection?  

This connection comes down to a key hormone called cortisol. Cortisol forms a crucial part of our fight-or-flight response, increasing energy, repairing tissue, and halting non-essential bodily functions. 

Cortisol is good when it’s regulated. But if we’re struggling with our mental health, battling chronic stress or anxiety, cortisol production dials up to 11

When we’re stressed, we pump out a load of excess cortisol. It’s like a panic button; suddenly, our body increases oil production from our skin’s sebaceous glands, clogging pores and causing breakouts. It speeds up the ageing process and can heighten issues such as rosacea or psoriasis.

So stress inevitably leads to bad skin. Now we know this, it’s our secret weapon. We can use our skin as a mechanism for better caring for our mind - and vice versa.

I've spent the past five years campaigning for better mental health education, creating tools to help millions globally care for their minds better. More and more, I’ve realised the crucial part skin plays in this conversation. It can be a great motivator to help us care for the unseen mind. Regularly making time to slow down and look after your skin can help carve out equally critical time to check in with your thoughts.

Emotion Regulation

Think about how your face feels when you’re really angry. Is it scrunched up? How about when you’re stressed? Do you touch your face more when you’re nervous or apprehensive? This only promotes the transfer of bacteria across your face and results in even more breakouts.

When we’re happy, we do the opposite. In the good times, when we can’t stop laughing and smiling, we’re exercising our face muscles in the right way. Our emotions just radiate from our faces. The happier and more regulated you are, the happier your skin will be too.

If we can better regulate our emotions - such as by using the FLEX method in my book, Happy, Not Perfect - we’re more equipped to manage high-stress situations. We improve our mental health management and help our skin look even better in the process.

A Case for Reconnecting Our Mind and Skin

When we feel stressed and are struggling mentally, we often just push through. We ride the wave and keep going because “it’ll pass eventually”. Yet, when we have really bad skin, we immediately do something about it.

It’s because our skin is visible. The problem is staring back at us every day. What we fail to realise is that taking care of our minds and mental health is in its own way taking care of our skin, too.

If we’re taking care of ourselves, we’re more likely to be emotionally balanced and have regular cortisol levels. Less cortisol, less spots. Not to mention that eating healthier, drinking more water, and getting enough sleep and exercise as habits in and of themselves can boost our skin’s appearance.

Let’s take sleep as an example. Studies suggest chronic poor sleep quality is linked to ageing, diminished skin barrier function, and lower satisfaction with our appearance. Sleep deprivation affects blood flow to your face, resulting in a duller complexion and boosting inflammation. 

A study carried out by the University of York found that sleep-deprived participants also experienced a 50% increase in unwanted thoughts. And like we saw earlier, this dip in mental health in turn can trigger unwanted effects on our skin.

So it’s important to grab every morsel of sleep you can! Keep yourself hydrated, get outside for daily exercise, watch your sugar intake. All of these will make for a healthier mind, and much happier skin.

How to Reconnect

When I first began to explore this theme, I stumbled upon Dr. Erno Laszlo’s incredible work in the 1920s. He was one of the first pioneering doctors to encourage clients to embrace mindfulness in their pursuit for better skin. And his advocacy for the mind-skin connection is still revolutionary nearly 100 years later. 

Challenging skin can be an incredible reminder to slow down and commit to our mindfulness practice. 

In his work with Marilyn Monroe, Laszlo suggested she go for a walk every day to accompany her skincare routine. Why not try it? Get outside and take three deep breaths to relax your nervous system. Being outside in green space has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol - meaning less stress, reduced inflammation, and fewer breakouts. 

Slow Down Your Skin Care Routine 

We all know mindfulness can be really difficult to stick to. So use your skin as a much-needed window into your mental health. Making more time for your skin regimen can carve out some much-needed space for mindfulness and meditation.

At night, use your skin care routine as an opportunity to really slow down and indulge. Take that moment purely for yourself. Shut the bathroom door and leave all your daily stressors and distractions outside. Massage the products in. Notice how everything feels - the fingers on your face, the water splashing against you. Take deep breaths as you go. 

Whenever I massage in the Erno Laszlo Firming Cream with Spirulina, I make a special effort to smell the light tones and use them to relax me deeper into the moment. At night, the smell of the Hydra-Therapy Memory Sleep Mask is divine, while the putty-like consistency feels like pure indulgence on my skin.

This is something I implore you all to try ASAP. Use your face mask moments as an opportunity to introduce twenty minutes of extra meditation in a week. For so many years, I thought that putting on a face mask was a treat best saved for special occasions. But now I make an effort to connect that treat for my skin with some downtime for my mind.

What I LOVE about connecting mindful moments with skin care is that by hooking new habits onto activities we already do, we're far more likely to remember and stick with them. 

This is really just scratching the surface of the relationship between our mind and skin. Erno Laszlo and I are both passionate about connecting skin health and mental health so everyone can look and feel their best. And remember, self-care is selfless. When we feel better about ourselves, we’re more relaxed, our energy and emotions are contagious, and everyone around us benefits too. 

Stay tuned, because over the coming months, we have so many exciting announcements in this psycho-cosmetology space. Our mission is to be your partner for life, helping you glow from the inside and out! 


With love, 

Poppy
Founder of @happynotperfect  and Not Perfect Podcast with Poppy Jami‪e‬

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"Erno Laszlo not only heals my skin, but he soothes my soul"

- Marilyn Monroe