It’s the ritual that bookends a day: hair up, towel ready and products poised. Washing away the day has long been a source of satisfaction, but there may be more benefits to our skincare regime than just a clear and glowing visage.
According to skincare brand Rodan + Fields, which carried out an eight-week study into the mental health ramifications of adult acne, following a three-step skincare routine can dramatically reduce stress levels. A team of experts, including brand founders Katie Rodan MD and Kathy Fields MD, studied 30 acne-prone women aged 18 to 45 who embarked on a skincare regime that included antioxidants, electrolytes, prebiotics, and sunscreen twice a day. The results found that cortisol (the stress hormone) decreased by approximately 83 per cent, and participants felt 76 per cent more confident taking a selfie compared to 53 per cent at the beginning of the study.
While indulging in a little ‘me time’ can certainly boast a therapeutic quality, Dr. Tim Falla, chief scientific officer of the study, found that the influence our physical appearance can have over our mood is not to be overlooked. “There is also a growing body of scientific evidence connecting an individual’s skin health with their mental health, including both emotional wellbeing and stress levels,” he said. “The scientific study of the relationship between psychological and physiological phenomena is called psychophysiology, which, as you can imagine, is becoming an increasingly popular and relevant topic in today’s society.”
Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields are well versed in the effects that problematic skin can have on our mood, but maintaining a beauty ritual isn’t just for those who are acneic. “The connection between acne lesions and the impact it has on one’s self-confidence is well known and scientifically demonstrated,” Dr. Falla tells us. “Acne is a particularly debilitating condition that is known to have a strong influence on self-confidence and stress levels. By establishing a correlation between improving acne-prone skin and stress, we could provide an objective measure related to how someone feels once their acne has been treated and has improved. That being said, we also believe that those with other skin types would find similar benefit from implementing a regular three-step skincare routine.”
The beauty world may be awash with antioxidants, AHAs and serums aplenty, but Dr. Falla believes that a simpler routine is key to lowering stress levels and delivering clearer skin. “Over many years of testing and assessing consumer input, we’ve found that having a three- or four-point plan is optimal in terms of treating and improving skin, as well as increasing compliance and consistency. It is all about having the right ingredients, in the right formulations and in the right order. Quite often, our skin benefits from a multitude of ingredients when addressing skincare concerns. However, some ingredients don’t work well when formulated together, leading them to be ineffective when mixed into the same product (from a formulation or potential chemical reaction perspective). With this in mind, having separate products that incorporate these ingredients used one after the other is the desired approach.”
At a time where social media prevails and perfect skin garners Instagram hashtags such as #skingoals (which has almost a million results), it’s no wonder we’re feeling the pressure to hone a poreless complexion. But, the irony is, the more we stress about our skin, the more problematic it becomes, as our body’s response is to release chemicals like interleukins, which cause inflammation in order to help protect our health. This is why Dr. Galyna Selezneva, psychiatrist and a member at The Royal College of Psychiatry, believes that everyday routines and small acts of self-care can be the calming catalyst we need. “It feels that every single aspect of our lives has been disrupted right now and that lack of routine can easily lead to increased anxiety and stress,” she says. “So, it’s no wonder that skincare routines have proven to be such a popular and positive factor – they allow people to feel in control of their daily life, which is always calming and reassuring.”
Although our brain reacts to our skincare routine similarly to if we were to indulge in a facial or massage, Dr. Galyna says there’s a sense of achievement we feel doing it ourselves. “It’s very rewarding to feel accomplished and love your reflection in the mirror. Neuroscientists have examined the brain and habit-making behaviours – it’s proven that a part of the brain called the basal ganglia plays a key role in the development of emotions and memories. We also know today that the brain perceives uncertainty and unpredictability (like a pandemic situation) the same way as it would when it registers a threat or an attack. So, routines and habits are key at this time for relaxation.”
And the result? Participants of the study said they felt more confident, comfortable and less stressed about their appearance. “We were thrilled to hear about their results,” Dr. Falla says. “Some of the feedback included: ‘My skin looks less stressed and less reactive’, ‘I am less self-conscious about how my skin looks’, ‘I feel confident without make-up on’, and ‘I feel in control of how my skin looks’.” This positive shift in self love is a concept Dr. Galyna is very much on board with. “How we treat ourselves is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves: it’s simple,” she says. “In my view, routine and appearance isn’t about vanity or a hot trend in beauty standards – skincare is a representation of self-love and even escape from daily stress. You are bringing the focus back onto yourself.”
To simplify your skincare, Dr. Falla recommends sticking with the age-old cleanse, tone and moisturise concept. Start with a good cleanser, opting for one containing salicylic acid if you suffer from congestion or blemishes. Follow this up with a toner containing AHAs to exfoliate the skin, a probiotic alternative to rebalance and calm, or a vitamin C formula for an antioxidant boost. Finish the routine with a hydrating moisturiser containing SPF to protect the skin’s barrier from environmental aggressors.
Liquid Facial Resurfacer
Resveratrol Face Lifting Moisturiser
In need of some at-home inspiration? Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for skincare and self-care, the latest cultural hits to read and download, and the little luxuries that make staying in so much more satisfying.
Gallery: What causes adult acne, and how to treat it (Espresso)