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Unlocking Radiant Skin By Reducing Stress Hormones: The Power of Specialty Labs, Integrative Nutrition, and Stress-Busting Supplement Recommendations

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Unlocking Radiant Skin By Reducing Stress Hormones: The Power of Specialty Labs, Integrative Nutrition, and Stress-Busting Supplement Recommendations

Stress, an omnipresent factor in modern society, impacts our lives in multifarious ways. A striking revelation is that around 55% of adults in the United States report experiencing stress on a daily basis. One area where stress manifests subtly, yet significantly, is the skin. This dynamic forms a vicious cycle - stress incites skin issues, which in turn aggravate more stress. Despite these challenges, a more pragmatic and balanced approach emerges from the field of integrative medicine, offering new avenues to combat these intertwined problems effectively.


What is Stress?

Stress embodies both physical and emotional reactions to difficult or challenging situations, with a range that spans the likes of minor inconveniences such as punctuality to impactful events like the loss of a loved one. The presence of stress triggers our bodies to respond through the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This response results in the release of an array of hormones, most notably cortisol, which is often referred to as the primary stress hormone in the body. This reaction is generally recognized as the "fight-or-flight" response.

In the wake of these hormones and the sympathetic nervous system's activation, physiological changes ensue, including an increase in heart rate, acceleration of the respiratory rate, a surge in blood pressure, perspiration, and muscle tension. These modifications are the body's innate mechanisms for dealing with a stressor, enabling you to either confront the challenge or retreat from it. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a communication network connecting the brain and the endocrine system, oversees this response (2).

While experiencing acute stress periodically is part of normal life and may even harbor some benefits, chronic stress, especially in our fast-paced modern society, is an anomaly that can lead to severe health complications. Chronic stress can heighten inflammation, undermine the immune system, and contribute to various health concerns, such as digestive issues, headaches, sleep disorders, anxiety, and atherosclerosis. Recognizing and understanding stress is the initial step towards its effective management, with mind-body therapies often proving to be a good choice for a comprehensive solution (2,3).

Connection Between Stress And Skin Health

Stress can significantly impact our skin health, and its effects manifest in various ways. One such way is through its interaction with the gut, often referred to as the "gut-skin axis." Stress can disrupt the gut's normal function, leading to a condition known as "leaky gut." This, in turn, can contribute to skin inflammation as inflammatory substances escape into the bloodstream. Moreover, psychological stress can impair the barrier function of the skin – the epidermis. This outermost layer, responsible for locking in moisture and protecting against harmful microbes, can be disrupted under stress, thereby leading to irritated skin and exacerbating conditions like eczema and psoriasis (4,5).

In addition to disrupting our skin's protective functions, stress also triggers an inflammatory response that can exacerbate skin conditions. The body's stress response, coordinated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, leads to the production of cortisol and catecholamines. These hormones stimulate pro-inflammatory cells, which can result in skin conditions ranging from acne to more chronic ailments. Moreover, this inflammation has a two-way relationship with stress, where skin conditions can lead to increased stress, creating a cycle that can worsen psychological and skin health (4,8).

The connection between stress and skin health doesn't end with inflammation and impaired barrier function. Prolonged stress can also lead to premature skin aging and the onset of specific skin conditions. For instance, stress has been linked to telogen effluvium, a type of diffuse hair loss, and even to graying hair. Furthermore, the skin, when under stress, produces stress hormones in response to environmental factors like ultraviolet light, creating a reciprocal relationship between environmental stressors and skin health. Notably, the control of stress through techniques like meditation and maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been shown to help manage these stress-related skin issues (4,5).

Functional Medicine Labs That Can Help Individualize Treatment for Patients With Skin Disorders Caused By Stress

Understanding the underlying factors that contribute to skin disorders caused by stress is critical for effective treatment. Various functional medicine lab tests can provide essential insights, helping healthcare providers to individualize treatment plans.

Adrenal Stress Panel Testing for Hormone Imbalances

Stress activates the body's fight-or-flight response, releasing an array of hormones, most notably cortisol, often referred to as the primary stress hormone. Chronic activation of this response can lead to health complications, including skin disorders. The Ayumetrix Adrenal Stress Panel evaluates the circadian secretion of cortisol and DHEA, identifying hormonal imbalances that could contribute to skin conditions caused by stress.

Skin Vitality Testing for Skin Health

External and internal stressors can disrupt the normal hormonal balance of the body, potentially leading to skin disorders. The Ayumetrix Skin Vitality test analyzes seven key hormones that can impact skin health. This assessment includes levels of cortisol, DHEA, testosterone, estrogen, vitamin D, progesterone, and TSH levels.

Gut Zoomer Testing for Microbiome Imbalances

Stress can disrupt normal gut function, leading to conditions such as "leaky gut syndrome" that can contribute to skin inflammation.

Functional Medicine Treatment for Managing Stress and Skin Health with Integrative Medicine

Functional medicine can provide a comprehensive treatment plan for managing stress and its effects on skin health.

Nutritional Support For Skin

Nutritional support is pivotal for the overall health and function of our skin. The primary fuel source for skin cells is glucose, which is involved in energy production and the creation of glycoproteins and glycolipids that make up the skin's extracellular environment. Just as with other bodily functions, any disruption in glucose metabolism can significantly affect the skin's structure and appearance. Specialized lipids crucial for the development of the outermost layer of the skin are synthesized from various substrates, including amino acids, carbohydrates, and phospholipids. Amino acids play an integral part in the production of both dermal and epidermal structures, aiding in the synthesis of essential extracellular matrix proteins and enzymes that support the function of the skin's protective barrier.

The importance of nutrition in skin health extends beyond merely providing structural support. Many of the skin's structural components rely on an array of nutritive factors such as small peptides, minerals, and vitamins, serving various functions from enzyme cofactors to antioxidants. Skin's constant exposure to high concentrations of oxygen, UV light, and oxidizing chemicals underscores the need for antioxidant vitamins to maintain skin function. Moreover, a healthy diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and certain oils, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products can contribute positively to skin health. Notably, a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids sourced from fatty fish, ground flax, walnuts, and oils, is beneficial. It's also essential to stay hydrated, as proper fluid intake aids in nutrient absorption and oxygen transportation to cells. In essence, maintaining a balanced diet and ensuring adequate hydration is integral to achieving healthy, glowing skin.

Herbs and Supplements For Stress Management

Herbs and supplements play an important role in managing stress often with fewer side effects than prescription medications.


Rhodiola, an herb with a rich history of traditional use, offers support for stress and fatigue. It contains compounds that act as adaptogens, helping to reduce stress-related fatigue and improve overall wellness. Studies also indicate that Rhodiola can benefit mood, brain function, and symptoms of depression.


Ashwagandha, another powerful adaptogen, has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to combat stress and promote overall health. It lowers cortisol levels, reduces anxiety, supports sleep, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows that ashwagandha can improve sleep quality and reduce markers of inflammation.


L-theanine is an amino acid found in many teas. It promotes a relaxed state without causing drowsiness and has been shown to enhance cognitive function, especially when combined with caffeine. L-theanine also has the ability to suppress the blood pressure-increasing effects of caffeine and can improve overall sleep quality by promoting a more relaxed state in the brain.

Herbs and Supplements for Skin Conditions

Herbs and supplements play an important role in managing various skin conditions due to their natural healing properties and fewer side effects.


Calendula, often called pot marigold, has been used medicinally for centuries. It contains flavonoids that act as antioxidants, fighting inflammation, viruses, and bacteria. Calendula is commonly used topically to promote wound healing, improve skin hydration and firmness, and treat burns, bruises, cuts, and minor infections. It may also help prevent dermatitis in individuals undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer. Calendula products are available in various forms, such as tinctures, ointments, and creams for both topical and oral use.


Chamomile, a well-known medicinal herb, contains various bioactive components such as flavonoids and terpenoids, making it beneficial for multiple skin conditions. It has shown effectiveness in treating atopic eczema, as it may reduce inflammation and assist with wound healing.


Curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, can treat various skin problems due to its ability to reduce swelling and neutralize harmful substances in the body. It speeds up the healing of wounds by boosting the body's ability to produce collagen, a protein necessary for healthy skin, and improving blood flow to the wounded area. Given its safety, even at high doses, curcumin is an effective treatment for skin issues.

Green Tea

Green tea, enriched with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenols, has shown potential therapeutic benefits in dermatology through both oral administration and topical application. Studies suggest its effectiveness in scavenging free radicals, cancer prevention, managing hair loss, skin aging, and certain skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and acne vulgaris.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera, known for its health and beauty benefits, contains 75 potentially active components, including vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, and fatty acids, that may contribute to its efficacy in skin health. Its active compounds, such as glucomannan and gibberellin, stimulate collagen synthesis, accelerating wound healing and reducing inflammation, while its moisturizing effects help soften the skin and reduce wrinkles.


Mind-Body Techniques for Stress

Functional medicine provides a variety of mind-body therapies, offering natural and effective methods for stress reduction. Practices like yoga, originating from ancient India, have shown significant potential in stress management; they blend breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation to improve physical and psychological health. Modern studies reveal that yoga effectively enhances sleep quality and reduces perceived stress levels.

Another potent mind-body therapy is meditation, an ancient practice known to calm the mind and promote overall well-being. Meditation involves techniques that sync the mind and the body, focusing on objects, sensations, phrases, or images or encouraging mindfulness and non-judgmental awareness of the present. The 2017 review revealed that meditation lowers blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol, thus improving perceived stress, anxiety, depression, and anger levels. Meditation also plays a crucial role in improving sleep quality, making it an effective stress reduction technique for those suffering from sleep issues, which can impact many functions of the body.

Moreover, breathing exercises, particularly slow breathing, have been a part of yoga-based practices for centuries, known to stimulate health and well-being. Scientific studies have demonstrated that modifying the breathing rate to a slower pace - inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six seconds - induces a calm, relaxed state by stimulating the parasympathetic, or "rest-and-digest," nervous system, while rapid breathing can stimulate the sympathetic, or "fight-or-flight," nervous system. Slowing down breathing, with the exhale extended longer than the inhale, triggers the relaxation response, effectively disrupting the stress response. This technique is simple, effective, and can be practiced anywhere, even in a crowd, making it an ideal tool for immediate stress reduction.

Lifestyle Modifications for Stress

Regular exercise is a fundamental component of a healthy lifestyle, and it serves as an effective stress reducer by enhancing endorphin production, often referred to as the body's 'feel-good' hormones. Exercise also promotes better sleep and improves mood, thus mitigating the harmful effects of stress. Adequate sleep and relaxation are equally essential in stress management.

Getting enough quality sleep helps the body and mind repair and rejuvenate, leading to improved mood, better concentration, and a stronger immune system. Techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness, or deep-breathing exercises can help individuals unwind and achieve a relaxed state, thereby lowering stress levels.

Stress management techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy provides individuals with the skills to combat stress effectively, enabling them to gain control over their stress response and perceive stressful situations more manageably.

Furthermore, the importance of gentle cleansing and moisturizing should not be overlooked. Maintaining a regular skincare routine that involves gentle cleansing and moisturizing can provide a sense of control and routine, which can be particularly comforting during stressful times. Moreover, good skin care practices can prevent skin problems that might otherwise add to stress levels, promoting a positive body image and thereby contributing to stress reduction (2).



In conclusion, stress and skin health share an intricate and undeniable link, with stress often playing the villain in triggering various skin conditions. But there's hope- integrative medicine, with its patient-centered, whole-body approach, provides a promising avenue for managing stress and its effects on skin health. The synergy of balanced nutrition, judicious use of herbs and supplements, functional medicine treatments, and lifestyle modifications offers a comprehensive strategy to manage stress and its consequential impact on skin health. As we navigate through life's stressors, we must remember the tools we possess and seek out those we need to ensure we nurture not just our skin but our overall health.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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