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3 Skin Stressors That May Look Like Premature Aging — But Aren't

Have you ever woken up, looked in the mirror, and felt like you've aged years practically overnight? Follow-up question: Am I writing this story from personal experience and for my own benefit and comfort? Maybe! Who's to say! But back to the point: It's a jarring moment, to feel as though your youthful glow is slipping past you. It's enough to send you straight to your online shopping cart to buy the strongest acid or retinol available—and perhaps even book an appointment with the dermatologist

But as holistic esthetician Hayley Wood tells us in a recent episode of Clean Beauty School, perhaps much of that worrying is for naught. Instead, she says, there's likely several other culprits to look at first—and to maybe take a breather before you do anything dramatic.

Why you should take a deep breath before you panic about signs of aging. 

Seeing skin change over time is natural, inevitable, and beautiful. It's a marker of life lived. But more sudden (or at least what we perceive as sudden) signs of aging are often upsetting.

 "That loss of youthful identity can be really fear-based and can cause a lot of spiraling negative self-talk. I see that all the time," says Wood. "And really what this is—well—there are several factors that can age us and make us look older than we are in that moment! [You have to ask yourself] what else are you doing in your life that could be causing some of that aging to show up?"

She's right. There are several reasons your skin may look suddenly lackluster—and perhaps this is where you should be placing your attention:  

  • Increased stress. Stress, especially chronic stress, does a number on your skin. We know it can cause dullness and flare-ups of skin conditions (like acne or rosacea). And recent research shows that prolonged and intense stress causes significant transepidermal water loss in the skin—which will result in dry, crepey, and more worn-out skin. 
  • Poor sleep.  Getting quality, restorative sleep is one of the best skin care steps you can take. Like the rest of the body, your skin repairs itself when you sleep. Even missing a few nights' worth of good rest can result in sunken eyes, sallow skin, loss of firmness, and more prominent fine lines. 
  • Lack of movement. Moving the body is good for the skin: It improves circulation, manages your cortisol levels, and has a host of other benefits. In regards to circulation: It can improve tone, texture, and help you create new skin cells. 

When you see the residual effects of these skin stressors that change your appearance, "It's very common for people to start looking into their skin care and feel they have to take extreme anti-aging measures. Because those measures are available right now, they are appealing," Wood says. Not to mention, those measures often promise immediate results. 


Ultimately, Wood says, you'll be better served if you simply get back in touch with your skin—and back to the basics of what makes you feel like you. "If I don't recognize myself and I'm feeling like I look a little more aged or just not my radiant self, I usually can be like, OK, well what makes me feel like me? What makes me feel like my radiant self? And skin care is a part of that—but I usually need to go and address some aspect of my life."

Stress reduction can come in many forms. You can look to breathwork, meditation, or reaching out to your community. You should also look to what is causing you chronic stress to begin with and figure out actionable ways to relieve that tension as much as possible.
Sleep disruptions and messy sleep schedules are a common complaint thanks to the allure of modern technology (hey blue light!) and increased daily demands. Reprioritize your evening routine: Here are our best sleep practices.
After a year, the pandemic has certainly changed the way many of us move. Make sure your body is a priority—even a walk outdoors is sufficient on days when you don't feel up to it.

The takeaway.

Let this serve as a gentle reminder that your skin doesn't dramatically age overnight. And if you feel that you aren't looking like you feel you should—there are probably other aspects you should address to make sure you are giving yourself and your skin all the tools it needs to be its most radiant. Once you do that, you may be pleasantly surprised by just how radiant your skin looks. But more importantly? Just how radiant you feel.