Stress and Your Skin: What You Need to Know (Guest Post by Kim Paterson)

Stressed III by Kyle Hepp Photography {Santiago, Chile}

If there’s one thing I learned about having clear skin it’s that stress is your enemy. When you have a skin condition like acne, psoriasis or rosacea, it can get noticeably worse as your stress-level increases and can lead to flare ups. Sometimes it feels like blemishes and skin discolorations should win an award for having the worst timing possible—just when you’re worried about the way your skin looks, your skin responds by looking even worse. But even as you try and manage the problem by maintaining proper skin care, you may not be managing your stress, which can lead to more skin irritation.

Combining skin treatments with stress management strategies may be one of the best ways to get control over your skin, according to Dr. Richard G. Fried. Dr. Fried, a psychologist and dermatologist, recommends that those who suffer from skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and fever blisters should be managing their stress as well as their skin’s health to prevent flare ups.

The Science Behind Stress and Your Skin

Feelings of anger, anxiety, depression or tension can cause psychological distress, which your body responds to by releasing neuropeptides, chemicals that the skin’s nerve endings that are released as a defense mechanism against infection and trauma. These chemicals can inflame the skin and when released during stressful situations, can make skin conditions worse.

Even in situations of low, but constant stress – whether it be from school, work, relationships, etc. – stress can cause the nerves to inappropriately release neuropeptides. Stress can also make your skin more permeable, meaning bacteria can more easily enter and inflame your skin. The resulting flare ups may also make you feel more stressed because you may feel that you have no control over your skin, which can start the vicious cycle all over again.

When it comes down to it, acne treatments like cleansers, topical and oral antibiotics, and even powerful drugs like isotretinoin (Accutane) can keep bacteria out of your skin and shrink the size of your oil glands, but even these may not be effective by themselves. Skin Care Physicians, one of our clients who provide medical and cosmetic dermatology services to Boston area patients, will often combine skin treatments to attack a problem from multiple angles. However, because the mind is at least partly responsible for your flare ups, treating the symptom (the flare up) is not as effective as treating the cause.

Stress Relief + Skin Treatment

Dr. Fried suggests that rather than relying on dermatological skin treatments to treat the problem, patients should also be managing their stress. Dr. Fried recommends that patients try stress- management strategies like psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, hypnosis, tai chi, yoga, antidepressants and beta blockers. Although most dermatologists aren’t qualified to prescribe these treatments, patients can consider seeing a psychotherapist, psychiatrist or other qualified person who can make recommendations based on a patient’s individual situation. Ultimately, patients need to find stress management strategies that work for them. On the other hand, treating the skin condition can also help manage stress. The Skin Care Physicians offer a full line of chemical peels and facials that can be physically soothing while treating you skin condition at the same time. At their Boston Dermatology practice, Skin Care Physicians are dedicated to comprehensive care and treatment for a variety of medical skin conditions. Consider talking to a dermatologist about your options.

Author Synopsis

Kim Paterson is a copywriter who specializes in writing about cosmetic surgery, dermatology, and skin care for medical marketing company Etna Interactive. A recent Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo graduate, Kim enjoys writing, blogging, cycling, and playing music.

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Photo credits: Stressed III, a photo by Kyle Hepp Photography {Santiago, Chile} on Flickr.


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Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads + Lactobionic Acid Review: A Haute New Find!

Sometimes in life you get lucky and encounter a real game-changer.  You know it when you see it:  I first saw my boyfriend when I was an undergraduate in the Physics/Astronomy department (he was a graduate student), and even though I wasn’t to talk to him until we were set up on a blind date three years later, I knew he was somebody special.

Well, Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads ($38.00 for 12 applications) won’t be holding my hand at parties, but they will be with me forever.  That’s right, folks, I’m in love.  All joking aside, Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads are highly effective with ingredients backed by science.  Consider the following:

Lactobionic acid

Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads are effective mainly due to their high concentration of lactobionic acid.  A relatively new alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) on the market, lactobionic acid sets itself apart by being gentler and more effective than other AHAs.  Chemically, lactobionic acid has more oxygen-hydrogen groups (called “hydroxyl” groups) than other alpha hydroxy acids.  These additional hydroxyl groups make lactobionic acid more hydrating than glycolic acid (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2010).

In 2010, researchers in London, Serbia, and Slovenia compared the efficacy of 6% lactobionic acid and 6% glycolic acid in a gel and an emulsion.  Twenty-six volunteers applied one of the four different formulations twice daily for two weeks.  The lactobionic acid was better tolerated than glycolic acid in both forms, with similar results (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2010).  Considering glycolic acid is proven to refine fine lines and wrinkles, hydrate the skin, and renew collagen to firm skin over time, this is an exciting finding!

In addition, lactobionic acid also has been found to brighten the skin with time.  In the same study, it was noted that the melanin index was significantly reduced with lactobionic acid use.  However, the researchers noted this finding would need further investigation.

Retinyl palmitate

Of all the forms of retinol on the market today, retinyl palmitate is the weakest.  In general, retinol is considered to be about 20 times less potent than retinoic acid (available by prescription).  Retinyl palmitate is a combination of pure retinol and palmitic acid (a substance typically used in cosmetics as a cleansing agent), so you can imagine how weak we’re getting here!

The reason retinol and retinyl palmitate are weaker than retinoic acid is because
retinol and retinyl palmitate must be converted to retinaldehyde, followed by all-trans retinoic acid, in order to be effective.  When present in sufficiently high concentrations, even retinyl palmitate displays significant results.

What do I love about the retinyl palmitate in Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads?  Let me count thee ways… First, retinyl palmitate is gentler on the thinner under eye skin than retinol or retinoic acid.  Second, retinyl palmitate is pH-compatible with the other anti-aging acidic ingredients, as retinyl palmitate has an acidic-to-neutral optimized pH range of 5.6 to 7.0 (Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2004).  Most other forms of retinol have a higher optimized pH level, making them incompatible with alpha hydroxy acids, L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and other acidic ingredients.  Lastly, retinyl palmitate loses its efficacy in most creams after about one month of opening.  However, Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads are individually wrapped, so there’s no danger of oxidation!

Vitamins C and E

Photo source: Vitamin C - don't forget to get plenty!, originally uploaded by LHDumes.

One of my favorite combinations of ingredients.  Vitamin C and vitamin E are antioxidants synergistically enhance the power of one another.  The power duo has been shown in this 1996 study, amongst others, to enhance the effects of sunscreen. (SPF 125, anyone?)

The potent C-E combo has also been reported by Djerassi et. al. to prevent the formation of cancerous compounds known as nitrosamines, though this effect took place in rats.  Over time, vitamins C and E are brightening.  I personally used Skinceuticals CE Ferulic everyday from age 19 to 24 and not only did I never get a sunspot during those five years, I also eliminated the three sunspots I had!

How to get the most from your Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads

In addition to the provided instructions, I suggest that you dab the excess liquid from the Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads package onto a tissue, and apply it all over your face for an added facial-esque boost.  Maybe I was sent an ultra-fresh package, but there was a lot of liquid in there!

When you are done applying Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads, I also recommend applying the still-somewhat moistened pads all over your face.  I’m telling you, it’s enough to make a difference!

Bottom Line

Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads are the best at-home under eye treatment I have ever tried.  Literally.

I’m a huge fan, and I’m saving my Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads for special occasions – and, well, special treats for myself too!  :-)

Product Rating:  9.5/10.  

  • High or optimized concentration of proven ingredients: 3/3.
  • Unique formulation or new technology: 3/3.
  • Value for the money: 2.5/3.
  • Sunscreen or sunscreen-boosting:  1/1.

Ingredients in Exuviance Intensive Eye Treatment Pads

Aqua (Water), Butylene Glycol, Lactobionic Acid, Glycerin, Polysorbate 80, Arginine, Retinyl (Vitamin A) Palmitate, Tocopheryl (Vitamin E) Acetate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C Ester), Disodium EDTA, Chlorphenesin, Methylparaben, CI 19140 (Yellow 5), CI 17200 (Red 33).

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Daily Inspiration: "Realize every moment in your life happened for the greater good of who you are, [that] can really elevate you and change your whole trajectory." -Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry, originally uploaded by mleadon.

So many people start out at age 22 or 23, fresh out of college, with stars in their eyes and an eager desire to make their mark on the world.  Yet it doesn’t take long for plans to backfire and obstacles to get in the way, except for the very lucky ones.  People often become bitter or depressed, or at the very least apathetic and resigned to a life they feel imprisoned to live.

The sad thing is, most of these people are hard working and good-intentioned.  Despite what you hear on the news every night, I believe most people are still kind at heart and mean well.  After years of struggling, most just find it too hard to fight for their long-lost dreams.  Some find it difficult to dream at all anymore.

One of my role models is Tyler Perry, the actor, director, playwright, screenwriter, producer, author, and songwriter.  I had briefly watched him on Oprah before, but when I read his story in Success magazine this month, I was captivated:  The man grew up in an abusive household, tried to commit suicide as a youth, and was molested by several different people in his poor New Orleans community as a child.  He struggled writing for six years before he sold a catching play, taking jobs as a bill collector, a hotel housekeeper, and a used car salesman.

Today he is ranked No. 19 on Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list, and No. 3 based on his earnings.  He has starred in more than 10 movies, and even owns his own state-of-the-art production studio in Atlanta.

What we can learn from Perry goes beyond the trite and the obvious.  One of the strange lessons of life is that we tend to keep on facing the same types of obstacles and struggles until we learn to change something about ourselves.  The businessman who doesn’t realize he has a chip on his shoulder has conflicts at every job he obtains.  The divorcée who refuses to change often attracts the same pattern in relationships time and again.  Perry admits he had to call his father one last time to release a lot of the anger within before he found it possible to succeed externally.

The key is not to take yourself too seriously.  People identify themselves by their most exemplified traits, both positive and negative.  Someone who is curt and says inappropriate things to others may see himself as “aggressive” or “full of testosterone.” The woman who finds herself in abusive relationships may say she is “weak” or “attracted to the ‘bad boy’”.  We even become friends with people who have these same negative beliefs and attitudes, reinforcing them deeply into our collective psyche.

The problem is, clinging to negative beliefs will continue attract the same problems throughout our lives.  Opportunities arise in the form of difficulty for us to recognize our shortcomings and to learn and grow.   Yet we are almost always too stubborn to do so.

You can’t take yourself too seriously.  You have to realize that every obstacle is a mirror, reflecting your own shortcomings.  Even if a situation that is entirely not your fault – say, for instance, an abusive relationship – you have to recognize your need to gain the strength, courage, and resources to leave.  It may also be wise to work with a counselor to discover what personality traits you need to develop in order to attract a different type of partner in the future, such as assertiveness, confidence, an unwillingness to accept certain kinds of behavior, and the ability to recognize ‘warning signs’ early in a relationship.

The best way to identify your own shortcomings is to ask for criticism.  At first, it can be difficult and uncomfortable.  Start with just a few trusted family members and friends.  Some people will even tell you inaccurate information!   That’s why it’s crucial to ask for a wide array of opinions.  As one of my favorite quotes reads,  “If one person tells you you’re a horse , they are crazy. If three people tell you you’re a horse, there’s conspiracy afoot. If ten people tell you you’re a horse, it’s time to buy a saddle.”  (Jack Rosenblum)

Once you recognize your shortcomings, you can start to take ahold of your life.   Four years ago, I was scared to start a blog, fearful others might not like it.  Then the blog became successful, and I was like, “Whew!  The people love it.”  I was free of that fear until last month, when became afraid of expanding into new topics, even though my passion was strong.  Why?  I feared some of my readers might not like it.   Yet this time I knew to directly ask family and friends for criticism.  The overwhelming majority vote?  I worry about whether or not people like me too much.  (Wow, talk about exposing your true self on your blog!)  To live my best life, I have to learn to please myself first.  Otherwise, I’d be dealing with the fear of others’ opinions, a theme which would recur again and again, in random situations, throughout my entire life.

So what happens when you are able to face and amend your own shortcomings?  An almost magical thing happens:  You have all of this energy freed up to start to dream again. Of course, the pursuit of your new dreams presents all new dilemmas that bring up all kinds of interesting newfound characteristics about yourself to deal with again.  However, it’s a lot more fun than dealing with the same kind of problems repetitively, and you will start to feel like you are making progress in your life as you attract new people, situations, and even environments into your life.  Be patient – it does work.

Don’t take the bad times personally.  They are simply the results of your largely unthought actions.  You can change, and your life will too.

If you liked this post, you would probably like some of my favorite books:

What’s your favorite source of inspiration? Share in Comments, on Facebook, or Twitter!

How to Correct Under Eye Bags

Submitted via the Facebook page:


Hi, I am new to your blog and LOVE it! [...] I am looking for an eye product that is most effective for under eye bags! I know surgery is ideal, but I was hoping to find a quality product that might help improve them. Mine are inherited and make me look much older than my 40 years! I’ve tried so many products over the years and really would appreciate your advice. THANKS!

Dear Sarah,

Undereye bags, like most signs of aging, are most often the result of years of UV damage.  When UV damage accumulates, the skin around the eyes becomes noticeably thinner.  The effect is most pronounced in the underlying layer of skin, the dermis.  Gravity pulls the thinned skin downward.  In the process, some small blood vessels may start to leak, impairing the drainage of lymph.

Other factors that impair the circulation make under eye bags even worse.  This is because they hinder the drainage of lymph even more.  These factors include alcohol, excess salt consumption, and allergies.

Of course, sometimes under eye bags are the result of hereditary factors.  I have seen children as young as 3 with signs of under eye bags.  When under eye bags are caused by heredity and not environmental factors, a surgery called lower eye blepharoplasty has been shown to help.  However, it is always best to consult with your physician and/or plastic surgeon to determine if this procedure is right for you.

Other strategies that may help:


Photo source: Salt Shaker Wonderland, originally uploaded by godogo.

The FDA recommends that the average 150-pound adult consume no more than 2300 mg of sodium (1 tsp of salt) per day. In addition, groups at particular risk for high blood pressure should pare back even more.  These at-risk groups include African-Americans, older individuals, and those with high blood pressure.

Despite these recommendations, one recent survey amongst 7154 people found that reducing sodium intake below 2300 mg made patients 37% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease. At any rate, the average American consumes 2900 to 4300 mg of sodium per day, a good 600 to 2000 mg above the “dangerous” lower baseline.  Discuss with your physician if you are concerned.  It is likely you will notice a slight to moderate improvement in the appearance of under eye bags with proper sodium reduction.


It sounds surprising, but it works wonders!  Take a bag of frozen peas out of the freezer, let it thaw for about ten minutes, wrap the bag in a paper towel, and then hold the bag+towels under your eyes for about ten minutes. According to dermatologist Dr. Katie Rodan, of Rodan+Fields, “The reason frozen peas work so well in particular is that the little peas settle and mold to the eye area.”

Short on peas?  Chill a metal-based spoon in the freezer before bed, wrap in a paper towel, and hold the spoon under your eyes for 1 to 2 minutes.


While sleeping, your circulation is weaker than at any other time of day.  This may result in an accumulation of fluid in the blood vessels. Elevating your head while sleeping, using an extra pillow or wedge-shaped pillow, shows mild to moderate improvement in many individuals.  If you’re serious about removing your under eye bags, the MedSlant sleeping system ($79.95) may be helpful to you.  It keeps you elevated and comfortable throughout the night by ensuring your position is ergonomically correct.


Dr. Leslie Baumann, author of The Skin Type Solution, once said: “The caffeine shrinks blood vessels, which helps reduce swelling and redness.” Dermatologist Dr. David Leffell, M.D. a professor at Yale, adds that tannic acid from the tea may temporarily tighten the skin. Tea bags should be dipped in cold water and placed onto closed eyelids for three to four minutes.

Caution should be taken, however, to avoid Earl Grey tea, according to Dr. Douglas Altchek, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine: “[Earl Grey] has oil of bergamot, which may cause the redness and itching of contact dermatitis.”


Photo source:  These Cucumber Eyes, originally uploaded by P.E.N..

According to Dr. Karyn Grossman, chief of the division of dermatology at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, “Cucumber slices have soothing and anti-irritating properties.” Place the cucumber slices in a bowl of ice water for ten minutes, and then apply them to eyes for ten minutes to deflate the area.


All have been associated with puffy eye formation.


Bags are rarely caused by an underlying medical condition.  However, it never hurts to ask your doctor if the aforementioned at-home remedies do not work for you.  There may be another cause, such as seasonal allergies or even an allergic reaction.  Be proactive and find out!

Top photo source:  Remove Eye Bags, originally uploaded by mysoxpro2000.



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