A Lack of Sleep and Stress Exacerbate Rosacea
As a cosmetic dermatologist, I spend a lot of time highlighting the effects that ultraviolet light and the environment at large have on my patients’ skins. The environment is responsible for many of the signs of premature skin ageing, known as photoageing, which presents as wrinkles, uneven skin tone and texture and reductions in firmness and elasticity due to undesirable alternations in collagen and elastin production.
Rosacea patients suffer these problems in addition to chronic inflammation, broken capillaries, pimples and papules, which are instigated by routine daily light exposure. Sun avoidance, sunscreens, topical and oral antioxidants can mitigate the effects of UV exposure.
One preventive topic which is neglected is that of sleep, or a lack thereof, for which no substitute exists. Poor or inadequate sleep plays a substantial role in the pathology of many rosacea patients’ skins. Like many inflammatory skin disorders, rosacea is worsened by stress, a chemical and hormonal phenomenon, which can be triggered or exacerbated by inadequate sleep.
When we are stressed or have not slept enough, our body produces a chemical called cortisol. Cortisol has hormonal effects which signal the body to increase the level of sugar in our blood. Although we already knew that this caused cardiovascular problems and weight gain, new research and clinical experience is demonstrating the detrimental effects cortisol has on skin, particularly skin affected by rosacea.
The Effects of Cortisol on Skin and Rosacea
Most patients are concerned about wrinkles, and we now know that cortisol worsens wrinkling. When the level of sugar in the blood rises, oxidative compounds appropriately known as A.G.E.s (Advanced Glycation End-Products) combine with the collagen and elastin in our skin, making them more brittle and less flexible. Where the skin is damaged by rhinophyma, pimples or papules, normal repair processes take longer to complete and rosacea symptoms stay around longer. Because the sugar-coated collagen and elastin fibres are unable to be rescued, the body breaks them down so it can form new ones. As a result, collagen and elastin levels are depleted, thinning the skin and rendering it less elastic. Some studies suggest that some antioxidants can interfere with the process of excess sugars attaching to the skin’s materials, however prevention is always better than attempts at treatment.
Many rosacea patients suffer from dry skin. Although there are many causes of dry skin (such as hereditary, inappropriate skin care, a low-cholesterol diet or cosmetics such as harsh cleansers), studies show that as cortisol levels rise, the skin’s barrier function begins to behave less desirably, allowing more water to evaporate from the skin and more potential irritants to penetrate. Apart from dryness, this leads to a higher incidence and severity of skin irritation and inflammation, two factors which exacerbate rosacea symptoms. Factors related to superficial skin dryness can he helped by following a best rosacea cleanser protocol.
Minimizing Cortisol Production
Reducing your body’s production of cortisol is the means by which you can curb it’s aging and inflammatory effects on rosacea. Sleep reduces cortisol production, so try to sleep for at least seven hours each night. The restorative quality of sleep is higher when you commence it before 10 p.m. Steer away from caffeine, or switch from coffee or black tea to green tea. Although green tea contains caffeine it also contains calming and antioxidant compounds which have been shown to reduce the formation of A.G.E.s.
Reducing the amount of sugar you eat will also reduce cortisol levels. Eating more complex carbohydrates (which convert to sugars slowly) and less raw sugar as found in desserts and starchy foods, or foods high on the glycemic index, such as white bread and potatoes which ultimately convert quickly to sugar, will also help.
Omega-3 and 6 essential fatty acids found in fish (particularly salmon and mackerel), flax seed and supplements can reduce inflammation resulting from excessive cortisol. Skin care products containing anti-inflammatory ingredients such as chamomile, acetyl-salicylic acid and feverfew may help limit local erythema and the free radical damage wrought by A.G.E.s on the skin.
Any personally-tested methods by which to relax, such as increased sleep, exercise, aromatherapy, trips to a day spa or meditation also reduce cortisol and it’s exacerbation of rosacea symptoms.