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Stress and collagen: Five ways stress makes you age faster

We’re a society with a beauty industry that seems heavily geared towards slowing down the ageing process. Everywhere we look there are products that promise to make us look younger, that take away the tell-tale signs of the passing years. But while we’re probably all aware that the sun ages our skin, there’s one aspect of modern life that all too easily slips under the radar when it comes to the conversation around ageing, and that’s stress.

Stress is something we all experience, and it’s a normal part of day-to-day life. It’s when high levels of stress become chronic that it turns into a problem, and it’s then that the cortisol it releases can start to have a detrimental effect on your physical and mental wellbeing. From anxiety and depression to headaches and heart disease, the physiological and emotional effects of stress can be profound. It’s not surprising, then, that it also makes your skin age faster, and here are five of the ways it can do that.

1. Fine lines and wrinkles

Fine lines and wrinkles are an inevitable part of the ageing process, as your skin loses collagen and elastin naturally as you get older. But stress can speed this up - there’s a reason we’ve all heard of ‘worry lines’ and ‘frown lines’. That’s because it causes your body to produce ‘free radicals’, which destroy cells and inflict oxidative stress. When they target the collagen, elastin and hyaluronic in your skin, the result is less firm, less plump skin - and that leads to fine lines and wrinkles. The good news is that collagen supplements have been clinically proven to reduce the volume of fine lines and wrinkles by 20%, making them a powerful ally in slowing down the ageing process.

2. Dull and dry skin

As we’ve seen, our skin naturally loses collagen and elastin as we get older, which can lead to dull skin that lacks radiance. Those free radicals we mentioned just now can make things worse by attacking lipids in your skin, which can lead to dehydration. The result: dry skin. Collagen supplements can help, with clinical trials showing a 15% increase in skin elasticity after four weeks of taking the Bioactive Collagen Peptide® VERISOL B®. A good moisturiser with collagen in it will add to the beneficial effects, helping to look after stressed skin from the inside and out.

3. Acne and skin healing

Wondering why you keep getting awful breakouts? It could be due to stress. To be more accurate, stress can’t actually cause acne, but studies have shown that if you’re already prone to it, it can make it worse. Acne, in other words, isn’t just something we can suffer from as teenagers; the stress of adult life can take its toll as we get older, too. 

Not only that, but it’s been shown that wounds in general, not just acne, are slower to heal when you’re stressed. Whether you’ve been injured, you’ve undergone surgery or you’re suffering from acne breakouts, the frustrating thing is that age-related collagen loss can mean it takes longer for your skin to recover. Taking collagen and hyaluronic acid supplements can help speed up the healing process.

4. Grey hair

Ever seen those side-by-side photos of Barack Obama before he became President and after a few years in office? There’s a lot more grey in the second one, and it’s not surprising. Research shows that “Stress can cause hair to grey prematurely by affecting the stem cells that are responsible for regenerating hair pigment”.

It’s not just the fact that stress can accelerate the appearance of those pesky greys; it’s the fact that this ageing process also changes the texture of our hair, making it thinner and more brittle. If you also cover them up by dyeing your hair, this damages it still further.

That’s where collagen can help. Our clinical trials showed changes in hair thickness after 16 weeks with our Bioactive Collagen Peptide® VERISOL®, which also resulted in a 31% increase in hair follicle cell proliferation rate. In other words, if your hair is feeling the effects of chronic stress and you want lusher, thicker hair - take collagen supplements!

5. Muscle and joint pain

Aches and pains seem to be part and parcel of getting older, but again, stress can cause us to start feeling these pains sooner than we would otherwise. That’s because when we’re stressed, we tend to tense our muscles (often subconsciously). This tension not only causes muscle pain, but it can also lead to headaches. What’s more, the pain itself can up our stress levels further. If you’re suffering from joint pain and it’s affecting your stress levels, help is at hand. Collagen supplements are known to be highly effective at dealing with joint pain, with one trial showing a 45% reduction of knee pain after 12 weeks of taking the Bioactive Collagen Peptide® FORTIGEL®.

Top tips for de-stressing

We all have different ways of coping with stress, so finding relief is a question of experimenting and seeing what works for you. Here are a few ideas for starters:

Breathe - simple breathing exercises can be surprisingly effective. Try this one recommended by the NHS.

Exercise - the feel-good benefits of exercise are well-documented, whether it’s a restorative yoga session or a 5km run.

Less caffeine, more herbal tea - too much caffeine can add to the cortisol levels you experience when stressed, so swap that coffee for a soothing pot of chamomile tea to help calm your nerves.

Go screen-free - take some time away from the over-stimulation of your devices by switching them off and putting them in a drawer for a few hours. Why not read a book, cuddle the dog or cook a healthy dinner instead?

Watch a funny film - it’s said that ‘laughter is the best medicine’, so a funny film, television programme or podcast (if you’re going screen-free!) can work wonders for lifting you out of a stressed-out mood.

If you’re stressed out and your skin and hair are suffering, discover our collagen supplements for skin and see for yourself the way collagen can elevate your beauty routine from the inside out.

Written by guest blogger Rachel Ramsay.