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22 Ways to Beat Stress & Look Beautiful

Anxiety can lead to a slew of skin problems. Here, we give you the scoop on how to keep your chaotic life from wreaking havoc on your appearance.

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Stress is a topic that we cover regularly in Cosmo  - heck, we even inroduced a new column this year called Stress SOS because we know you crave coping advice. But this is the first time we've extensively addressed stress and beauty. As you know, in crazy-busy times, you can end up not only feeling like a stress mess but also looking like one. Here, we explain the specific ways your appearance takes a beating when you're worried or under pressure as well as strategies on how to fight back so you can feel great and look like a total fox.

Acne Murphy's Law as applied to beauty: Whenever you have a lot of big-deal events - whether they're high-profile work meetings or back-to-back social obligations - you seem to start sprouting zit colonies. The reason: Stress causes a flood of the flight-or-fight hormone cortisol into your bloodstream, which helps you perform under pressure. But an elevated amount of corisol leads to the production of a type of testosterone that increases your skin's oil production and leads to acne, says Audrey Kunin, a dermatologist in Kansas City, Missouri.
Under-Eye Bags and Circles Cortisol also has a stimulating effect, which can prevent you from falling into a deep sleep. If you fail to get enough quality shut-eye, your blood circulation and lymphatic system become sluggish and don't drain the fluid that gathers under your eyes at night, leaving you with puffiness and dark circles in the morning.
Dullness and Wrinkles You body responds to your anxiety by directing blood flow to vital areas like your heart and lungs and withdrawing it from nonessential areas like your skin, says plastic surgeon Mauro Romita, founder of Ajune, a medical spa in New York City. As a result, your skin's cell-renewal process slows down, which means it doesn't naturally exfoliate itself as often, and the amount of free radicals (cell-damaging molecules) in your skin increases. Both of these are major causes of dull skin and premature aging.
A Blotchy, Itchy Body Stress can exacerbate already existing allergies, and immunologic changes caused by frequent stressful episodes can lead your body to release histamines into your skin, with results like redness, blotchiness, and itchiness on your face and body. Also, being under intense pressure can aggravate skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, and cold sores.
Poor Primping Habits When you're strapped for time, it's easy to let your regular beauty routine slip off your list or priorities. But skipping cleanser, moisturizer, and any other products you usually rely on will quickly bite you back in the form of pimples, dryness, dullness, and on overall schlumpy appearance.

How to Save Your Skin... and Your Sanity
Of course, there's no way to eliminate stress totally from your life, and sadly, regular relaxing beauty treatments are out of the question when you're extra busy. Luckily, we've rounded up fab stress-busting and beautifying techniques that'll keep you feeling calm and looking pretty even when your life is positively insane.
1.) Take a dose of superpotent aromatherapy. Scents like lavender and chamomile have a relaxing effect, but to really max it out, try a diffuser - a device that disperses essential oils throughout a room, says Anne Marie Cilmi, senior manager of training and education for Bliss spas. Just add the oil of your choice, and within minutes, the scent will fill the space you're in. Another easy way to benefit from aromatherapy: Use an energizing, citrus-scented body wash in the a.m. Try mark's Grapefruit Ginger Shower Wash.
2.) Be religious about your beauty routine. It's mandatory that you cleanse your skin, moisturize, and use sunscreen every day, no matter how tired or busy you are, says Jeanine Downie, a dermatologist in New Jersey. Keep a packet of face wipes next to your bed, so you can easily remove dirt and makeup when you're too spend to stand at the sink. Try mark's Clean-a-Matic Wash and Toss Towelettes.
3.) Give yourself a hand. Try this quick hand massage that focuses on the pressure points that relieve mental tension, says Ann Emich, the director of the Spa Gaucin in Dana Point, California. Use one of your thumbs to press the area between your other thumb and forefinger firmly while breathing deeply for two minutes. Then switch hands.
4.) Sip a soothing beverage. The act of slowly drinking any hot liquid calms you down, says New York City psychotherapist Anne Rosen Noran, PhD. Green tea is your best bet since it's packed with skin-beautifying antioxidants. Try Susan Ciminelli Afternoon Delight Tea, $15.
5.) Break a Sweat. Working out helps counteract the negative effects of cortisol, while increasing leves of your brain's natural feel-good chemicals, endorphins and serotonin, says Mark Liponis, MD, corporate medical director at Canyon Ranch health resorts. Two more benefits: A pretty postworkout glow and a fab bod.
6.) Make your Bed. No matter how frantic you are in the a.m., It's essential that you create a calm environment to come home to every day, and that means tucking in the sheets and fluffing the pillows before you head out the door, says Dr. Liponis.
7.) Hit the Hot Tub. To help tense muscles relax, try soaking in a Jacuzzi, says Cilmi. The combination of the heat and buoyancy will cause blood vessels to dilate, lowering your blood pressure and speeding the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.
8.) Bond while you beautify. Going for a pedicure with your closest bud can do more than refresh your feet and polish your toes. "Studies show that when women spend time with close friends, they produce the 'love hormone' oxytocin, which can create a warm, relaxed feeling," says lifestyle coach Martha Beck, author of The Joy Diet.
9.) Soak up the sun. Spend 15 minutes in the sun each day - protected by SPF, of course! If you're light-deprived, the part of your brain that regulates mood doesn't fuction properly, so you're more prone to the effects of stress, says Dr. Liponis.
10.) Slip inot something more comfortable. After a harried day, put on soft, skin-friendly clothing without any itchy tags. Don't forget a warm pair of slippers. Try mark's new lounging pj's and Cozy House Socks.
11.) Mellow out in your morning shower. Give yourself a mini scalp-stimulating massage as you shampoo. Use your fingertips to apply pressure all over your scalp while you suds up your strands, including your temples, says trichologist David H. Kingsley, PhD. A nourishing shampoo: Infusium 23 Moisturizing Shampoo, $5.49.
12.) Indulge in a guilt-free treat. The scent of chocolate can cause your brain to release the same chemical as when you fall in love, according to Guy Lewis, PhD, a psychologist in Beverly Hills, California. Lube up with a yummy chocolate body cream so the scent stays will you. Try any of the Hollywood Pink Scent Collection mists and lotions.
13.) Keep refreshment on hand. Combat irritated skin with a calming skin tonic, says Jordana Mattioli, a clinical aesthetician at Ajune, a medical spa in NYC. Fill a spray bottle with mineral water, add a drop of lavender oil and a drop of rose oil (both are natural skin-soothers), and keep it in your desk at work for midday misting.
14.) Slather before you sleep. When life is crazy, beauty sleep is usually first thing to go, buy you can get well-rested radiance anyway by using a good night cream that contains skin-rejuvenating amino peptides before the few hours of zzz's you fit in. We like Olay Regenerist Continuous Night Recovery, $19.
15.) Keep your hand off. When you're tired or feeling anxious, resist the urge to rub your eyes, says Dr. Downie. "It'll stretch the sensitive skin, which can lead to dark circles."
16.) Steam your stress away. Giving your face a spa-style steam treatment at home benefits both your mind and your complexion, says Cilmi. To do: Pour one quart of boiling water into a large bowl, then add a few drops of lavender or eucalyptus essential oil. Lean over the bowl and place a towel over your head to trap the steam.

Unwind With Your Guy
Grab your man and try these Thai massage moves, which will relax your bod like nothing else.
Leg Loosener
Lie on your back with one knee at a right angle. Have your partner hold your ankle while simultaneously walking both of his feet along the length of your thigh. Repeat on the opposite leg.
Upper-Body Opener
Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you while your partner sits behind your and grasps your wrists while gently walking his feet up and down your back muscles on the sides of your spine.

Damage Control
How to deal when stress has sabotaged your good loods.
Puffy Peepers Treatment
Giving your eyes a mini massage will help drain any excess fluid that's making you look puffy, while relieving tension in your head, says Mattiloi. Use your middle fingers to press the inner corners fo your eyes gently for a few seconds. Now do the same on the areas right above the centers of your eyebrows then move to the outer corners of your eyes.
Lackluster-Skin Solution
The easiest way to make a dull, stress-clobbered complexion radiant again is to use a glycolic face wash every day, says Dr. Downie. It'll exfoliate dead skin cells that clog pores while reducing fine lines and softening your skin. Try mark's Clearing Trend Decongesting Scrub Mask.
Acne Flare-up Fix
Since stress leaves you so prone to pimples, add a zit-zapping salicylic acid-based toner to your skin-care routine during crazy periods. Just swipe your face with it every day after you rinse off your cleanser. And if you tend to get chest or back acne, hit those areas too. Try mark's Cleans-It Blemish Neutralizing Toner Pads, Clear All Over Body Scrub, and The Body Squad Bacne Acne Treatment.
Itchy-Body Soother
If you break out in hives or have an eczema attack, soak in a mineral bath a few times a week. Try Algotherm Granite Sea Salts, $25.

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