That’s kind of our mantra here at BOOM. If you follow our posts, you’ve probably heard it a lot:
How we look on the outside is a reflection of how we feel on the inside. But even if we know that’s true, that the philosophy makes sense, it can be tricky to know how to apply it, or how the connection actually works.
Well, did you know that science has actually proven a link between feeling good inside and having beautiful skin on the outside?
An emerging field called psychodermatology studies the relationship between mind and skin, looking scientifically at how our skin can manifest what’s going on inside us—and how we can heal and beautify our skin through cultivating a happier inner life.
A “meta-study” published by the British Journal of Dermatology found that changing negative thought patterns and cultivating a meditation practice helped heal skin diseases and inflammation in more than 900 patients across 22 studies.
Learning this was really inspiring for me, because it confirmed something I already knew—when I feel happier and more relaxed, I automatically look better too.
Meditation reduces stress—and less stress makes for healthier skin.
When you’re stressed, your body has all kinds of automatic responses that kick in. Our nervous systems react, and mobilize all the systems in our bodies to protect us from that stress. But when that happens too often—in response to small, daily stresses that aren’t really threats—over time, our systems get worn down. That includes all the systems that feed and nourish your skin.
Meditation helps our bodies and brains distinguish between the little stresses of everyday life and real threats that we actually need to respond to.
Over time, meditation stops our bodies from overreacting to everyday stresses. When your system isn’t overreacting to stress, it can spend its energy healing and repairing. In one study, psoriasis sufferers listened to meditation tapes while receiving UV light treatments—and healed four times as fast as the non-meditators.
Break the cortisol-inflammation connection.
One of those automatic responses that happen when we’re stressed is a surge of hormones, including one called cortisol.
Known as the “stress hormone,” cortisol triggers inflammation—and inflammation breaks down collagen, which is the protein that keeps skin plump, firm, and vital. The more cortisol circulating in your system, the more inflammation taxing your skin cells and sapping your collagen supply.
The most effective way to reduce cortisol levels is a regular meditation practice. One recent study showed a 20% decrease in cortisol levels after four months of regular meditation.
Start with “mini-meditations.”
If you don’t already have a meditation practice, starting one can feel like just one more thing you’re “supposed” to do. And all the articles telling us how we “should” meditate—first thing in the morning! Five days a week! At least 20 minutes!—don’t help.
Meditation shouldn’t feel like one more obligation or stressor. But your skin (and your whole being) will benefit from any amount of mindfulness you can manage.
I’ve found that little things like bringing my attention to my breath for one or two minutes, putting down my phone and tuning into my body as I walk down the street, sitting quietly for thirty seconds before I drink my coffee in the morning, all help.
If I practice these mini-meditations over time, they make me feel so much more relaxed and happier. It also makes it a whole lot easier to gradually step it up to those twenty minutes, five days a week.
Any amount of meditative awareness you can bring to your day reduces your cortisol levels and calms inflammation. That will lead to more radiant skin. Go easy on yourself, don’t expect perfection, and experiment with practicing in whatever small ways feel accessible to you.
Before you know it, you’ll be chilling out your neural pathways, calming down your fight-or-flight responses, and nurturing your skin’s innate ability to heal and repair itself.
(You might even find a more radiant reflection looking back at you in the mirror!)