The link between stress and skincare, and why our most stubborn issues could have everything to do with jaw tension…
This post is part of an ongoing collaboration with The Chalkboard Mag.
Just when we thought our acne days died with everything else terrible about being a teen, our skin starts breaking out with a vengeance. Of course, now that we’re savvy adults we know to check our diets, wash our pillows and be picky about beauty products — but if that’s not enough, there might be another unexpectedly common cause at play: jaw tension.
Sadie Adams, of the celeb-treasured facial studio Take Care in L.A. and NYC, stresses the importance of stress management when it comes to skincare (because a build-up in the face often means breakouts on it). We asked this holistic esthetician to talk us though how jaw tension could be sabotaging our complexion, and a few daily DIY solutions to work into our beauty routines…
HOW DOES JAW TENSION INHIBIT SKIN CLARITY?
Excessive contractions in muscles can lead to tightness in all of the tissues, restricting the flow of lymph. A healthy lymph system supports a fluid membrane balance throughout the whole body; any condition of pathology can be traced back to a fluid-membrane imbalance. Skin conditions such as acne, rash, cellulite and, in extreme cases, lymphedema can result from poor lymphatic drainage.
Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system — an important aspect of the immune system — responsible for the differentiation of ‘self’ from ‘other’, as well as what serves from that which doesn’t. This network carries fluid, nutrients and waste material between the body tissues and the blood. Lymph nodes filter the fluid – trapping bacteria, viruses and foreign substances (anything deemed unsupportive to the organism) – and the lymphocytes (specialized white blood cells) destroy them. Stagnation or blockages in these nodes can mitigate the filtration process, therefore increasing the amount of toxins in the blood and lymph. An excess of toxins in these fluids can cause acne in skin that has increased levels of sebum and blockages in its pores.
Using a non-abrasive exfoliator once or twice a week can prevent this stagnation from occurring . Its antimicrobial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions, as well as the mechanical efforts of the application process, can support clarity in the tissue and healthy circulation of lymph fluid. Good circulation and coherence in the various layers of tissue are reflected in healthy, glowing skin.
WHAT ARE COMMON CAUSES OF JAW TENSION?
Favoring one side while sleeping or sleeping without consideration of alignment and support; grinding or gripping with teeth and/or a misaligned bite; scoliosis; leading with sensory organs/carrying the head forward of the spine; trauma or injury; repression and suppression: unexpressed thoughts, feelings and emotions, and unprocessed experiences can create holding patterns in the jaw, as well as physical strain and emotional stress. Stress can trigger excess hormone production and lead to various imbalances, including muscle tension and acne.
After releasing jaw tension, clients report feeling more relaxed, calm and centered after a session. Usually there is an immediate flush of stagnation and more clarity in the lymph. Depending on the condition, self-care techniques and applications may be required for long term re-patterning.
A daily self-massage focusing around the sides of the head, the ear, jawline and down to the collarbones can be helpful in clearing blockages.
When exploring facial massage, consider that normal massage oil that works well for the body may be too heavy for certain skin types and conditions. Try working with pressure points without oil or use a high quality facial serum with a good slip.
Ease tight muscles in the jaw by sitting with elbows resting on the knees and the cheekbones resting on the heals of the hands, then letting the jaw open towards the earth. As much as possible, feeling the disk at the TMJ moving forward and down, while opening the mouth.
Another simple exercise: rather then moving the jaw away from the head, as in chewing, stabilize the jawbone and open the mouth by moving the head up and back. Feel the space around the disk in the joint.
HOW CAN WE REDUCE JAW TENSION DURING OUR DAY-TO-DAY?
When shampooing the scalp, one can spend extra time massaging the muscles, in order to drain accumulated fluids around tight areas. I suggest taking one’s time and being sensitive. Approach this from a place of wanting to support and cleanse. This allows one to hear the timing of the tissue and what is needed to release tightness and stagnation.
Be mindful of alignment while walking, working and exercising. Noticing and correcting forward head carriage and unnecessary holding in the jaw while engaging in day-to-day activities requires attention and commitment, and will support the health of the joints.
Fully resting the weight of one’s head on the pillow before sleeping can be a way to tell your body that it doesn’t need to take the stresses of the day into the night. Feel the fluids inside of the head registering gravity and space. While actively yielding the head, soften the TMJ and release any perceived tension in the facial muscles and tongue.
Self-contentedness leads to happiness and fluid-membrane balance. Choosing gratitude and contentment can greatly decrease tension. A regular meditation practice can cultivate presence and peace, in body and mind. Meditation and breath awareness are powerful and empowering tools help to dramatically reduce day-to-day tension and stress.
+ Read more from our collaboration with Chalkboard Magazine here!
Photo by Jana Kirn.