Have you ever noticed how closely your complexion is tied to your emotional well-being?

It struck me recently how many expressions in the English language tie together our emotions with our appearance.

‘The first flush of love’, so apt for February and Valentine’s Day, describes the sense that something is new or exciting but also relates to the heightened colour – a flush of rosy cheeks – that tints a person’s complexion when they’re excited, embarrassed or feeling some other strong emotion.

rosy-cheeks‘In the pink’ is another idiom used to describe someone who is in very good health. This, I’m sure, stems from having a healthy complexion.

On the other hand, when someone is ‘white with shock’, their skin shows the extent of their distress by its lack of colour.

‘Green with envy’ is perhaps more ambiguous, although I always think that it describes that ‘sick to the stomach’ feeling we can get when someone has something we long for. Perhaps too there’s a sense that jealousy is a poison that can damage our lives, making us physically and emotionally sick.

‘Feeling blue’ is an idiom mainly associated with depression and unhappiness, perhaps because the skin takes on an unhealthy grey pallor when we’re feeling low.

There’s a wonderful quote from Breakfast at Tiffany’s in which Audrey Hepburn says: “There are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girl’s complexion”. What did she mean by this?

breakfast-at-tiffanysIn this context, Hepburn’s iconic character, Holly Golightly, was making the point that there are certain types of attention that can make you look bad, both in how you’re perceived by others and as a result of the physical toll of stress. Interestingly, another interpretation is that the sodium candles (known as ‘limelight’) used in 17th century theatres to light a stage would cast an unforgiving light on the actors’ complexions, highlighting every flaw.

What all these expressions highlight is how closely the health of our skin is tied to our emotional well-being.

Negative emotions such as stress and depression can lead to outbreaks of acne, psoriasis, eczema, hives or rashes. One reason for this is that stress can cause a spike in the hormone cortisol, which suppresses your immune system. If you do suddenly experience skin flare-ups, repeat problems or your skin is slow to heal, it’s a definite warning sign that your stress levels are too high.

On the flip-side, happiness can work wonders for our skin. When we’re in love, for example, the endorphins released within our bodies boost our circulation, giving us plumper lips, a ‘flush’ of love and general glow of well-being. We apparently even change at a cellular level when we’re happy, which is why we tend to feel stronger and healthier when life is good.

So this Valentine’s Day, enjoy focusing on positive emotions, whether you’re spending time with your friends, family or that someone special in your life. Your skin will thank you for it.