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How Stress Affects Your Skin

by Emily Linehan on April 16, 2021

It goes without saying, but stress can definitely affect the skin in not so desirable ways. While breakouts are most commonly associated with stress induce skin troubles (more on this later), there are many other ways stress takes a toll on our skin. 

1. Bags Under the Eyes

Characterized by swelling or puffiness underneath your eyes, research has found that stress caused by sleep deprivation accelerates the signs of aging such as loss of collagen & elasticity around the eyes.

In addition, a lack of sleep causes fluid to collect under the eyes leading to puffiness and dark circles. While this type of puffiness is temporary, chronic sleep deprivation can weaken the supportive muscles around the eyes leading to more fine lines, wrinkles and eye bags.

2. Dry Skin

While it seems unrelated, stress actually impairs the barrier function of your skin which prevent the cells in your stratum corneum from retaining moisture effectively. This outer most layer of your skin contains protein and lipids which protect the skin and keep the skin cells hydrated. 

3. Rashes and Irritation

We all know that stress creates imbalances and weakens the immune system. The same is true for our skin, especially for those with inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and other forms of dermatitis. 

4. Breakouts

If you have ever felt like you had more breakouts during stressful times, that is because stress is a contributing trigger to acne since it greatly affects our hormones and their effect on the skin. In response to stress, our endocrine system secretes increased levels of cortisol and androgens which escalate our production of sebum (the oil our skin produces).

Because our skin’s natural oil is the food which acne bacteria needs to grow and proliferate, stress literally adds fuel to the fire when it comes to acne breakouts.

5. Wrinkles

Like the eyes, stress causes changes to the proteins in your skin which lead to a loss of elasticity. In addition, furrowing your brow and clenching your teeth can contribute to the formation of wrinkles, jowls and sagging skin.

Proven Strategies to Combat Stress

Reducing stress is essential to effectively managing acne and maintaining healthy, youthful skin which is why I advocate for stress reducing actions with all my clients. This can be unique to you and what helps you to relax and destress, but tried and true actions would be:

  • regular exercise that you truly enjoy
  • fueling your body with nourishing food
  • time away from electronics/social media
  • quality time with friends and family
  • finding a hobby that inspires you
  • volunteering your time to a cause you are passionate about (which also increases self-esteem and happiness.)
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