How Stress Affects Your Skin

How Stress Affects Your Skin

April is Stress Awareness Month, and in honor of that, we’re going to talk about how stress affects the skin. It’s no secret that when we’re stressed, our bodies react in a number of ways. Our heart rate increases, we start to sweat, and our breathing becomes rapid and shallow. But what most people don’t know is that stress can also have a negative impact on our skin. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what happens to the body when it’s under stress and how that affects the skin. We’ll also offer some tips for how to manage stress and keep your skin looking its best!

Stress and the Body

Stress is a physical, emotional, or behavioral response to a demand or threat. It can be caused by both good and bad events, such as a new job or the death of a loved one. When we experience stress, our body goes into “fight or flight” mode. This is a survival mechanism that dates back to our days as hunter-gatherers.

fight vs. flight response

When faced with a threat, our body releases a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase our heart rate and blood pressure, send more blood to our muscles, and increase the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. This all happens very quickly and is meant to help us either fight the threat or get away from it.

In today’s world, we often don’t have the option to fight or flee when we’re feeling stressed. This can lead to chronic stress, which is when the body remains in “fight or flight” mode for extended periods of time. This can take a toll on our physical and mental health, as well as our skin.

Stress and the Skin

Since stress affects the entire body, it comes at no surprise that it would also affect the skin. This is because cortisol also has some negative effects on the body, one of which is its impact on the skin. Chronic stress can cause a number of problems for the skin, including:

Acne breakouts

When cortisol levels are elevated, it can cause an increase in oil production, which can lead to clogged pores and acne breakouts. It can also disrupt the skin’s barrier, causing inflammation and making the skin more sensitive.


skin problems

Cortisol also has a dehydrating effect on the body, which can lead to dry, dull-looking skin. This can also increase the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and make your skin more itchy than usual.

Wrinkles and fine lines

Chronic stress can cause the skin to produce less collagen, which is the protein that gives our skin its elasticity and strength. This can lead to premature aging with the formation of wrinkles and fine lines.

Aggravate Existing Skin Conditions

If you already have a skin condition, such as eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis, stress can make it worse. This is because stress can cause inflammation, which can aggravate these conditions. In some cases, stress can also cause hives, fever blisters, or skin rashes.

Bags Under the Eyes

When we’re stressed, sleep deprivation can lead to puffiness and bags under the eyes. A loss of skin elasticity can also cause the skin to sag and form bags below the eyes.

Hair Loss

Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that can start as a result of psychosocial stress. This type of hair loss causes the hair growth phase to prematurely stop, which can lead to thinning hair or even baldness. Some studies also suggest that stress releases norepinephrine, which can cause hair to prematurely turn gray.

Reduced Healing Abilities

When we experience stress, our body’s ability to heal and repair is reduced. This means that cuts, scrapes, and other wounds or skin irritations will take longer to heal. Since stress also weakens the immune system, you may also develop skin rashes or redness.

Tips for Managing Stress

Now that we know how stress affects the skin, let’s talk about some ways to manage it. Here are a few tips:

Get enough sleep:

Sleep is important for overall health, including the health of your skin. When you don’t get enough sleep, it shows on your skin in the form of dark circles, puffiness, and a loss of radiance.


fruits and vegetables

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress levels. It helps by releasing endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Exercise can also help improve sleep quality, which can reduce stress levels even further.

Eat a healthy diet:

A healthy diet is important for overall health, including the health of your skin. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can help improve your skin’s appearance.

Avoid drugs and alcohol:

While drugs and alcohol may seem like they help reduce stress in the short-term, they can actually make it worse in the long-term. This is because they can lead to a variety of conditions, which can exacerbate skin problems.

Take breaks:

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to yourself to relax and rejuvenate. Take a hot bath, read your favorite book, or take a walk outdoors.

Practice stress-relieving techniques:

There are a number of stress-relieving techniques that can help reduce stress levels. Some of these include yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.

Seek professional help:

If you’re struggling to manage your stress on your own, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. A therapist can help you identify the sources of your stress and develop a plan to manage it.

Stay caught up on your skincare routine:

Sometimes stress can alter our everyday routines, which can upset your skin. Even if you’re feeling stressed, it’s important to stay caught up on your skincare routine. This includes cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing your skin.

In Conclusion

Stress is a common issue that many people face on a daily basis. While some amount of stress is normal, too much stress can have negative effects on the body, including the skin. If you’re struggling to manage your stress, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. In the meantime, there are a number of things you can do to reduce stress levels, such as getting enough sleep, exercise, and eating a healthy diet. Practicing stress-relieving techniques can also be helpful. By taking steps to manage your stress, you can improve your skin health and overall well-being.

Lee A. Kleiman a doctor at Anne Arundel ENT

Dr. Lee A. Kleiman is a double board certified ENT & plastic surgeon at Anne Arundel ENT in Annapolis, Maryland known for his superior clinical outcomes in all Surgical and Non-Surgical ENT, specializing in Sinus Care, Voice and Swallowing, Rhinoplasty and Revision Rhinoplasty, and Facelifts and Non-surgical Aesthetic. He also continues to attend conferences internationally and nationally to keep abreast of the latest treatments and technology.