How Stress Affects Our Skin

woman sitting in the mountains watching sunset

Stress. We all experience it. As a naturally occurring reaction in the human body, it’s normal to experience high and low levels of stress at often unpredictable moments. Yet this reaction affects us more than just mentally. The state of our emotions and thoughts also plays fundamental role in the health and appearance of our skins.

Throughout this article, we’ll discuss what happens to our bodies when we’re stressed, how this can directly impact your skin, and what we can do to lessen the effects of stress.

What Happens When We Feel Stressed

The stress we experience has much to do with the way our brains perceive certain situations. When the body faces a potential threat or challenge, whether real or nonexistent, the brain signals an alert. This alert causes the body, specifically our adrenal glands, to release an overabundance of detrimental hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, in an attempt to cope with the situation. This continuous release of hormones causes numerous side effects like an increased heart rate and blood flow, activated sweat glands, and an increased breathing rate.

So, what happens to our skins when we’re stressed? Stress or stress-induced behaviors can manifest itself in different ways through multiple symptoms that may or may not have previously existed. As the body continues to release cortisol and adrenaline, the skin can immediately or gradually conjure any of these unwanted changes as a result:

Acne. Cortisol causes the skin glands to produce more oil. Consequently, this increased secretion of sebum in the skin mixes with dead skin cells and clogs the pores, causing acne.

Rashes. When stressed, the body works to pump blood towards vital parts of the body. This reduces blood flow to the skin and causes irritation and flare ups that can result in itching and severe rashes.

Wrinkles/Dryness. Stress hormones can break down important proteins responsible for skin rejuvenation, like collagen and elastin, leading to premature wrinkles and excessive dryness.

Skin Flaccidity. Not getting enough sleep or having a poor diet due to stress can cause the body’s vitamins and minerals to diminish. As a result, skin becomes flaccid and loses its firmness.

Stress can also trigger or worsen severe skin conditions:

Psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin condition in which inflammation, redness, and scales appear on the skin causing severe burning and itching. Though the cause of psoriasis is unknown, it is said that stress and psoriasis are linked. When the body feels tense or stressed, the immune system becomes overactive and skin cells build up, causing a flare up.

Eczema. Eczema is an inflammation of the skin that creates rough, red and itchy patches. Although the direct cause of eczema is also unknown, excess stress can cause the body to undergo dramatic chemical and physical changes that can trigger these inflamed patches.

Although the battle between stress and skin is constant, there are ways to help reduce the effects of stress on your skin:

Relax. When the body feels relaxed, the levels of harmful hormones decline and our blood flow improves. Thus, taking infused baths with plants like lavender and rosemary, or drinking tea can help reduce tension. Aerobic exercise and massages are also good ways to alleviate stress and promote healthy skin.

Sleep. Lack of sleep has been proven to cause stress, therefore, a minimum of 7 hours of sleep is needed every day. 

Form healthy habits. Exercising and taking daily multivitamins are good ways to keep the body and skin strong. Also, avoiding habits like smoking or excessive drinking  are crucial steps towards keeping the body and skin healthy.

Consult. If the stress seems too overwhelming, ask for help. Sometimes it’s necessary to get a little more information in order to better face stressful situations.

It’s normal to feel stressed occasionally, but knowing what stress can do and how to diminish it can help you better cope with or eliminate the effects of stress on your skin.


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