Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Stress and Your Skin April 3, 2010

Last Saturday I spent the day at McCormick Place in Chicago attending the Face and Body Conference Midwest.  While there I had the opportunity to attend a few lectures on a variety of topics from skincare ingredients to treatment options to marketing strategies.

The first class I attended last Saturday was called “Cutting-Edge Ingredients” and the speaker was Rebecca James Gadberry from YG Laboratories.  The class covered numerous topics, and the first topic covered was stress and the skin.  At the end of the section of the lecture on stress Rebecca Gadberry recommended that everyone read the book The Mind-Beauty Connection by Dr. Amy Wechsler for further information about how stress affects the skin.  This is a book I’ve already read and recommended here on my blog (see my previous post with my review).  The information in this post is taken from both the lecture I heard and from Dr. Wechsler’s book.

As you probably already know stress is bad for you, very bad for you.  Stress is also terrible for your skin.  As a matter of fact too much stress triggers your skin to start the aging process prematurely leading to wrinkles and fine lines before you want to have them.  Stress can actually age you three to six years, at least.  And not only that – stress can create a vicious cycle that just continues to affect the way you look – stress affects your looks, you become unhappy with your appearance, this leads to you becoming unhappy in general and you can’t cope with stress well, and then your looks suffer yet again.  This holds true for both women and men.

Stress causes the hormones in our body to begin to operate ineffectively and to become unbalanced.  When hormones do not work properly our bodies suffer in many ways – for example stress can lead to health problems and diseases.  In addition, skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea can all be affected and worsened by stress.  Stress can make us feel tired and weak and unable to cope with life.   Furthermore, when we are under stress our body release a number of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol that begin to wreak havoc on our skin when these hormones stay in our bodies for a long time (for instance when we are under chronic stress).  For a much more in-depth discussion of this topic see chapter 5 of Dr. Wechsler’s book “How Stress Gets Under Your Skin”.

There are a few different ways stress can affect your skin.  They include the following:

  • Cortisol degrades collagen and directly leads to the formation of wrinkles in the skin.  When you live in a chronic state of stress your body finds it harder and harder to repair itself naturally and so you develop more wrinkles and fine lines.
  • The stress hormone CRH can fuel inflammation in the skin and that in turn can cause acne.  Since acne is an inflammatory disease all it takes is in increase in inflammation in the body to cause more acne.  And if you are stressed you are more likely to pick at your breakouts which could lead to even more breakouts.
  • Stress hormones can cause your body to release histamines which can cause a range of skin conditions like dermatitis, irritation, hives, or inflammation or aggravate existing skin conditions like psoriasis.
  • Stress can make your hair fall out and make your nails brittle
  • Stress makes your eyes look tired.  This could be because you are not getting enough sleep since you are stressed out.  A chronic lack of sleep could lead to fluid stagnation under the eyes and then dark, puffy under-eye circles in the morning.
  • Stress could cause your skin to enter mini-menopause.  A chronic flow of cortisol causes a drop in estrogen which means your skin produces less collagen and less moisture.  Your skin could end up looking dull and dry as a result.


So what can you do to prevent this seemingly endless flow of bad hormones and skin problems?  Learn ways to cope with stress better, try meditation, exercise, and find ways to get enough sleep.  Any of these behavior changes will cause your stress level to drop.  Nourishing your body and soul in a healthy way will go a long way to helping you cope better with stress and to attaining the healthy skin you desire.


Further Reading

As I already mentioned most of the information in this post was taken from The Mind-Beauty Connection by Dr. Amy Wechsler.

  • Chapter 4: Nine Days to a Younger-Looking (and feeling) You – will help you figure out which stress profile you are and will give you great tips on how to cope with and even overcome the stress in your life.  The chapter includes skincare advice, food tips, and lifestyle suggestions.
  • Chapter 5: How Stress Gets Under Your Skin – goes into great detail about what happens to your body when you are under stress.
  • Chapter 6: Skinology – explains how the skin works and behaves and how stress affects the skin.

  Also read this article:  Managing Stress Can Help Clients Improve Their Skin Conditions Skin Inc.


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