6 Ways Your Skin Reflects Your Stress

The stress you're going through right now can sneak up and reflect on your skin in many ways — find out what they are.

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by Unsplash/Tim Gouw

Stress is never a good thing. Apart from generating a lot of unnecessary negativity in your mind, it also brings with it a ton of side effects that can wreak havoc on all aspects of your life — from your work and relationships to your skin! Yes, you read that right! The stress you’re dealing with can find many unpleasant ways to reflect on your skin. After all, the skin is the largest sense organ in the body. Any turmoil in your mind is bound to cause a physical reaction. Here are six ways your stress impacts your skin.


Stress causes an increase in cortisol levels. Cortisol directly causes a jump in the creation of sebum, which makes your skin oilier. And we all know how oily skin is more vulnerable to acne. You might have noticed sudden breakouts on your skin before your exams — that’s clearly connected to the stress you were feeling in that situation.

But, stress is not the only factor contributing to acne. Sometimes, acne can also be a result of the habits you indulge in under pressure. For example, drinking too much coffee, eating unhealthy junk food, or ignoring your daily skin care routine can all eventually become reasons that lead to an acne flare-up.

Dark Circles and Puffy Eyes

Losing sleep over a stressful situation is common. Many of us have spent sleepless nights before an important event — like a job interview, an exam, or a public speech. Sleep deprivation reveals itself through dark circles and puffy eyes. Stress affects the body’s salt balance, which causes the eyes to hold water and swell up. Stress also causes the delicate capillaries around your eyes to leak blood, which spreads under the skin. On getting oxidized, it turns purple, giving you that sleep-deprived look.

Remember to take care of yourself. Eat healthily, sleep well, and consult a medical professional to manage the stress. In the meantime, cold compresses can help clear the puffiness.

Wrinkles and Fine Lines

Chronic stress can lead to high cortisol levels, causing fine lines and wrinkles to appear. Cortisol breaks down collagen and hampers the skin’s ability to build collagen and elastin naturally in the long run. Wrinkles are a direct result of the loss of these fibers that prevent the skin from premature sagging. Stress also disrupts your anti-aging skin care routine because when you’re distracted by whatever’s making you anxious, it’s easy to forget to care for the skin.

Delayed Wound Healing

Chronic stress weakens the epidermis. This has a negative impact on the skin’s ability to act as a barrier. The resultant water loss hampers the skin’s ability to heal wounds. Specific research in this area has found that even minimally invasive injuries take much longer to heal during periods of stress as compared to wounds sustained under non-stressful situations. The immune system is integral to wound healing, and stress affects its normal functioning. Cortisol is quite sensitive to stress. A higher cortisol level interrupts healing activities, such as the creation of pro-inflammatory cytokines at the site of the wound.

Thinner, More Sensitive Skin

An abnormally high level of cortisol makes your skin thinner. It breaks down dermal proteins, making your skin appear paper-thin, causing it to bruise and tear easily. But it is important to remember that there may be other reasons your skin is displaying these symptoms. It could be due to aging or serious conditions like Cushing’s Syndrome. If you feel that’s what you might be experiencing, do consult with your doctor for a diagnosis.

Stress Rashes

Under stress, your body releases surplus chemicals, such as neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. These chemicals affect your body’s response to several functions. The results of this can range from inflammation to sensitive skin and other unpleasant skin situations. You can deal with mild and moderate rashes using cold compresses and over-the-counter medication. However, you may need to consult a dermatologist if the flare-ups are more frequent or severe. Stress also aggravates existing skin conditions such as rosacea and psoriasis.

While these are all unpleasant displays of stress, the good news is that they are manageable. You can prevent them if you can learn to manage your stress positively. You can beat stress by trying out a variety of relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, exercise, and deep breathing. Also, consult with a dermatologist, who can help you treat any existing skin problems.

Everyone goes through some pressure at some point in their lives. But it’s important to take care of yourself and not let the stress get to you — or your skin.

Mother Earth Living
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