How Stress Affects Your Skin

How Stress Affects Your Skin

Find ways (like yoga) to reduce stress and you'll notice healthier, more radiant skin.

All the holiday stress that everyone is under this time of the year can do a number on your skin. When the body encounters a perceived stressor — be it a crazy holiday season, a looming deadline, a fight with a spouse, or the death of a loved one — it gets ready for action. The hypothalamus (the part of the brain responsible for hormone production) sends triggers to the adrenal glands (situated above the kidneys) to pump out stress hormones like corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), glucocorticoids like cortisol, and epinephrine (adrenaline). These hormones, the most well known of which is cortisol, help get the body ready to react.

These hormones can also affect the skin, which is the largest organ in the body—and for good reason: the skin is the primary sensing organ for external stressors, including heat, cold, pain and tension[ix]. Researchers have found that the brain, in turn, responds to these signals, which can influence the stress response in the skin[x]. Increased perspiration, constriction of blood vessels, and decreased blood flow to the skin all occur when the body is under stress[xi].

When it comes to the skin, stress has been shown to have direct effects on the skin in the form of rashes, hives, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis. Researchers believe this may be a result of impaired skin barrier function (the skin's barrier helps hold in water/moisture, keeping skin hydrated).[xii] Stress has also been linked to acne.

New research shows that inflammation (which can be triggered by anxiety) causes acne. Studies also suggest that patients with acne are under increased systemic and skin oxidative stress. They appear to consume antioxidants at a faster pace than their acne-free peers.

"Treating this inflammation with antioxidants, on the inside and on the skin (with products like my own Replere Acne Kit, shown below) can be a key solution for many acne sufferers."

Stress has also been associated with slower wound healing[xiii]—and increased susceptibility to infections[xiv]. It may also harm your hair; stress has been linked to the autoimmune condition called alopecia areata, which causes hair loss[xv].

Researchers have also found that long-term stress can also increase DNA damage to the skin—and interfere with DNA repair—both of which can trigger premature aging of the skin. Stress has also been shown to accelerate the growth and progression of skin cancer.[xvi]

Sleeplessness (a common side effect of stress) and loss of sleep overall is also a form of stress on the body and can impact the skin. One study found that poor sleepers have increased fine lines, uneven pigmentation, and reduced elasticity in their skin[xvii].

In a nutshell: stress causes us to age faster. So finding ways to manage and decrease stress will make you happier, healthier, and more beautiful—from the inside out.

Stay healthy & beautiful,

"Stress Effects," The American Institute of Stress;

[ii] "Stress, Depression and Antidepressant Treatment Options in Patients Suffering from Multiple Sclerosis,"Current Pharmaceutical Design, 2012, 18(36), 5837-5845;

[iii] "Precipitating and Relieving Factors of Migraine Versus Tension Type Headache," B. Haque, K. M. Rahman, A. Hoque, BMC Neurology, 2012, 12:82;

[iv] "Emotional Stressors Trigger Cardiovascular Events," B.G. Schwartz, W.J. French, G.S. Mayeda, et al.,International Journal of Clinical Practice, July 2012, 66(7), 631-9;; "Stress and Cardiovascular Disease," A. Steptoe, M. Kivimaki, Nature Reviews Cardiology, April 3, 2012, 9(6), 360-70;

[v] "Stress May Play a Key Role in the Development of Type II Diabetes in Obese Black Women, U.S. Researchers Say," HealthDay News, March 5, 2009;

[vi] "The Influence of Perceived Stress on the Onset of Arthritis in Women: Findings from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health," M. L. Harris, D. Loxton, D. W. Sibbritt, J. E. Byles, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 2013, 46(1), 9-18;

[vii] "Stress, Depression, and Parkinson's Disease," Ann M. Hemmerle, James P. Herman, Kim B. Seroogy,Experimental Neurology, Jan. 2012, 233(1), 79-86;

[viii] "Psychological Stress and Disease," S. Cohen, D. Janicki-Deverts, G.E. Miller, JAMA, October 10, 2007, 298(14), 1685-7;

[ix] "Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation, and Skin Aging," Ying Chen and John Lyga, Inflammation and Allergy Drug Targets, June 2014, 13(3), 177-190;

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] "Impaired Skin Barrier Function in Dermatologic Disease and Repair with Moisturization," M. Lebwohl, L.G. Herrmann, Cutis, Dec. 2005, 76(6) (6 Suppl): 7-12;; "Impact of Stress of Marital Dissolution on Skin Barrier Recovery: Tape Stripping and Measurement of Trans-Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL), N. Muizzuddin, M.S. Matsui, K.D. Marenus, et al., Skin Research and Technology, 2003, 9(1), 34-38,

[xiii] "The Impact of Psychological Stress on Wound Healing: Methods and Mechanisms," Jean-Philippe Gouin and Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America, Feb. 2011, 31(1): 81-93;
[xiv] "Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation, and Skin Aging," Ying Chen and John Lyga, Inflammation and Allergy Drug Targets, June 2014, 13(3), 177-190;; "Neuroimmunology of Stress: Skin Takes Center Stage," Petra C. Arck, Andrzej Slominski, Theoharis C. Theoharides, et al., Journal of Investigative Dermatology, August 2006, 126(8), 1697-1704;

[xv] "What is Alopecia Areata? What Causes Alopecia Areata?" Medical News Today, August 19, 2014;
[xvi] "Chronic Stress Accelerates Ultraviolet-Induced Cutaneous Carcinogenesis," J. Parker, S.L. Klein, M.K. McClintock, et al., Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dec. 2004, 51(6): 919-22,; "Chronic Stress and Susceptibility to Skin Cancer," Alison N. Saul, Tatiana M. Oberyszyn, Christine Daugherty, et al., Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Dec. 7, 2005, 97(23), 1760-67;

[xvii] "Effects of Sleep Quality on Skin Aging and Function," P. Oyetakin-White, B. Koo, M. Matsui, et al., Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2013: S126–S126;

[xviii] "Metabolism: Does Stress Really Shorten Your Life?" National Institute on Aging, November 2011;

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] "Are Telomeres the Key to Aging and Cancer?" Learn.Genetics;

[xxi] Ibid.