Stress causes the brain to kick into high gear, tripping signals telling the nervous system it’s time to engage the fight or flight mode. This triggers the release of chemicals and hormones like cortisol that are released into the bloodstream and these can directly affect how your skin heals and functions.
Stress can wreak havoc on your skin in a variety of ways, including dehydration, accelerated aging, dullness, dryness, irritation, and of course the dreaded adult acne. When you are stressed out, so is your skin and it can’t act correctly if it’s out of balance. Much like you yourself struggle to cope with stress, your skin becomes irritable, depleted, and exhausted.
Unfortunately, at some point stress will happen to you, because it happens to everyone. It’s pretty impossible to avoid paying bills, going to work or avoid the typical anxieties of life.
Moving house, divorce, changing jobs, having children, these are all on the list for the most stressful life events, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that stress is unavoidable. The most effective way to handle stress is by learning how to manage it because it’s impossible to avoid.
Just think about the times you have experienced stress in the past. What types of issues did you notice? You probably thought you had aged, the new gray hairs had appeared from nowhere, that your skin was a funny color, and that you just didn’t look like your old self. Well, you were right. Stress can show in your nails and your hair, and even bigger… On your skin.
Of course, managing stress includes sleeping properly, eating well, and regularly exercising, but before you can tackle the bigger problems you need to know exactly how stress can show on your skin, so, this is how.
Acne & Oily Skin
You know, once you escape the terror of the teen years you expect your skin to fall in line and look flawless and smooth all the time. Then the truth comes out and you realize adult acne is real and it’s a major problem for you. Stress is a big trigger for acne (or eczema and psoriasis, if you’re prone to it) and it’s because cortisol upsets the balance in the rest of your hormones leading to breakouts. It can also have a hand in upsetting the balance of gut bacteria, which can also trigger an acne breakout.
In times of stress the body's ability to stay hydrated is compromised, which can cause sebaceous glands overcompensate and produce an excess amount of oil. Excess oil can clog pores, leading to congested skin and acne. This is way people tend to breakout before a big event! Dull, Dry, Flaky Skin
Cortisol also decreases the amount of hyaluronic acid, a moisturizing humectant that the body naturally produces. Hyaluronic acid helps skin retain water, without it skin becomes dull and dehydrated. The lack of natural moisture can damage the skin's protective barrier function leaving the skin susceptible to aging free-radicals and other damage. This can trigger flare-ups of eczema and psoriasis. Some types of stress may cause the body to release adrenaline. The presence of adrenaline causes a decrease in blood flow, depriving your skin of much needed nutrients and oxygen which causes a dull, congested or aged appearance.
When you are under severe stress, there is a fairly good chance that you aren’t drinking sufficient amounts of water. You’re probably turning to soda, coffee, and energy drinks for your fluids because the only type of drink you’re interested in is one that contains caffeine and can provide you with a boost. Those are the types of beverages that dehydrate meaning you need to drink even more water to make up for it. Otherwise, you get that crepe paper look and feel to your skin, and nobody wants that.
Cortisol raises blood sugar levels and kicks off a process called glycation, a stress effect that damages and hardens collagen. This damage, paired with dryness exacerbates the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
Remember when your mom told you that if you keep making that face it would stay that way? As it turns out, if you make the same facial expressions all the time you will get fine lines that lead to wrinkles. Are you a brow furrower or a lip purser? Then your face will show it. Most people can live with laughter lines, because hey, they’re just evidence of living a happy life, but lines across the forehead and those that gather above the upper lip are just not a good look. Eye Bags
There is nothing worse than catching sight of yourself in the mirror only to see large dark bags under your eyes. A lack of sleep triggers fluid to pool in the area and you find yourself faced with a puffy mess come morning. There’s more bad news for those of you who suffer from puffy eyes… it’s even worse if you happen to sleep on your stomach. Diffuse Redness
Stress can cause you face to flush. Can trigger a rosacea flare-up. One thing that the majority of people tend to do when they’re under stress is breathing wrong. Your breaths become short and shallow, and you may even catch yourself holding your breath. This causes redness and a flushed face.
Eczema & Psoriasis
We’ve discussed how excess cortisol sends your hormones haywire, but it also has a serious impact on your immune system. It’s during these times where people who are prone to eczema and psoriasis experience outbreaks. People who have these types of conditions often suffer from anxiety; it’s a sort of cyclical situation with each issue feeding the other, which can make it difficult to manage.
Hives & Rashes
Dysbiosis is a gut imbalance and this can result in hives and rashes. They become a problem for people who are so extremely stressed that the bad bacteria have completely outweighed the presence of good bacteria in the gut.