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Stress and Skin: Exploring the Impact

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3 min read


Stress can have a major impact on the skin. It can lead to numerous skin problems. Continue reading to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Filza Hafeez

Published At March 7, 2024
Reviewed AtMarch 7, 2024


Stress is very common nowadays. Even younger individuals are undergoing stress and trying ways to cope with that. Stress not only gives rise to many health issues, but it can also affect the skin and can become the cause of various skin problems like acne, wrinkles, fine lines, etc. This article will look at how stress affects the skin and how to cope with it. Continue reading to know more.

How Can Stress Affect the Skin?

Stress can have a significant impact on both skin health and appearance because of its effects on various physiological processes. When the body is stressed, it activates a variety of systems, including the endocrine (hormonal), neurologic (nervous), and immune. These responses are not only systemic, affecting the entire body, but also specifically affect the skin.

The stress response involves two main pathways: the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. These pathways release hormones such as cortisol, catecholamines (like adrenaline), and neuropeptides. These hormones can have a negative impact on the skin, including exacerbating inflammation, increasing itching sensations, compromising the skin's natural barrier function, delaying wound healing processes, and suppressing the immune system's ability to protect the skin from infections and other threats.

What Skin Issues Can Occur Due to Stress?

The skin issues that can occur as a result of stress are discussed below.

  • Stress and Hormonal Response: Stress causes the release of hormones such as cortisol, which disrupts the balance of oil production in the skin. Elevated cortisol levels stimulate the production of sebum, the skin's natural oil, leading to clogged pores and acne breakouts.

  • Impact on Aging: Chronic stress has the potential to accelerate the skin's aging process. Cortisol breaks down collagen and elastin, essential proteins that maintain skin elasticity and firmness. As a result, the skin may develop fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging prematurely.

  • Skin Barrier Function: Stress disrupts the skin's barrier function, reducing its ability to retain moisture. This can manifest as dryness, itching, and irritation. According to studies, stress can impair the skin's natural repair mechanisms, extending wound healing time and exacerbating pre-existing skin conditions.

  • Immune System Dysregulation: Stress weakens the immune system, leaving the skin more vulnerable to infections and inflammation. It can exacerbate pre-existing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea, leading to flare-ups and worsening symptoms.

  • Psychological Impact: Beyond the physiological effects, stress can also impact mental well-being, which in turn influences skin health. Psychological stressors may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms like poor dietary choices, inadequate sleep, and substance abuse, all of which can further compromise skin health.

  • Hair Health: Stress can affect hair health, leading to issues such as hair thinning and premature graying. Stress can cause hormonal changes that disrupt the hair growth cycle, leading to more shedding and lower hair quality.

How to Cope Up With Stress?

Incorporating stress management techniques into daily life can help to reduce the negative effects of stress on skin health. Practices like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and regular physical activity can provide relaxation and support overall well-being. Addressing stress as part of a comprehensive skincare routine is essential for maintaining healthy, glowing skin. By managing stress effectively, individuals can optimize their skin's natural defenses, enhance treatment outcomes, and improve overall quality of life. To relieve stress and improve skin health, consider implementing the following strategies:

  • Schedule Relaxing Activities: Allocate time in the schedule for activities that promote relaxation. This could include hobbies, mindfulness exercises, or spending time outdoors.

  • Maintain Healthy Habits: Stick to a balanced diet and ensure one gets enough sleep each night. These lifestyle habits support the body's ability to manage stress effectively.

  • Stay Active: Incorporate regular exercise into the routine as it can help lower stress hormones and give a mental break from sources of stress.

  • Connect with Others: One should seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional. Talking about feelings can help alleviate stress and provide perspective.

  • Avoid Drugs and Alcohol: Resist the temptation to use substances like drugs or alcohol to cope with stress, as they can worsen the situation.

  • Prioritize Self-Care: Even when busy or stressed, make time for skincare routines and activities that nourish the skin. This can include simple practices like moisturizing or taking a relaxing bath.

  • Practice Stress Management Techniques: Explore stress-relief techniques such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, or visualization exercises. These techniques can help to relax the mind and reduce physiological stress responses.

  • Get Sufficient Sleep: Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night to support the body's recovery and resilience against stress.

  • Set Boundaries: Learn to say no when necessary and establish healthy boundaries to prevent excessive stress from taking over life.

What Do Studies Say About the Effect of Stress on Skin?

Studies have also shown that psychological stress can have a significant impact on the skin. Clinical research indicates that stress can disrupt the epidermal barrier, which is crucial for maintaining healthy skin by retaining moisture and protecting against harmful microbes. When the epidermal barrier is compromised, it can lead to irritated skin and exacerbate chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and wounds. Observational studies have directly linked psychosocial stress to the worsening of these conditions. Additionally, stress has been associated with acne flares, although the precise mechanisms of this relationship are still being studied.

Furthermore, stress can impact hair health. Psychosocial stress can cause telogen effluvium, a type of diffuse hair loss that inhibits the hair growth phase. Studies in mice have also shown that stress can lead to hair graying by depleting pigment-producing stem cells within hair follicles.


To conclude, it is obvious that stress badly affects overall health; however, only a few people know that it can actually impact looks. A stressed face can undergo aging very long time; it can become acne-prone, dry, and irritated. Therefore, try to minimize the stress as much as possible. Connection with the inner self, yoga, meditation, etc., can help relieve stress and pamper the skin as well.

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Dr. Filza Hafeez



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