Stop stressing. If only words could automatically calm feelings. Life is chalk-full of the unpredicted. And for most of us, stress often shows up unexpectedly in all kinds of sources. And often those external factors affect us internally. The impact of stress on the skin does both. And for those who already struggle with skin issues, stress compounds those insecurities and adds to the burden you already bear. 

From the pressures of work to personal challenges and societal expectations, stress manifests in various forms and can wreak havoc on our mental and physical well-being. While we often associate stress with headaches, sleepless nights and mood swings, its impact on our skin is often overlooked. However, the connection between stress and skin health is profound and warrants closer examination. When we experience stress, our body releases a cascade of hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, as part of the fight-or-flight response. While this response is essential for survival in threatening situations, chronic stress can disrupt the delicate balance of these hormones, leading to a range of adverse effects on the skin.

As the largest organ of the body, the manifestations of stress are obvious on the skin. One of the most visible signs of the impact of stress on the skin appears as acne flare-ups and breakouts. Acne is caused by a buildup of oil, dead skin cells and bacteria that leads to inflammation. Sebum production and inflammation increases with elevated stress levels leading to clogged pores, a perfect environment for bacteria that causes acne to thrive. Acne is caused by a build up of oil, dead skin cells and bacteria that leads to inflammation. For individuals with pre-existing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea, stress can exacerbate symptoms and trigger flare-ups. Stress-induced inflammation can intensify itching, redness and irritation, leading to a worsening of the underlying condition. Moreover, the psychological impact of dealing with a chronic skin condition can further contribute to stress, creating a vicious cycle that takes a toll on both mental and physical well-being. Stress doesn’t just affect the appearance of the skin—it can also impair its ability to heal and repair itself. Cortisol inhibits the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, molecules that play a crucial role in the skin’s immune response and wound healing process. As a result, cuts, bruises and other injuries may take longer to heal, leaving behind scars and discoloration.

The physical toll of stress isn’t just in added breakouts or slow wound healing but in new damage to the skin. Chronic stress accelerates the aging process by promoting the breakdown of collagen and elastin, the proteins responsible for maintaining the skin’s firmness and elasticity. Elevated cortisol levels can weaken the skin’s barrier function, making it more susceptible to environmental damage and dehydration. Over time, this can lead to the formation of fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin, giving rise to premature aging.
Mitigating the impact of stress on the skin is found in a combination of options including stress-relief techniques, prioritization of self-care, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, establishing a skincare routine and seeking support both emotionally from loved ones and physically from a board-certified dermatologist. For a skin assessment, contact THE CENTER for Advanced Dermatology at 602-867-7546 or WEBSITE.