U.K. DELIVERY £1.99, FREE FOR ORDERS OVER £25 | INTERNATIONAL DELIVERY FROM £9.99
Can Stress Have An Effect On Our Skin?
Stress is defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation according to the World Health Organization, and while for many it’s an unwanted feeling, it can be necessary in order to prompt us to act to certain situations in a way that can be beneficial or even life-saving. That being said, there are a number of ways stress, particularly ongoing stress, can affect us both mentally and physically, and in this article we’re going to look at the different ways stress can affect our skin.
The skin is the largest organ in our body and it’s intimately linked with our brain. When we start feeling stressed, it causes a chemical response in our body that can make it more sensitive and reactive. This in turn can trigger and exacerbate skin conditions such as eczema or acne, slowing down the ability to heal from wounds or increase inflammation. Here are 8 ways that stress can affect your skin health:
8 Ways Stress Can Affect Your Skin Health
1. Increased Acne Breakouts
As we talk about in our detailed ‘acne’ article that you can read here, one of the contributing factors that leads to breakouts are hormones known as androgens which can increase sebum (oil) production, blocking pores and leading to the formation of pimples and cysts. When we’re stressed, the levels of some hormones including androgens increases, and thus can increase or worsen breakouts.
2. Premature Aging And Wrinkles
The relationship between chronic stress and skin aging has been demonstrated in numerous studies [1, 2]. Stress can contribute to the breakdown of collagen and elastin, proteins that maintain skin firmness and elasticity, leading to the development of wrinkles and fine lines. However, the development of wrinkles is a complex process and although stress may be a contributing factor, it is not the sole cause.
3. Hair Loss & Nail Deterioration
Several studies have shown that stress may be a contributing factor towards a specific type of alopecia known as alopecia areata, leading to bald patches across the scalp that can spread to cover the entire head [3, 4]. Furthermore, a portion of patients with alopecia areata were observed to have changes in their nails such as pitting .
4. Delayed Wound Healing
Chronic stress may impede the body's ability to heal wounds and repair damaged skin. This can manifest as slower recovery from cuts, bruises, or other skin injuries. Interventions designed to reduce stress such as exercise and social support have been found to prevent stress-induced impairments in healing .
5. Impaired Skin Barrier Function
The relationship between psychological stress and an impaired skin barrier function is well documented. It has been shown that stress can lead to skin deyhydration, compromising the skin barrier function . Stress can weaken the skin's protective barrier and affect interactions with pathogens, making it more susceptible to environmental aggressors and allergens . This may result in increased sensitivity, dryness, and a compromised ability to retain moisture.
6. Increased Inflammation
Stress can trigger inflammatory responses in the body through an increase of cortisol , and chronic inflammation can contribute to various skin issues, including redness, puffiness, and inflammatory skin conditions.
7. Scratching and Picking
In response to stress, some people may engage in behaviours that are detrimental to the skin, such as excessive scratching and picking at the skin. This can cause inflammation and open wounds which can also lead to infections.
8. Exacerbation of Pre-Existing Conditions Such As Eczema
The correlation between stress and certain skin conditions such as eczema is well documented as discussed in our ‘eczema’ article.
How To Manage Stress And Improve Your Skin Health
As you can see, there are numerous ways in which stress can affect the health of our skin. It can worsen pre-existing conditions such as acne or eczema leading to an increase of flare-ups, impair the skin barrier function and potentially cause inflammation, cause premature aging and wrinkles and more. Taking care of our mental health can have a huge impact on our physical health, and reducing our levels of stress can improve our skin health.
In order to help reduce stress, making changes to our lifestyle and finding coping strategies can be very beneficial. This can include regular exercise, prioritising good sleep and sharing thoughts and feelings with others. If you’re worried about your skin health or struggling to manage stress, consult with a healthcare professional who can help.