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How stress and anxiety affect your skin

Notice that an acne appears on your face when you get really stressed out? Or how lifeless your skin looks after long periods of stress?

Believe it or not, stress and anxiety have direct and indirect consequences that show on your skin. It is mainly the result of high levels of stress hormones.

Coping with Stress at the Expense of The Skin’s Health

Cortisol is a stress hormone released during stress and anxiety. It helps our body cope with stressors by redirecting energy and blood supply to important organs like the heart. But in high levels, cortisol can negatively change the appearance of your skin.

When you feel stressed out, your skin looks dull because cortisol partly takes away blood flow to the skin. Being less oxygenated and nourished, the skin becomes dryer and less radiant.

Other than that, cortisol increases oil production in the skin. Excessive oil could clog up pores causing acne. That is why we break out or even have acne flare-ups during stressful periods.

Flare-ups of Skin Conditions

Those with eczema and psoriasis also notice that stress and anxiety worsen their skin conditions. Cortisol increases oil, heightens inflammation and hinders skin recovery. It is a vicious cycle as the itchiness and discomfort would only add to the existing stress.

Different people cope with stress and anxiety in different ways. Even without a pre-existing skin condition, people with excoriation disorder respond to anxiety by picking on their skin. And this can be a difficult habit to break.

Premature Aging

Premature aging is not only caused by constantly frowning. Long periods of stress and anxiety break down collagen, causing the skin to appear older than it really is.

Collagen is an important component that keeps the skin bouncy and youthful.

With less collagen, the skin elasticity is reduced and fine lines appear. Less elasticity causes sagging skin too.

Other Ways Stress and Anxiety Affect the Skin

Additionally, prolonged stress and anxiety cause other indirect impacts on our skin. For example, many people do not get the best quality sleep when they are stressed out. Added to collagen loss, losing a good night’s sleep may show as puffy eyes and dark circles in the morning.

We also tend to make less healthy decisions when our minds are in a bad place. Not hydrating enough, over-consuming refined sugars and caffeine, and skipping exercise are other factors that contribute to dullness and extrinsic aging.

Here are some tips on how to manage stress and anxiety.

Set some time for yourself

Spend some time just for yourself, and set your intentions for the day if you like. No kids, no social media, just you and yourself.

Think about what makes you happy, what you are grateful for, and what keeps you motivated. If you keep a journal, this is a good time to scribble, too. You could also meditate or pray to be in touch with your spiritual side.

Taking a step back, even for a short while can really help you stay mindful throughout the day. It prevents you from going on ‘autopilot’ and can be demotivating over time.

Be consistent with your skincare routine

Having a minimalistic skincare routine gives you time to revive your skin and pamper yourself.

Sticking to a skincare routine is a manifestation of self-appreciation. Also, actions like massaging your face and body as you apply products help increase circulation and combat dullness. Treat your skin with love, and your skin will definitely radiate.


Exercise is a great mood booster and releases hormones like endorphins that reduce stress. If you don’t have the time for a run, a good stretch or low-impact workout is better than no exercise at all.

Get help

Stress and anxiety can be detrimental to your skin, overall health, and relationships. If things get too overwhelming, reach out and get professional help. Otherwise, talking to a friend could also help you gain perspective of your situation.

In short, stress and anxiety cause break-outs, flare-ups, and premature aging of your skin. But it does not stop there. Stress and anxiety are real mental burdens that cause other health problems too.

Effective stress management and mindfulness go a long way for your mental health and wellbeing. Remember to put your mental health first, and everything else including your skin will follow.

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