There is no question about it, avoiding stress these days is hard work. Rising global COVID-19 cases, lock-down and WFH fatigue, never-ending streams of bad news, and not to mention, work, relationship and parenthood stress on top of all that – it’s safe to say, it’s been hard to catch a break in recent months.
While stress can negatively impact our overall health, chronic stress can also have a huge impact on our skin. When faced with stressors, your body goes into the fight-or-flight mode and overproduces hormones like cortisol as a natural defence mechanism. Too much cortisol can take a toll on your skin and disrupt your skin barrier a.k.a your microbiome. This is the top layer of skin that locks in moisture, keeps allergens, irritants and pollutants out and keeps your skin looking healthy – a damaged skin barrier can lead to a whole host of skin issues.
Ever wonder why you experience intense acne breakouts, inflamed skin or worsening psoriasis or eczema after a big stressful event? Or have you noticed your skin not looking its best in recent months but not too sure why? It could all be down to stress. Here are the top 5 ways stress can impact your skin.
1. Hormonal Imbalance: Acne Breakouts
Above all, your body reacts to stress by producing lots of cortisol, a hormone that stimulates your oil glands to overproduce sebum (oil). This can make your skin appear a lot more oily than usual and make it more prone to acne breakouts including blackheads, whiteheads and pimples.
2. Inflammation & hypersensitivity
Too much cortisol can also damage your microbiome (skin barrier), making your skin hypersensitive to outside aggressors like the free radicals generated by pollution or UV rays. Without a strong, healthy skin barrier, your skin is more prone to infections, inflammations and exacerbated skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
3. Early Signs of Ageing
Since your skin barrier can become easily damaged with chronic stress, and you’re less protected from free radicals (pollution, smoke, UV rays), this can also inhibit your natural production of hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin – the things that keep your skin plump and youthful – leading to fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation and other early signs of ageing.
4. Excess Dryness & Irritation
While cortisol can often lead to excess oiliness for many, it can also slow the production of natural oils for some. Your skin naturally produces healthy oils which act as a protective layer to seal in moisture. If your skin doesn’t produce enough natural oils, it can dry, rough, irritated and even dehydrated. Additionally, if you tend to sip on endless cups of coffee under highly stressful situations, this can further exacerbate dryness or dehydrated skin.
5. Bad Quality Sleep: Puffiness, Dark Under-eye Circles
Last but not least, it’s hard to get quality, consistent sleep when you’re stressed and anxious. Not getting sufficient beauty sleep can take a toll on both your productivity and your skin, leading to dark under-eye circles, puffiness, dull skin and early signs of ageing. On top of that, if you’re one to spend hours in front of computer screens or your phone each day and before bed, the blue light emitted from your digital devices can interrupt your natural circadian rhythm (sleep patterns), leading to poor sleep quality.
Stress is an inescapable part of everyone’s lives but now that we’ve identified the very obvious and serious ways that it impacts our skin and more importantly, our health, it’s best to combat it rather than choosing to bow to the inevitable.