The Serious Effects of Stress on Your Skin

Think stress is just limited to how you are feeling on the inside? Think again. The turmoil of stress can take a serious toll on your skin, showing up as acne, redness, dryness and even speeding up the signs of aging by giving way to fine lines and wrinkles. “All of these conditions come back to the same thing: Stress inhibits your skin’s ability to heal itself,” explains New York celebrity aesthetician Mandy Epley.

When stress takes over, the hormone cortisol rises, which causes an increase in oil production—a precursor to clogged pores, oily skin, acne and problems like dermatitis. “Even if you don’t normally suffer from acne, the onset of stress can cause breakouts; it’s the number-one reason adult patients who are suffering from acne for the first time come in,” says Prospect, KY, dermatologist Tami Buss Cassis, MD. But, besides relaxing, how else can you limit stress before it shows up on the skin? “I recommend a 30- to 60- minute facial or massage to help you unwind and adding anti-inflammatory ingredients like green tea into your skin care.” Epley recommends adding essential oils to your skin-care routine and any time you receive a facial. “They have the ability to help on a topical level, but, perhaps even more important, they help you to relax.”

Even though it’s important to de-stress so that you feel good, it’s also essential to help decrease the formation of free radicals internally, which can lead to premature aging and cell degeneration. Several studies suggest that stress may be a major contributing factor in the deadliest cases of skin cancer. In testing done on mice, researchers at Ohio State University found that stress was shown to accelerate the development of malignant skin cells—especially when those cells were exposed to UV rays. Other studies have also reported that those who develop melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer) are more likely to have suffered severely stressful life events in the years prior to diagnosis. “Obviously, the sun is still the main source behind skin cancer, but there is a lot of evidence that stress is responsible in some way,” says Dr. Cassis.