Stress And Your Skin: How Does It Affect You?

When we experience stress, our body automatically goes into fight-or-flight mode, which increases adrenalin for survival, explains Dr Sly Nedic, a physician board-certified in anti- aging medicine by the World Organization of Anti-Aging Medicine, aesthetic specialist and founder of 8th Sense Spa.

Hormones, stress and your skin

“At the same time, cortisol, which is a helper hormone, is propelled to shut down the immune response and peripheral circulation.”

This shut-down affects all of the layers of the skin, leading to the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL6, IL8 and TNF), which are involved in the stimulation of proteins for collagen degradation, which in turn creates more collagen damage. In layman’s terms, if you are in a perpetual state of stress, you will age quicker than you should – in both looks and body.

“Premature skin aging with advanced sagging is an effect of prolonged stress. It is not restricted to the face and can be seen on the skin in many areas of the body, such as the inner thighs and arms, and in younger individuals as well.”

Stress also changes how your body’s lipid barrier functions, which in turn can cause dullness or dehydration of the skin. “It also compromises the immune function, which could lead to changes in texture and possible hyperpigmentation. Increased sebum production, clogged pores and adult acne are a few examples of stress manifestations which can contribute to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.”

According to Prof Ncoza Dlova – chief specialist and head of the Department of Dermatology at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine of the University of KwaZulu-Natal – stress can trigger the production of certain inflammatory chemicals, which can worsen established skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne.

Meagan Whitehorn, brand manager of Pierre Fabre South Africa, adds that stress can result in the development of visible redness and irritation. Of course, first choice would be to embrace lifestyle factors that can help to reduce your stress levels, or at least help you to change your perception of this factor. “However, adapted dermocosmetics products can assist in alleviating the symptoms that your skin may show as a result of stress,” Whitehorn notes. Click here to find out how your partner’s stressed state can affect your brain.

What you can do:

Whitehorn recommends, as the first step, reducing (or avoiding), whenever possible, factors that trigger your sensitivity:

  • Use cosmetic products specifically formulated for sensitive skin
  • Avoid products containing key ingredients that are known to be irritating, such as parabens, fragrance and alcohol.
  • Choose products that are as neutral as possible, with the minimum number of ingredients
  • If city water (containing high levels of chlorine) irritates your skin, use gentle, non-rinse products

Click here to find out what the impact of stress on the brain is.