How Stress Affects the Skin


When you are stressed, the adrenal glands secrete a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a very useful hormone which helps us overcome the stressful situation by reducing inflammation, increasing the sugar level in the blood stream, and shutting down any unnecessary bodily functions. However, prolonged stressful conditions and lack of rest can age you rapidly. Here’s how..


Immune suppressant

Ever noticed that when you haven’t had much sleep for a few days and are tired, you catch a cold or get sick easily? Cortisol helps us deal with stress by shutting down unnecessary functions, like reproduction and the immune system, in order to allow the body to direct all energies toward dealing with the stress at hand. But these functions of cortisol are supposed to be short-lived – just long enough to deal with the offending stressor. Prolonged stress will compromise your immune system making you susceptible to any invading pathogens.


Cortisol down regulates collagen production – and prolonged stress can lead to gradual breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin.


Glycation is a process where the sugar molecules in your body cling to the fat and protein molecules. Since cortisol elevates the sugar level in the body significantly, chronic stress could lead to glycation which interferes with the cellular functioning throughout the body. Unfortunately the proteins that are some of the most susceptible to glycation are collagen and elastin – the ones responsible for your skin’s youthful appearance.

Increased Oil Production

Cortisol also increases oil production in your skin and scalp, making you more prone to acne and pimples.

Affects digestive system

Digestive system is another aspect of your body that is suppressed when cortisol levels are high. This is why in many cases stress and conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or stomach ulcers go hand in hand. Unbalanced digestion can lead to a myriad of skin issues such as dryness, oiliness, blemishes, dullness, or a combination of all of these issues.


How to reduce and manage stress?



Mild aerobic exercise, or any physical activity like walking, cycling, climbing the stairs, can quickly diffuse any stress. Short bursts of activity that elevate your heart rate and make you break out into a sweat can also help relieve stress and give you more energy and optimism.


Getting 7 to 9 hours of good rest every night will keep your stress levels low. When you are in REM sleep, your body also repairs and restores any free radical damage that was caused during the day on your skin. Check out the sleep section for more information.

Take breaks

Taking periodic breaks from monotonous or mentally stressful activities, is a very effective strategy to manage stress and keep your mind sharp and active.

Diet and lifestyle habits

Caffine, sugary foods, cigarettes, excess alcohol consumption, can all lead to high stress directly or indirectly. Check out the lifestyle and diet sections for more information.