Mood and Skin: How stress can wreak havoc on your skin


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by | Feb 20, 2023

Red as a tomato? Pale with shock? Goose pimples?

If you’ve ever experienced any of these, then you’ll know that the skin and brain talk to each other. I have previously written about the gut-skin connection, similarly, there is a brain-skin axis. You only have to think about when you’ve felt stressed and felt the sweat running down your back, to know the impact our feelings can have on our skin. 

All of the above are temporary responses to stress or emotions, but what if feelings like being sad, overwhelmed and being out of control, take over your daily life?

Flicking the switch: How the stress hormones are released

The pituitary gland is about the size of a pea and rests in the anterior chamber of your skull. It acts like a switchboard for your stress hormones, the primary signal coming from the hypothalamus gland, just above it. When it’s activated, like when you’re stressed, it sends a signal to another gland just above your kidney, called the adrenal gland. 

When your adrenal gland receives its message, it releases a powerful hormone called Cortisol, and other stress hormones called Catecholamines. Both of these hormone types are beneficial and vital in maintaining a healthy body. However, if you’re high for too long, they can turn against you. High levels of cortisol and catecholamines can weaken our immunity, damage organs (including the skin), and increase blood sugar levels. 

This is why chronic stress has been linked to a host of conditions like diabetes, food allergies, weight gain, increased susceptibility to colds and flu-like illnesses, cancer, heart disease and many more…..

Chronic stress and how it shows on your face

As noted previously, high levels of stress hormones weaken your immunity, which means that it can’t keep itself in tip-top condition, which means it’s more susceptible to bacteria, virus’s and fungi; sun damage and pollution.  

This can worsen chronic skin conditions like eczema, acne, rosacea and psoriasis. Apart from this, the reduced ability of the skin to repair itself, means that you will experience more lines and wrinkles as elastic tissue depletes, loss of plumpness as collagen levels dive and your skin could become dry as the skin loses its ability to produce the lipid layer that seals moisture in.

How can you manage stressed skin?

While reducing stress levels should theoretically help to alleviate damaging effects on the skin, there’s only limited data regarding the effectiveness of stress-reducing interventions. There is some evidence that meditation may lower stress hormone levels in people who do it regularly. Research shows these techniques to be helpful in controlling psoriasis, however, more proof is  needed to show the benefit of these techniques in other skin conditions. Healthy lifestyle habits, including a well-balanced diet and exercise, may also help to regulate stress hormones in the body, which should in turn have positive effects on skin and hair.

If you are experiencing a skin condition related to stress, see a dermatologist for your condition, and try some stress-reducing techniques at home. In addition, No4 can offer advice and treatments aimed at reducing adult acne, rosacea and ageing skin.

For more information contact us here.


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Nichola Maasdorp No4 Clinic
Anti-ageing & Skincare Treatments
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