How Stress Affects Our Skin

Family emergencies, health scares, kids stuff, work stuff – life happens and it can be a bastard sometimes. Consequently, you don’t need to be a doctor to understand intuitively that stress affects us. Skin is our body’s largest organ and yes, stress affects our skin too. Sudden breakouts, flare-ups of different skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis, or it might be that our skin just looks dull, ashen and lacklustre. Yes, we should worry about how stress affects our blood pressure, heart rate, mental health and digestive system. But skin is important too. It acts as a barrier against the outside stressors and protects us against infections.

What happens to our skin when we are stressed?

When we are under stress our body release hormones, namely adrenaline, and cortisol. Adrenaline will make our heart pump faster and increase our blood pressure. Cortisol (also known as the primary stress hormone) is a part of our body’s fight-or-flight response. It shuts down any of our functions that would be labelled as not detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It influences our immune and digestive systems, the parts of our brain that control our mood and our reproductive system.

Let’s say we get attacked by a bear and we live to tell the tale. Our body and hormone levels will go back to normal. But if we are constantly stressed out or we feel under attack (whether by a real or a perceived threat), it influences every single one of our organs and body as a whole.

Cortisol damages our collagen which results in premature aging (fine lines and wrinkles, loss of elasticity and firmness). Additionally, it also reduces the normal production of Hyaluronic acid, making our skin dry, and messes with our barrier function.

How to tackle stress

We’ll preface this by saying, any suggestions outlined below are just that – suggestions. It takes time, patience and dedication to find ways to tackle stress.


yoga for strength

Fair play to you if you are enthusiastic about exercise. Seriously. If you are more hm… reluctant about exercise (read as: need to be dragged kicking and screaming), we hear you, we feel you and we are right there with you. That said – we always feel so much better afterward. The only tip we can share is to prepare your exercise gear in advance or even put it on. That’s the only thing that increases our chances of actually going through with it. If even that feels too much at times, go for a walk. A short one will do. Some fresh air can do wonders for our stress levels.


Meditation, prayer, mindfulness, call it what you will. If you think it is a load of rubbish, try breathing. Deep breath in, deep breath out. Don’t think, just do it.

Regular skincare routine

It doesn’t need to be elaborate. Hell, there were evenings when the best we managed was a quick splash of water and some moisturizer. But having a routine in place, no matter how basic it might be, can prevent our skin from going haywire. It can also serve as a self-care ritual. We might not feel like it, we might think we don’t have the energy for it, but it can be a great way to unwind after a long, stressful day.

Try getting enough sleep

Easier said than done, right? But not getting enough sleep not only makes us cranky and exhausted the next day, it also results in under eye circles and puffiness. Try to switch off your phone and leave it somewhere out of reach. That can go a long way to help us unwind before we go to sleep.

How does stress affect you? Do you have any tips or tricks that help you deal with stress?

Roberta Striga