Stress and Your Skin

April 13, 2021

Stress and Your Skin

In honor of National Stress Awareness month, we sat down with our good friends at McGuiness Dermatology to talk about how stress affects your skin. 

The last year has wreaked havoc on almost every aspect of our lives, the most prevalent aspect of that being stress. Of course, we get stressed for multiple reasons, from everyday pressures at work or our social lives. Trying to maintain balance through, you know, living through an ongoing global pandemic may have a negative impact on our lives, causing everything from low energy and mood swings to insomnia, headaches, and more––but have you ever thought of the effect it's having on your skin?

A year into Covid-19, you're not alone if you're feeling slightly unbalanced. The overall impact may also be taking its toll physically, presenting itself in the form of unwanted breakouts. Here, we solicited the advice of Michelle Palcic, an esthetician and laser specialist at McGuiness Dermatology, to find out the correlation between stress and your skin and exactly what we can do to combat it.

In what ways does stress show in our skin?

"Stress affects our entire bodies, but our skin, which is the largest organ in our body, is particularly sensitive to stress," Palcic said. " Simply put, when we are under stress, our body goes into 'defense mode." That leads to excess production of hormones which lead to ane and accelerated aging."

However, she continues, "Stress also causes proteins in our skin in our skin to change, which can reduce elasticity in the skin and lead to wrinkle formation." These hormone imbalances can also lead to higher sebum oil levels; a slower cell turnover rate, a weakened skin barrier function. 

How does stress contribute to acne?

"The relationship between stress and acne isn't clear-cut," Palcic told us. "However, stress increases specific hormones, like cortisol, [stimulating] excessive oil production and inflammation in the skin. Excess oil production can clog pores leading to more breakouts. 

It also may depend on the type of stress taking its toll on you. "There are different stress factors; emotional and mental stress like relationships or anxiety." But of course, if the stress is more physical, like, smoking or drug use, an overly demanding exercise can bring outside pollutants right to the skin's surface. 

How should we treat stress acne?

Palcic says you should first try to identify what is causing the stress. "If this is short-term stress, like a work presentation, then there are great spot treatments containing BP [benzoyl peroxide] or salicylic acids that can help." If you feel like making a trip to your dermatologist or med spa, "treatments like hydrafacials are great for unclogging pores, exfoliation and introducing oil-loving, anti-inflammatory acids to the skin." 

What is your recommendation for stress-related acne and aging? 

Palcic recommends seeing a board-certified dermatologist who can help guide you in an appropriate treatment plan for your skin conditions if the stress becomes chronic. "If this is chronic stress-related acne, like relationship issues or a global pandemic, then you should see a board-certified dermatologist because you may need prescription topical or oral medications."

If you're noticing a line or two more than usual in your forehead, stress could be leading to premature aging. "there are many things available to treat the effects of stress on the skin," Palcic said. "For wrinkles like elevens or volume loss, we have injectable treatments like botox, disport, and fillers."

Overall, Palcic recommends finding the proper skincare regimen for your skin... and sticking to it. "Many people change their regimen without giving it enough time to work. Trust the licensed professionals to help guide you in the appropriate treatments and products."


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