Everybody feels stressed from time to time, but when it becomes chronic, it can have serious consequences on your health. StressTrusted Source can increase your risk of developing depression, negatively impact your immune system, and increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Stress can also leave a mark on your face. Dry skin, wrinkles, and acne are just some of the ways that it can manifest itself. Keep reading to find out what other effects stress can have on your face.
Chronic stress can show on your face in two ways. First, the hormones that your body releases when you feel stress can lead to physiological changes that negatively impact your skin. Second, feeling stressed may also lead to bad habits such as grinding your teeth or biting your lips.
Read on to learn more about the specific ways stress may show on your face.
When you feel stressed, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol causes a part of your brain known as the hypothalamus to produce a hormone called corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH is thought to stimulate oil release from sebaceous glandsTrusted Source around your hair follicles. Excessive oil production by these glands can clog your pores and lead to acne.
Although it’s widely believed that stress causes acne, there are only a few studies that have examined the connection.
A 2017 studyTrusted Source looked at the effect of stress on acne in female medical students between the ages of 22 to 24. The researchers found that higher levels of stress positively correlated with acne severity.
A 2011 South Korean epidemiological studyTrusted Source examined potential acne aggravating factors in 1,236 people. They found that stress, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, and menstruation can potentially make acne worse.
Bags under your eyes
Bags under the eyes are characterized by swelling or puffiness beneath your eyelids. They become more common with age since the supporting muscles around your eyes weaken. Sagging skin caused by a loss of elasticity can also contribute to eye bags.
ResearchTrusted Source has found that stress caused by sleep deprivation increases signs of aging, such as fine lines, reduced elasticity, and uneven pigmentation. The loss of skin elasticity may also contribute to the formation of bags under your eyes.
The stratum corneum is the outer layer of your skin. It contains protein and lipids that play a critical role in keeping your skin cells hydrated. It also acts as a barrier that protects the skin underneath. When your stratum corneum isn’t working the way it should, your skin can become dry and itchy.
According to a 2014 reviewTrusted Source published in Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets, a pair of studies performed on mice found that stress impairs the barrier function of your stratum corneum and may negatively affect skin water retention.
The review also mentions that several human studies have found that interview stress and stress from “marital disruption” can slow down the skin barrier’s ability to heal itself, too.
Stress has the potential to weaken your immune system. A weakened immune system can lead to an imbalance of bacteria in your gut and skin known as dysbiosis. When this imbalance occurs on your skin, it can lead to redness or a rash.
Stress causes changes to the proteins in your skin and reduces its elasticity. This loss of elasticity can contribute to wrinkle formation.
Stress may also lead to repeated furrowing of your brow that may also contribute to the formation of wrinkles.
Graying hair and hair loss
Common wisdom says stress can make your hair go gray. However, it’s only recently that scientists have figured out why. Cells called melanocytes produce a pigment called melanin that gives your hair its color.
A 2020 studyTrusted Source published in Nature found that sympathetic nervous activity from stress can cause the stem cells that create melanocytes to disappear. Once these cells disappear, new cells lose their color and turn gray.
Chronic stress can also disrupt your hair’s growing cycle and lead to a condition called telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium causes a larger than normal amount of hair to fall out.
Other ways stress affects your face
Other ways stress can affect your face include:
- Tooth damage. Many people adopt the habit of teeth grinding when they feel stressed or anxious. Over time, this can cause permanent damage to your teeth.
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). TMD is a group of health problems that affect the joint where your jaw connects to your skull. It can be caused by repeated clenching of your teeth.
- Face flushing. Stress can cause you to change your breathing habits. These breathing habits can cause your face to flush temporarily.
- Sore lips. Many people chew their lips or the inside of their mouths when they feel stressed.
How to cope with stress
Some causes of stress like a sudden death in the family or an unexpected job loss are unavoidable. However, finding ways to cope with stress and minimize avoidable stress can help you better manage it.
Some ways you can cope with stressTrusted Source include:
- Schedule time for relaxing activities. Scheduling time for activities that make you feel relaxed may help you reduce stress if you feel overwhelmed by your busy schedule.
- Maintain good lifestyle habits. Continuing to eat a healthy diet as well as getting plenty of sleep will help your body better manage stress.
- Stay active. Exercise can help you lower levels of your stress hormones and give you some time to take your mind off the cause of your stress.
- Talk to others. Talking to a friend, family member, or mental health professional helps many people deal with stress.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. Persisted use of drugs and alcohol can cause additional problems to your stress.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life. However, when stress becomes chronic it can leave a lasting impression on your face. Acne, gray hair, and dry skin are just a few of the ways that stress may show itself.
Minimizing avoidable causes of stress in your life and learning techniques to manage stress can help you fight against these signs of premature aging.
Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI — Written by Daniel Yetman on June 25, 2020 Last medically reviewed on June 25, 2020