Stress can have serious consequences on your health, from increasing your risk of developing depression, negatively impacting your immune system, and increasing your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
The way stress shows on facesChronic 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.
When you feel stressed, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol, which causes the part of your brain known as the hypothalamus to produce a hormone called corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH stimulates oil release from sebaceous glands around your hair follicles and this excessive oil production can clog your pores and lead to acne.
Under eye bags
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.
Research 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 formation of bags under your eyes
The outer layer of your skin 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 that isn’t working the way it should, your skin can become dry and itchy. According to a 2014 review published in Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets, both human and animal studies found that stress impairs the barrier function of the outer player of your skin and may negatively affect skin water retention.
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 is known to trigger or aggravate several conditions that may cause rashes or inflamed skin, such as psoriasis, eczema, and contact dermatitis.
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
It is commonly believed that 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 study 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, which causes a larger than normal amount of hair to fall out.
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) 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.
- Sore lips. Many people chew their lips or the inside of their mouths when they feel stressed.
How to cope with stress
Some ways you can cope with stress include:
- Make time for relaxation: 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: Though a glass of wine at the end of the day is a great way to unwind for some, persistant use of drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism can cause additional problems and add to your stress