How The Stress Hormone Cortisol Is Damaging Your Skin

Written by WD Staff, Skin Care Specialists on April 22, 2016 No Comments

how stress affects the skin

Whether stemming from job-related issues, relationship conflicts, or financial problems, stress is very common in many people’s day to day life. Unfortunately all that stress is wreaking havoc on your skin.

The human body naturally responds to periods of stress in a variety of ways, some of which can cause some serious unwanted side effects. You may notice that you have increased acne breakouts, dryness, irritation, or redness during periods of high stress. These symptoms stem from the release of various hormones when the body encounters stress – in particular, the “stress hormone” cortisol.

How cortisol affects the skin

Cortisol is a natural hormone that helps the body deal with stress. In small amounts, cortisol is a normal and healthy adaptation reflex. It serves as a great short term coping mechanism.

However, cortisol can turn into an enemy of the skin if it remains in excess over a long period of time. People who are prone to high stress over long durations will sustain high levels of cortisol, which can negatively affect the skin in various ways:

Acne: You may notice that during periods of high stress you experience more acne breakouts. High cortisol levels prompt the skin’s sebaceous glands to produce more sebum (oil). The additional oil clogs the pores leading to the development of inflammation and bacteria– resulting in acne.

Skin Conditions: Beyond acne, stress can also magnify other skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis or rosacea. Many people who suffer from chronic skin disorders tend to notice that their symptoms flare up when their stress levels are elevated.

Aging: Cortisol also has the power to accelerate the aging process of the skin, rapidly enhancing common unwanted aging signs like lines and wrinkles, age spots, and skin dullness.

Keeping stress under control

Stress is always going to be an inescapable part of living. However there are some simple and effective ways to help your body (and skin) better deal with stress:

  • Work to eliminate unnecessary stress-inducers from your life
  • Eat plenty of healthy foods and drink lots of water
  • Exercise regularly
  • Incorporate “me time” into your day
  • Try stress relief techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation
  • Get plenty of sleep each night
  • Develop a sound support system

How to fight back

Beyond practicing stress coping techniques, there are also many great cosmetic treatments that work to both help the skin deal with stress and reverse any negative effects. Great stress fighting treatments include:

Chemical Peels: Topically applied formulas that revitalize the skin surface by creating an even and controlled shedding of the skin cells. Chemical peels create a fresh appearance and a smoother skin surface while removing skin damage.

Micro-Needling: An innovative skin rejuvenation treatment that spurs the production of new collagen and elastin fibers that thicken the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, acne scarring, sun damage, and stretch marks. Learn more about micro-needling.

Facials: We offer several different types of facials to leave the skin feeling refreshed and renewed. Facials can be performed to cleanse, exfoliate, and rehydrate the skin.

Laser Treatments: Non-invasive treatments utilize light, ultrasound, or radiofrequency to tighten or resurface the skin. Laser treatments like Thermage and Ultherapy can stimulate the production of new collagen while resurfacing lasers like Fraxel can improve the appearance of aging or sun damaged skin, fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars, stretch marks or uneven pigmentation.


WD Staff

A united group of skin care specialists from Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, Austin's leader in Dermatology and Plastic Surgery. Articles posted under WD staff are authored through combined contributions from our entire team, including Plastic Surgeons, Dermatologists, Aestheticians, Physician Assistants, Aesthetic Nurses, and Patient Coordinators.

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