We all know how stress makes us feel! Generally pretty lousy, affecting things like our mood, concentration, energy and sleep. But did you know that stress also has a direct impact on your looks, including the health of your skin? Exciting new research has uncovered a direct link between the brain and the skin and scientists are starting to uncover exactly how stress can affect the health of our skin.
So lets start by having a look at what they have discovered and then most importantly, what you can do about it!
The Science of Stress
When we are faced with a stressful event, the body releases the stress hormone cortisol. In the short term cortisol is necessary to help us deal with the cause of our stress. However when stress becomes chronic or long-term, as it so often does with modern lifestyles, it has various negative effects in the body and on the skin.
Cortisol actually leads to collagen loss in the skin by affecting the cells that produce collagen, called fibroblasts (1). Collagen is the main structural protein of our skin, and is essential for maintaining its strength, firmness and elasticity, so when we lose collagen we get more wrinkles and sagging. In addition, cortisol makes the skin slower to heal and repair itself.
Another way that chronic stress affects our skin is that it leads to an increase in free radical formation, producing more than the body’s inbuilt antioxidant systems can deal with. This results in what’s known as oxidative stress, leading to cell damage and skin ageing (2).