You already know that stress can wreak havoc on your health, but did you know that it can also mess with your looks? It’s true. Stress can show up on your face, hair, nails and body, and in ways that will make you less than happy. While you may not be able to avoid all the stressors in your life (If an early retirement is not in the cards for your future, you’re not alone!), you can get a handle on it. If you don’t, you may just discover first-hand six evil ways stress can affect your appearance.
We’ve all been there before … We shut off the lights, let our heads hit the pillows and wait for slumber to come. But then, it doesn’t, because your mind is racing with the 10,000 things you need to do the next day. While a common scenario, it’s unhealthy—for your mental well-being and your looks.
When you don’t get enough sleep, fluid builds up beneath your eyelids and lead to puffiness in the morning. If you sleep on your stomach, the effects are particularly stark, as gravity works against you.
Stress releases cortisol, which in turn releases a hormone called corticotrophin-releasing hormone. Though the research is shaky on this, CRH is thought to trigger the release of oil from the sebaceous glands around the hair follicles. Excessive oil production in these glands can cause a backup, thereby leading to clogged pores and, eventually, an acne outbreak.
If your mother ever told you, you were making her “go gray,” she may not have been lying. A recent study (very recent, conducted in 2020), found that stress-induced sympathetic nerve activity can cause melanocytes to disappear. Melanocytes are the cells that produce the pigment called melanin, which is responsible for giving your hair its color. Once the cells disappear, new cells will replace them, but they won’t have any color, causing your hair to turn gray.
If you stress too much, your hair won’t just turn gray — it may fall out. Chronic stress is associated with telogen effluvium, which occurs when the hair’s growth cycle is interrupted and a person loses a larger than normal amount of hair.
Stress can cause wrinkles in two ways. The first is that it may cause you to frown or wrinkle your brow frequently, which can contribute to the formation of early lines. The second is that it interferes with the proteins in your skin, thereby reducing your skin’s elasticity. Skin that loses its elasticity is prone to wrinkle formation.
The outer layer of your skin, the “stratum corneum,” protects the skin and keeps it hydrated. When something is amiss with this layer, you may experience dry, itchy skin. According to a 2014 study, stress impairs the function of the stratum corneum and can reduce the skin’s ability to retain water. Not only that, but stress can impair the barrier’s ability to repair itself after undergoing damage, adding insult to injury.
It’s well known that stress has the ability to weaken the immune system, but did you know that a weakened immune system often leads to an imbalance in the bacteria in your skin and gut? When an imbalance occurs in the skin, you may develop a rash, redness or hives. Moreover, if you live with chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and contact dermatitis, stress can aggravate them.
Stress can take a huge toll on your body and affect everything from mental health to overall health and, apparently, looks. There are several reasons to keep your stress in check, but in case you needed six more, there you go. Take care of yourself, and natural beauty — and good health — will follow.