Hi people, so as promised, this post is about how stress can affect the appearance of the skin. As outlined in a previous post, stress it self helps us to handle pressing situations and is not bad or harmful in itself. The detrimental effects of stress comes from the prolonged exposure to stressful conditions.
The diagram below, shows the biochemical pathway within the body in response to stress. The pituitary and hypothalamus (structures within the brain), release hormones that exert their effects on the skin cells (amongst cells of other organs and tissues).
The effect of stress hormones on the skin.
Wrinkles: When cortisol is released, sugar levels in blood increase, which, in a continual flow, can cause such things as diabetes. On the skin, it encourages a process called glycation, a stress effect on the skin that damages collagen, hardening it, increasing the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Stress can also induce overeating, which can cause similar effects due to the elevation of blood sugar levels. This can be seen in cases of acanthosis nigricans, in which areas of thickened skin with hyperpigmentation.
Dryness: Another stress effect on the skin is dry skin, which has to do with cortisol yet again. In this case, cortisol decreases the skin’s natural production of something called hyaluronic acid, a natural moisturizer found in young, healthy skin tissue. It can also damage the skin’s protective qualities that allow it to keep hydration levels up. When these things are compromised, the skin, as an effect of stress, becomes dry and damaged.
Dullness: Another major way that stress effects the skin is by affecting the complexion. When stressed, our bodies also produce adrenaline, which is helpful if you’re out in the woods running from a predator, but, in daily life, it only can hurt. When adrenaline is present, blood flow to the skin is decreased, taking important nutrients (most importantly, oxygen) away from the skin. This allows for toxins to build up, a step that leads many types of skin to develop cellulite as well. Reduced vascular perfusion of the skin can mean that the nutrients carried by the blood will also be withheld from the skin.
Acne: Stress hormones can unregulated sebum production in the skin, which can lead to clogged pores and acne. Although it was mentioned earlier that stress can cause dry skin; you would probably doubt this, but oily skin can also be dry. Dryness is as a result of reduced moisture levels and not oil.
Inflammation: Stress hormones can exacerbate and prolong inflammatory diseases like eczema, psoriasis, rashes, itching, etc.
In the next post in the series, I will outline a few ways to handle stress.
1. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014 Jun; 13(3): 177–190. Published online 2014 Jun.