Stress, Stress, Stress!!! How Stress Affects Your Skin

In my AP Literature class, we once read “Metamorphosis”, a short story written by Franz Kafka. In it, the main character turns into a bug after he is no longer able to work and provide for his family. The story laments how society views those who are unable to work as a burden or useless. This harsh judgment fuels the heavy work culture of our society today.

In today’s post, I wanted to write about how stress affects your skin + what you can do to help relieve some of your stress and symptoms.

Laughing out loud

How Bad Is Stress?

Everyone knows stress. Everyone hates stress. For a long time, stress has been seen as the anatagonist to our generations.

But did you know that stress can actually be good for you? It induces feelings of fear and motivation, which can help one overcome challenges and prepare for future “threats”:

What do you do when you’re nervous about a test? You study.

What about before a job interview? You prepare and practice.

Good stress, or eustress, can also be when you’re excited or nervous, even when there’s no threat or fear. You could feel this during roller coasters, playing games, or on a date.

However, bad stress, or distress, is past the limits of good stress. This is when fear overcomes motivation and hinders the ability of someone to avoid “threats” by being unable to complete daily tasks. This kind of stress is debilitating for your mental and physical health and can cause headaches, anxiety, weight gain/loss, a flare-up in skin conditions, and more.

Here is a general chart showcasing what I mean. Eustress provides for optimal performance. But once that level is passed, stress can start to become distress and harmful, especially if chronic.

Natural Course of Stress

Stress is a natural response that humans have developed over time to protect them against threats, predators, and aggressors. Today, we don’t have as many external aggressors, but multiple everyday occurrences like paying bills, work, assignments, relationships, and more. Our body can feel like it is constantly under attack. 

When faced with a stress-inducing situation, the hypothalamus (an area at the base of the brain) releases an ‘SOS’ signal that the nervous system carries to induce a signal to the adrenal glands (above the kidneys). This releases stress hormones like adrenaline  and cortisol

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, increases blood pressure, and boosts energy. Meanwhile, Cortisol is the primary stress hormone. It increases glucose (sugar) levels in the blood, enhances the brain’s ability to absorb and utilize glucose, etc. It also dulls other bodily functions that aren’t necessary for the fight or flight response such as the immune system, reproductive system, digestive system, and more.

Cortisol is also the reason of having higher levels of fear, anxiety, and motivation during the fight or flight response.

Negative Effects On Skin

Cortisol clearly does a lot for our bodies. But having high levels of Cortisol for a long time has some bad effects on your skin.

Cortisol can cause further hormone imbalances and make the sebaceous glands go into overdrive, causing the production of more sebum than is necessary. Sebum is natural on your skin. It is a waxy substance that protects your skin barrier. But too much of it can trap dead skin and clog pores, causing inflammation and acne. Along with this, Cortisol reduces Hylauronic Acid in your skin, causing dehydration. Dehydrated skin triggers even more sebum production and also early skin aging.

Cortisol also damages collagen, making your skin tight and wrinkly. Collagen keeps elasticity in the skin, so lack of it would increase fine lines and make you look older.

High Cortisol levels cause inflammation in the body too. Inflammation is for protection against microbes from wounds, but this inflammation over time can show up on your skin as acne or worse.

Finally (thank god) Cortisol can destroy the balance of healthy gut microbiomes, which can show itself on the skin as acne, eczema, rosacea, etc. 

To be honest, writing this makes me stressed about being stressed in the first place haha…

Reduce Your Stress

I know things can get really bad sometimes, but I promise they always get better. If nobody has told you yet today: you’ve got this! I’m sure your hard work will lead you to an amazing future. And I’m sure your current hard lessons and/or failures today will make you a stronger person. You are enough.

So what are some ways you can reduce stress?

  1. Lower your expectations of yourself and for others.
    1. This one is really important since high expectations usually lead to the pressure of trying to maintain them. It’s okay to admit you or someone else doesn’t meet your expectations. But make sure you don’t make them too low 😉 This also means that you have to stop comparing yourself to others!!
  2. Exercise
    1. This counters the negative effects of high cortisol by producing endorphins as a counter
  3. Meditate and journal
    1. Be self-reflective! What gives you stress? What makes you happy? What steps can you take to reduce stress levels?
  4. Keep a gratitude list
    1. Reminds you of things you can be happy about :))
  5. Take time to do activities you love to do
    1. This one is a no-brainer! Do things that make you happy to cope with negative stress.
  6. Sleep well and maintain a steady schedule
    1. During sleep, your body resets itself and heals.
    2. This also includes avoiding screens before bed (they prevent good rest) and doing your work without procrastinating (it’s okay, I procrastinate sometimes too, but really sis you’ve got to stop)
Phew, this post is a little longer than my other ones. But I enjoyed writing this one just as much (if not more lol).

Why don’t you go ahead and Like, Comment, and Subscribe if my blog posts help you out? It would mean a lot to me! And… it’s free!

Have any questions or something you’d like me to write about? You can email me or send me a DM on Instagram!

Instagram: @skincare.tea


“Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 08 July 2021. Web. 9 Apr. 2022.

“How Stress Affects Your Skin.” Florida Dermatology & Skin Cancer Centers. 23 Jan. 2020. Web. 9 Apr. 2022.

Korakkottil, Abdul. “Does Stress Cause Acne?” Dermalogica. Dermalogica, 05 Aug. 2020. Web. 9 Apr. 2022.

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