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Is Stress Showing on Your Face?


April 26, 2021 | Published by

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know that stress can affect every part of the body. Did you know that the stress you’re experiencing shows on your face as well? This is partly due to the hormones released during stress, and also to bad habits we develop when stressed. In this blog we’re discussing six ways your face can reflect your stress load.


During stress, your body produces more cortisol than usual. Cortisol triggers the hypothalamus in your brain to in turn produce a hormone called corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH is believed to cause oil to be released from the sebaceous glans around your hair follicles. This excessive oil can clog pores and lead to an acne breakout.1

Stress does not directly cause acne, but rather exacerbate breakouts in those already prone to acne. If you find that you develop acne breakouts during bouts of stress, consider that the acne could be caused by stress-driven habits rather than the stress itself. For example, coffee and other stimulants can also lead to an increase in cortisol.2

Bags Under the Eyes

Under eye bags are typically characterized by swollen or puffy-looking skin beneath the eye. These become more common as we age, since our skin loses elasticity and begins to sag. That said, stress caused by sleep deprivation can increase certain signs of aging, such as fine lines, reduced elasticity, and uneven pigmentation. The loss of elasticity can also contribute to formation of bags.1

Dry Skin

The outermost layer of your skin, the stratum corneum, contains proteins and lipids that play a vital role in keeping your skin cells hydrated. This layer also acts as a protective barrier to the skin underneath. When things are off with this top layer, your skin can become dry and itchy. There’s also research that shows certain types of stress can slow down the skin barrier’s healing ability. 1


As we’ve mentioned on this blog before, stress can weaken your immune defenses. A compromised immune system can throw off the balance of bacteria in your gut and skin, causing a condition called dysbiosis. When this imbalance happens on your skin, it can lead to redness or a rash. It is known that stress can trigger or aggravate certain types of rashes, such as psoriasis, eczema, and contact dermatitis. 1


Stress can create changes to the proteins in your skin, leading to a loss of elasticity. This decrease in elasticity can contribute to the formation of wrinkles. Oddly enough, repeated furrowing of your brow because of stress may also contribute to the formation of wrinkles.1

Graying Hair and Hair Loss

It’s been said for ages that stress and worry will make your hair go gray. However, it’s only recently that researchers have discovered viable reasons why this happens. You have cells called melanocytes that produce the pigment melanin. Melanin gives your hair and skin its color. 1

A 2020 study found that sympathetic nervous system activity triggered by stress can cause the stem cells that create melanocytes to disappear. Once gone, new cells lose their color and turn gray. Chronic stress can also disrupt your hair’s growing cycle and lead to a condition called telogen effluvium, which causes significant hair loss. 1

Other Ways Stress Affects the Face

  • Tooth damage. Stress and anxiety can lead to grinding of the teeth, while both awake or asleep. Over time, this grinding can lead to permanent tooth damage.
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD). TMD is a group of health problems that affect the joint where your jaw connects to your skull. It can be caused by repeated clenching of your teeth, which is common during heavy stress.
  • Face flushing. Stress can also lead to a change in your breathing patterns. These new breathing habits can cause your face to flush temporarily.
  • Sore lips. Many people chew their lips or the inside of their mouths when they feel stressed. This can lead to dry, red, and cracked lips.

Is stress showing on your face? Take a deep breath. There are stress management techniques you can use to help reduce stress and its effects on the body.


  • Yetman, D. What Are the Effects of Stress on Your Face? Healthline.
  • Scott E. The Link Between Stress and Adult Acne. Verywell Mind.

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