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8 Ways Stress Can Affect Your Appearance

8 Ways Stress Can Affect Your Appearance


Stress negatively affects our mental health, making us more susceptible to depression and anxiety. However, it also impacts our physical health and appearance, which may compromise our hair and skin. If you’ve been experiencing more breakouts lately or notice more hair falling out, it could be stress manifesting itself.

These are only some of the ways that stress affects the way we look.

In this article, we explore 8 ways stress can affect your appearance.


How Stress Affects Our Hair

The idea that stress causes hair loss may sound a little dramatic, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Prolonged and chronic stress can lead to a disturbance in our hair cycle. Here’s how stress affects our hair:

1. It May Cause Hair Loss

We lose 50 to 100 strands of hair per day, but if you’re finding more hair than usual on your towel, comb, and shower drain, your hair loss could be due to stress.

Telogen effluvium is a condition in which your body sends a large number of hair follicles into dormancy, resulting in severe hair loss 2 to 3 months after a stressful event. The good news is this condition is reversible and you will most likely regrow your hair in a few months.

Another condition, alopecia areata causes hair to fall out in circular bald patches. It happens when your immune system attacks healthy hair follicles. Just like telogen effluvium, hair can regrow once the cause of stress is removed and with the help of targeted treatments.

2. It May Lead to Premature Gray Hair  

According to a 2020 study, stress can cause premature gray hair by causing the cells that create melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells, to disappear. So, if you’re suddenly seeing more gray hair, you may have to check your stress levels and minimize the stress in your life.

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How Stress Affects Our Skin  

When you’re stressed, your body produces hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to help your mind and body cope. These hormonal fluctuations can cause physiological changes, including changes in your appearance. This is especially noticeable with prolonged stress since it’s likely that your body will have exhausted its hormonal resources after some time.

1. It May Cause Acne

Cortisol and adrenaline, the body’s defense system against stress, can ramp up oil production in the sebaceous glands around your follicles, clogging pores and making you prone to breakouts. A 2017 study of female medical students aged 22 to 24 found that higher stress levels were linked to the severity of acne. More research, however, is required to back up this finding.

2. It May Slow Down Your Skin’s Healing Process

Cortisol, a stress hormone, is known to inhibit collagen production. Collagen is the protein that keeps your skin looking firm, toned, and smooth. Because collagen also heals damaged tissues, a loss of collagen can slow down your skin’s healing process. This can be made worse by the fact that our bodies’ collagen production declines as we age.

3. It May Cause Hyperpigmentation

Sun exposure is a common cause of hyperpigmentation, but hormonal imbalances also play a role. In addition, your environment may cause oxidative stress, which can contribute to skin discoloration from factors such as air pollution and cigarette smoke.

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4. It May Lead to Dry, Flaky Skin

The stratum corneum or outer layer of our skin is made up of proteins and lipids that keep our skin hydrated while protecting the skin beneath it from damage. Stress can cause this layer to break down, weakening the skin’s moisture barrier and dehydrating our skin, resulting in a dry, itchy, and rough complexion.

That’s not all. Stress can also reduce blood flow to the skin, making it look dull, lifeless, and tired. Drinking less water and consuming more coffee and soda (two things that are common for people under stress) further dehydrate your body.

5. It May Cause Rashes

What you eat affects skin and hair health. When stress impairs your immune system, it can result in a bacterial imbalance in the gut, a state called dysbiosis. Once this microbial balance is altered, bad bacteria can outnumber the gut’s healthy bacteria, which can cause skin redness, rashes, and can aggravate skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.

6. It May Lead To Reduced Skin Elasticity

Lack of sleep changes the proteins in our skin, resulting in reduced skin elasticity. It’s why we see more prominent bags under our eyes and early indications of aging like wrinkles, fine lines, and crow’s feet during periods of distress.

Stress can also cause you to furrow your brow or purse your lips more often, which obviously doesn’t help. You may also notice your eyes becoming puffier when you’re tense — a condition caused by fluid gathering under your lower eyelids.

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The Answer? Stress Management

Stress affects us in every way possible — mentally, physically, and emotionally. If you’re experiencing a stressful time in your life or have a lifestyle that’s filled with daily stressors, it may be time to re-evaluate and make some changes.

Focus on maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, getting enough rest, consuming a healthy diet, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and scheduling relaxing activities regularly to manage stress and fight premature signs of aging.

Managing stress may be easier said than done but with your health, appearance, and emotional wellness on the line, it’s well worth the effort.



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