How Stress Affects Your Skin And Hair And What To Do About It

Home/acne, stress, stress and aging/How Stress Affects Your Skin And Hair And What To Do About It

As we zig and zag in high gear throughout life, that dreaded demon lurks at every curve, just begging for a turn at the steering wheel.   No, it’s not Speed Racer  —  it’s S T R E S S !

Stress (in excess) loves to dish out all sorts of serious roadblocks:  high blood pressure, muscle tension, headaches, etc., but, Fellow Beauties, stress is also a bonafide Beauty Bandit that can drain your battery A N D  your LOOKS!

Don’t let this villain hi-jack you and steer you down a rocky road this time of year as we whizz into the holiday season. Take your control back with stress-busting tips in my NEXT article.

First, here’s a peek at some of the grizzly sites south of Stress Highway…. Careful, hazards ahead…

How Stress Affects Us

Wrinkle City: At The Corner of Dull Dry Skin Lane and Rash Road

NOBODY wants to be Mayor of  Wrinkle Town.  Funky Town?  Yes.  Wrinkle Town, no.  But stress has a way of locking the doors, putting the pedal to the metal, then giving us the full nickel tour of these nasty pit stops on auto pilot.

When we’re stressed-up, we’ve got some serious stress-hormone action going on, which affects our skin.  What’s happening?  It’s a spike in cortisol, something that generally is GOOD for us in dire medical situations, but it can whack us out too.  Remember what experts call “The 4 Pillars of Aging?”  Yep, increased cortisol is one of those pillars!  (The aging pillars are: 1. Excess Insulin  2. Excess Cortisol 3. Excess Blood Glucose and 4. Excess Free Radicals).

Author and rad dermatologist Jeffrey Benabio, MD, FAAD breaks it down for us:

“Skin with elevated cortisol can change both the skin’s structure and function. Studies have shown that chronically elevated cortisol levels lead to a decrease in your skin’s natural lipid or fat barrier. These lipids are essential to keep your skin protected and to prevent it from drying out. Without a layer of lipids on your skin, it is no longer waterproof, and irritating soap and water from hand washing or bathing is able to penetrate the skin, causing inflammation. Without a protective lipid layer, the moisture in your skin evaporates easily, leaving the skin dehydrated. This dry, flaky skin is even more susceptible to damage or irritation.

Elevated cortisol also impairs your skin’s natural defense system. Your skin is constantly producing specialized proteins that act as bacteriacides, killing off unwanted intruders on your skin. Stress can lead to a drop in production of these first line defense proteins, leaving your skin vulnerable.”

The consequences of lipids loss and lowered defenses?  Doctor Benabio warns us: “Rashes such as eczema and psoriasis can be triggered or can flare, turning a minor irritation into a full blown outbreak.”

What to do?  The doc recommends switching to a non-soap product like Dove, slathering on a hydrating moisturizer and ingesting some Omega 3 rich foods like flaxseed oil, salmon and walnuts.



Stress puts our cortisol levels and sebaceous glands into overdrive and THAT can mean an oil slick on your face.  Wash more often but with a gentle cleanser that is water-based and not oil-based.  Zits are the Pits !

Not Eating Enough

I don’t know about you, but skipping meals makes me cranky!

In times of stress, it’s important to keep the fuel coming.  If time is the issue, try a protein shake or juicing.  Skipping meals is going to make Miss Cranky Pants MORE cranky – she’ll have lower energy levels, low blood glucose and INCREASED stress.  Can you say vicious circle?

Feel better and EAT.  But remember, just because S-T-R-E-S-S-E-D is D-E-S-S-E-R-T-S spelled backwards does NOT mean that DESSERTS is the best option for you !  Reach for a nourishing, balanced meal.

Zero Sleep

Over-stressed and not catching the Z’s you need?  No bueno! Lack of sleep can AGE you. Check out The Anti-Aging Analyst’s Top 20 Tips for Falling Asleep.

Hair loss

GASP!  Clumps of hair in the shower drain.   It’s called “telogen effluvium.”  (Is that from Harry Potter?)

Hair grows in repeating cycles —

*2 years in active growth (yippee)
*A resting phase of about 3 months
*A “shedding” phase where it falls from the scalp

Normally, we shed around 100 strands of hair per day, and we don’t notice since every strand of hair is in a different phase of the cycle.  But add some messed-up stress into the mix and as much as 70 percent of your hair can prematurely enter the resting phase.  Three months later, watch out, missy !  Better buy some Draino!

Fortunately,  except for the unlucky few, hair usually will begin to grow back within six months.

What to do?  Well, DON’T pull out your hair!

Run, do not walk to your board-certified dermatologist, preferably one with experience in hair loss, and make sure to be tested for iron, hormone levels and thyroid function.   Try an all-natural hair growth shampoo as an alternative to chemical laiden Rogaine.

Stress affects everyone differently, and siggy (significant) stress should be avoided like light blue eyeshadow and texting and driving. So how do we hit the brakes on stress?

Check out stress-busting tips in my next article!

~ Making a U-Turn,




By | 2017-05-19T02:34:07+00:00 October 19th, 2015|acne, stress, stress and aging|1 Comment

About the Author:

Eliza is an anti-aging journalist, coach and skincare/wellness consultant who has written hundreds of articles on anti-aging products and procedures, beauty and skincare. She writes regularly for The Los Angeles Examiner, and has been published in Hawaii's Inspiration Journal, and Hawaii Wellness Magazine, and quoted in various beauty blogs and newsletters including New You Magazine and more. A former Chicago reporter and analyst by nature, Eliza created Eliza's Anti-Aging Arsenal ( a blog for people over 40, where she shares anti-aging tips, tricks and tools, vents a lot, and is known as "The Anti-Aging Authority With Attitude." Connect with Eliza at

One Comment

  1. Anonymous December 23, 2010 at 9:29 am - Reply

    Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

Leave A Comment