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How Stress Can Show on Your Face

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Stress is something we are all, unfortunately, very familiar with. So, often, we dismiss feelings of stress or anxiety as something that just comes with being a grownup, but it is important to try and tackle these emotions before they start to mount up. There are plenty of techniques you can use to combat everyday stress because, while you might feel like you are powering through a stressful time, your face can be a major giveaway. 

Eye bags

Bags under eyes are more common with age as the muscles around your eyes weaken and the skin starts to lose its elasticity, but stress can be a huge contributing factor to those deepening undereye bags. Stress often causes difficulty sleeping, which increases signs of ageing, such as reduced elasticity and fine lines around the eyes.


Another sign of ageing that can be accelerated through sleep deprivation is wrinkles. Stress itself can also cause changes to the proteins in your skin, which in turn reduces elasticity and leads to deep wrinkles on your face.


During times of high stress, the body produces more of the hormone cortisol, which then causes the hypothalamus to produce corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH is believed to stimulate oil release from your glands; excessive oil production can then clog your pores and lead to acne. Acne is something else that can be further aggravated by a lack of sleep. According to dermatologist Dr Ava Patel from LED Skin Solutions, CRH is believed to stimulate oil release from your glands – excessive oil production can then clog your pores and lead to acne.

Dry skin

According to this review, researchers found that stress impairs the barrier function of the stratum corneum (the outer layer of your skin that plays a key role in keeping your skin cells hydrated) and can negatively affect the hydration of your skin.


Stress can weaken your immune system which can lead to an imbalance of the bacteria in your gut and skin. When this imbalance occurs on the skin it can cause redness or rashes. Stress is also known to aggravate existing skin conditions like psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema. A change in your breathing habits, caused by stress, can also cause your face to flush temporarily.

Grey hair and hair loss

It has been a long-held belief that stress can make your hair turn grey and now we know why. Cells called melanocytes produce melanin which gives your hair its colour, sympathetic nervous activity from stress can cause the stem cells that create these melanocytes to disappear. Once these cells disappear then new cells lose their colour and turn grey.
Stress has also been known to disrupt your hair growth cycle which can result in your hair falling out at a rapid rate.

Damaged teeth and sore lips

During times of intense stress, you may find yourself grinding your teeth which can, over time, cause permanent damage. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) is a series of health problems affecting the joint where your jaw connects to your skull and can be caused by repeated clenching of your teeth. Similarly, stress or anxiety may cause you to chew on your lips or on the inside of your cheeks.

Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.

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