Truth is, science verifies that stress accelerates skin’s rate of aging. According to dermatologist Dr. Amy Weschler, “The skin has its own endocrine system, and releases cortisol [a stress hormone] and endorphins [calming hormones] accordingly. When cortisol levels increase, the rate of skin’s healing slows, collagen breaks down faster, and inflammation increases.” Hence, the skin looks dull, thinner, and shows lines more quickly and easily. Dr. David E. Bank, author of Beautiful Skin, adds in the book, “If you chronically stress yourself out…you deprive your skin of crucial oxygen and nutrients and aggravate any skin condition you may already have, such as eczema or acne.”
In a 2007 study from Acta Dermato-Venereologica, researchers analyzed the relationship between stress, outbreaks, and sebum production in adolescents. The study involved 94 secondary school students from Singapore and examined their stress and outbreaks during examinations. Specifically, the experiment was divided into two phases; Phase 1 studied the children during the examination period, whereas Phase II occurred approximately two months after their examinations. Students were asked to self-report their outbreaks, with 95% of the male participants and 92% of female participants claiming to suffer from outbreaks. Researchers noted that despite the self-reported prevalence of breakouts amongst the experimental participants, most suffered only from mild outbreaks. Additionally, even though many of the female subjects reported heightened stress levels, this did not significantly impact the data. Although findings indicated a relationship between stress levels and breakout severity, this experiment from Acta Dermato-Venereologica was unable to find a correlation between stress and sebum production.
The experimenters postulated that gender differences in the interpretation and reaction to stress may have affected data findings, especially for those participants who were undergoing a menstrual cycle. Rather than inducing higher levels of sebum production, the experimenters further postulated that stress may have affected the composition of sebum or neuropeptide secretion, which in turn may have impacted the breakouts’ severity. For example, the neuropeptide corticotrophin-releasing hormone plays a role in cutaneous reactions to stress. This neuropeptide is believed to encourage lipogenesis, thus affecting conditions such as xerosis, outbreaks, androgenetic alopecia, and seborrhea, among others (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). Therefore, it is believed that stress may encourage the production of inflammatory mediators or lipids which may induce/exacerbate inflammation, although this is still under examination (Acta Dermato-Venereologica).
Men’s cortisol levels are also linked to levels of attractiveness (Hormones and Behavior). Several studies have linked stress, and the accompanying high levels of cortisol, with increased incidences of illness (American Psychological Association, California State University). Therefore, someone with low stress is likelier to be perceived as attractive, as they are more likely to be healthy.
Whether it’s because people who are less stressed have a better immune system or because stress can decrease fertility, people who are stressed appear less attractive. But stress can cause issues with many processes in the body, so it’s in the best interest of your skin and overall health to try to keep cool and collected.