6 Ways Stress Affects Our Skin (and What to Do About it)

woman stressed skin

6 Ways Stress Affects Our Skin (and What to Do About it)

To some extent, stress is inevitable. There’s no completely getting away from it, and that’s absolutely fine. In small, occasional amounts, there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, short-term stress can actually boost cognitive function and make you more resilient!

However, long-term or chronic stress is a different story. Once this starts to happen, it can really take a mental and physical toll on a person, with one of the results of this being changes in the skin. 

How exactly does stress affect the skin? Read on as Introstem explains. We’ll also share some top tips on how to de-stress your complexion and how to manage your stress levels in general.

1. Oiliness and Acne Breakouts

Stem Cell Mousse Cleanser

Each time you feel stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone helps the brain to deal with the stressful situation at hand, but it also influences the skin in a few different ways.

One of these is by triggering an increase in sebum production. The more stressed out you feel, the more sebum your skin will start to produce. It doesn’t take long before all of this excess sebum begins to gather in the pores, resulting in blockages and breakouts. Research confirms this, showing that higher levels of stress do indeed correlate with acne severity. 

If you’ve noticed that your skin feels oilier whenever you’re stressed, make sure that your cleansing routine is on point. By cleansing your skin twice a day, you’ll be able to counter that greasy feeling that your skin always seems to be sporting. This will go a long way in helping you to prevent clogged pores.

With that said, make sure that you use a gentle, sulfate-free cleanser, like the Introstem Stem Cell Mousse Cleanser. Using a formula that’s too harsh will over-strip your skin of sebum. This may temporarily feel great but, in the long run, it will only increase sebum production and leave your skin even oilier!

2. Dryness

Stem Cell Night Repair

While some people experience an increase in oiliness during times of stress, others have the other extreme to deal with; dryness. This is down to how stress has been shown to impair skin barrier function, leaving your skin barrier struggling to work in the way that it should.

This then means that your skin’s ability to retain moisture declines, since this is one of the key roles that your skin barrier plays. Without enough moisture to work with, the skin can quickly become dehydrated and dry. This will worsen with more stress, resulting in flaky, scaly, and itchy skin.

If you can relate, your priority should be to do what you can to keep your skin barrier feeling strong and healthy. Fatty acids, which can be found in abundance in plant butters and oils, are great for this. Ideally, look for these in a cream rather than a serum. A cream will form a thicker layer over your skin’s surface, which will help your skin barrier to feel fortified.

One cream that does this beautifully is the Introstem Stem Cell Night Repair. It’s infused with shea butter, jojoba oil, hemp seed oil, and sunflower seed oil, all of which will keep your skin moisturized and hydrated. It’s packed with numerous antioxidants too, from grape stem cells to two forms of vitamin E. This enables it to help repair the look of any damage that your skin has undergone.

3. Dark Circles and Puffy Eye Bags

Stem Cell Eye Serum

Stress usually correlates with sleep deprivation. When people are very stressed, they struggle to sleep properly. Even once they eventually manage to drift off, sleep quality tends to be low.

As you probably know, sleep deprivation can impact the skin in several ways, with one of the most noticeable being the dark circles and puffy bags that develop under the eyes. This is partly down to how a lack of sleep causes the skin to look pale and dull. This then means that the darker tissues and blood vessels that lie under the eyes become more obvious in the form of dark circles. 

Fluid buildup is also common when insufficient sleep is had, which leads to puffiness. When this puffiness affects the eyelids too, they then cast shadows under the eyes, making those circles appear even darker.

If you often wake up with dark circles and/or puffy eyes, a good eye serum or cream is a must. Look for a product that’s designed to help with the appearance of both issues, such as the Introstem Stem Cell Eye Serum. With a blend of caffeine, vitamin C, peptides, sodium hyaluronate, and a long list of antioxidant-rich botanical extracts, this silky serum will quickly lighten, brighten, de-puff, and smooth out the look of your eye area.

4. Fine Lines, Wrinkles, and Sagging Skin

Stem Cell Vitamin C Serum

Nobody wants to have to deal with the appearance of aging sooner than they need to, yet this is something that will likely occur if you spend a large amount of time feeling stressed. 

It all comes down to how the cortisol released by your body during times of stress damages the skin’s protein fibers. These fibers are vital for maintaining the skin’s structure and elasticity, keeping it smooth, firm, and tight. Once they start to degrade, so does the skin’s integrity, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin.

Fortunately, there are many products out there that can help to counter the appearance of skin aging, with the Introstem Stem Cell Vitamin C Serum being a particularly popular one. This serum contains two forms of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that has been proven to minimize the visibility of wrinkles when used for 12 weeks. It also leaves the skin feeling firmer and smoother while helping with the look of discoloration too. 

5. Inflammatory Skin Disorders Become Worse

Lumi Cell Overnight Mask

In small amounts, cortisol can actually limit inflammation in the body, giving immunity a boost. However, consistently high levels of cortisol have the opposite effect. This exacerbates inflammation, not only weakening the immune system but also causing any inflammatory skin disorders that you suffer from to flare up.

From eczema and psoriasis to rosacea and contact dermatitis, people who suffer from these conditions will notice their symptoms worsening during times of stress. 

The best way to deal with this is to focus on calming your complexion down. Turn to skincare products that contain ingredients designed to lower the feeling of inflammation. Chamomile, lavender, aloe vera, and vitamin E are all fantastic examples, which you’ll find in the Introstem Lumi Cell Overnight Mask. This is a no-rinse mask, making it so easy to use. All you need to do is apply it to your skin and leave it to soak in, after which your skin will look and feel soothed, balanced, and less irritated.

6. Bad Skin Habits

In addition to the direct impact that stress has on the skin, it can also indirectly affect your complexion. Often, people aren’t adequately equipped to deal with the high amounts of constant stress that they experience. This can lead to them adopting anxiety-driven bad habits that are extremely detrimental to the skin.

Picking at the skin, along with scratching and rubbing, are all very common when people are feeling stressed and anxious. These habits may provide some temporary relief when you’re on edge but they also cause cracks to develop in the skin’s surface. This then means that bacteria, dirt, pollutants, and other harmful impurities are able to easily enter the skin, resulting in infections, breakouts, and more. Continuing to scratch/rub/pick at your skin only worsens things by preventing your skin from healing.

Smoking and drinking also commonly increase when people are stressed. These vices may help to temporarily relax the mind but they’ll only serve to further damage your skin. Both dehydrate the skin while also accelerating the skin aging process. 

The same applies to binge eating, which is something else that many do when they’re stressed. Unfortunately, rather than turning to healthy foods, people tend to overeat heavily processed foods that are high in sugar and salt. Again, this speeds up skin aging while contributing to everything from acne to discoloration.

Managing Your Stress Levels

The tips that we’ve shared above will help to bring a stressed-out complexion back into balance. However, if you continue to allow your stress levels to soar, they’ll only serve as temporary fixes. The best way to prevent stress-related issues from sieging your skin is to learn how to manage your stress levels to keep them at a low.

Fortunately, there are plenty of tried-and-tested stress relief methods out there that you can turn to. Take relaxation and breathing exercises, for example. They’ve been proven to help with anxiety and stress, and can even counter depression. 

Exercise is something else that can really help. This encourages the brain to release feel-good chemicals. These boost the mood while also lowering the levels of cortisol in the body. Plus, even a quick workout will ramp up your circulation, giving your skin a rosy glow.

If physical activity doesn’t appeal to you during times of stress, try something more relaxing instead. Reading a book or listening to some calming music will help to soothe your mind and, therefore, your stress levels. Laughing has the same effect, giving you an excuse to spend some time binging on your favorite Netflix comedy!

Adding herbal teas to your daily routine would be beneficial too. Studies show that people who regularly drink green tea experience lower stress levels, while mint and chamomile teas are also known for their calming effects. Simply chewing on some gum can have a similar effect, reducing the impact that stress has on the brain and the body.


Stress can be detrimental to the skin in so many different ways. What makes this worse is that once you start to experience skin problems due to stress, you’ll likely only feel even more stressed, meaning that your skin will suffer even more.

This is why, in addition to using the right topical products to tackle the specific stress-related skin symptoms that you’re struggling with, it’s also important to learn how to manage your stress levels so that you don’t need to subject your skin to such high amounts of stress in the future.

Click here to browse more skincare bestsellers from Introstem. 

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