Skin Deep

Your skin will benefit from less stress

Between work, family and our busy lives, we’re all being pulled in a million directions. But have you ever stopped to think about the effect that stress is having on your skin? If you’re experiencing dryness, dullness or breakouts, stress may be to blame.

There’s a hormone called cortisol that wreaks havoc on our bodies. Research has found that it leads to a dangerous accumulation of fat around our organs, and has an effect on our skin as well. Caused by lack of sleep and other stress, here’s the lowdown on the connection between cortisol and our skin.

As soon as cortisol is released by the body, sugar levels in the blood increase. We know that sugar spikes are especially bad for diabetics, but increased blood sugar also promotes a process called glycation in our skin. Glycation damages our skin’s collagen, causing it to become rigid, which increases lines and wrinkles.

In addition to causing glycation, cortisol also decreases our skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid, which serves as a natural moisturizer for our skin. Even more, cortisol compromises the skin’s barrier, which allows even more hydration to seep out. And when skin is dehydrated, the enzymes that work to repair the damage done every day don’t work as well.

As if the effects of stress-induced cortisol weren’t enough, another byproduct of stress, epinephrine (or adrenaline) also works against our complexions. The result of our natural “fight or flight” response, epinephrine certainly helps us our when we’re in a dire situation, but it does no favors for our skin. When epinephrine is present, blood flow to the skin is decreased, which robs it of vital nutrients, including oxygen.

Less oxygen and sluggish circulation in general leads to a dull, sallow complexion. When blood flow is decreased, toxins begin to build up in the skin as well. These toxins lead to a lackluster complexion, and many doctors and scientists believe toxins play a role in other beauty concerns, including cellulite.

Although stress is unavoidable, there are ways to manage it. First and foremost, get some sleep. To help you catch more z’s, don’t take your cellphone to bed. (The light of the screen can disrupt your body’s sleep cycle.)

Second, exercise. Not only does physical activity help you “blow off steam,” it also boosts circulation.

Deep breathing, meditating and other forms of “quiet time” help, too.

Beyond reducing the stress in your life, these small steps just might make you look younger and more radiant as well.

Read more Health stories from the Miami Herald

  • Chew on This

    If stress has you on edge, these foods will settle you

    What are the consequences of chronic stress?

  • Mindfulness

    Don’t manage anger — banish it!

    I have mixed feelings about the popular movie Anger Management (2003) and its current TV spinoff. I do think humor is an effective anecdote to toxic anger (more on that below), but I take issue with the idea that we have to negotiate with anger through efforts to “manage’’ it. Why not just banish it?

  • Watch for sleep drug risks

    About 8 million people take prescription drugs to help them sleep, but these medications have flaws

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category