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How Stress Can Lead to Stress Acne, Wrinkles & Dry Skin

Learn how being stressed out can trigger inflammation in skin and lead to stress acne, fine lines, wrinkles and dry skin. Shop skincare products to address these concerns at Lancôme.


Feeling stressed out? You’re not alone. Stress is common these days, so much so that the American Psychological Association has called it a national crisis1. Stress manifests in many ways, from affecting your mood to interfering with sleep — and research shows that it could be impacting the appearance of skin, too, contributing to the aptly named stress acne, dehydrated or dry skin and visible signs of aging skin, such as fine lines and wrinkles. Here’s what you should know.

How does being stressed out affect skin?

Being stressed out triggers an inflammatory response throughout the body, and skin is no exception. In fact, there’s an entire group of skin issues known as inflammatory skin conditions, showing just how close the connection is between the two2.

Stress Breakouts

For starters, there’s stress acne. Whether it’s a forehead breakout or new pimples on the chin, flares of acne can be linked to your stress levels. There are a few potential reasons for this: Emotional stress may increase the levels of hormones that worsen acne, while other stress-related hormones and peptides may lead to more oil production (giving it a greater chance of clogging pores)3. Last but definitely not least, stress may also interfere with wound healing — meaning any existing stress breakouts may take longer to clear up, too.

Dry or Dehydrated Skin

Feeling stressed out can also impact the function of your skin barrier. Stress has been shown to slow down skin barrier recovery and increase trans-epidermal water loss (a.k.a. the natural evaporation of moisture from skin).4 The exact way it does that is still unclear, but researchers guess that it may reduce the lipids that are so important to keeping the skin barrier properly fortified, and have the essential job of helping skin retain hydration.5 Under stress, then, there’s a higher chance of experiencing both dry and dehydrated skin (which aren’t the same thing, by the way).

细纹及皱纹

Finally, stress can accelerate the visible signs of aging skin, such as fine lines and wrinkles. Being stressed out leads to the release of what are known as the “stress hormones,” cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These have been shown to both damage DNA and interfere with its repair6 — taking down a key line of defense against aging skin. And more research shows that stress can lead to the release of free radicals on skin7, which are the same molecules formed by sun exposure and pollution that can break down collagen and elastin, leading to dark spots and damage cells.8

What are the visible signs of stress on skin?

If you’re stressed out, your skin will drop some pretty important hints. Pimples on the chin, cheeks and forehead can pop up, even in those who aren’t typically prone to breakouts. There’s also the potential for dry and dehydrated skin — possibly even more so if you’re using skincare products to target the stress acne. And finally, you may see premature fine lines and wrinkles develop.

How to take care of stressed skin

Clearly, being stressed out has a multifaceted effect on the appearance of skin, so a strategic approach can help. After cleansing, pat on a soothing toner like Tonique Confort. Blended with hyaluronic acid and acacia honey, the formula both removes impurities from skin’s surface and improves skin hydration.. Afterwards, applying a hydrating serum like Advanced Génifique Face Serum can help hydrate skin and support a healthy skin barrier.

Then, moisturize daily with Hydra Zen Anti-Stress Gel Cream, a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer with non-comedogenic properties (meaning it won’t clog pores) that works to support skin barrier function and reduce signs of fatigue. It contains Lancôme’s signature Rose Extract, known for its soothing properties, as well as an antioxidant-rich moringa extract9 to deliver radiant, comfortable skin.

Last but certainly not least, try to find ways to keep stress at bay throughout your day, whether that’s by taking a few deep breaths, catching up on your favorite TV show or dedicating time to self-care, like your daily skincare routine. Stress is an inside-out situation, so it’s worth addressing it both ways.

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/report-october
https://dermnetnz.org/topics/inflammasomes-and-inflammatory-skin-diseases/
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/479409
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11176661/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082169/#__sec12title
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17459596/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24011311/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299230/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5745501/#sec2-antioxidants-06-00091title

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