How does stress affect your skin?

Let me guess, all that is going on in the world has wreaked havoc on your skin? You have sensitivities, pimples coming out of nowhere, somehow your fine lines and wrinkles are getting worse with each day that passes or you’re feeling dry or oily or even a bit of both - but not in a good way. I thought I would share some information about how stress affects your skin, why you might suddenly be dealing with stress breakouts and how to get ahead of the game with your skincare routine to calm, soothe, and heal the skin. 

The effects of stress  

Stress is something we all deal with on the regular, however with recent events going on in the world, even if we don’t ​feel ​stressed out, our brains are constantly trying to deal with the onslaught of news headlines and trying to figure out how we are going to cope with the unknown.

Acute stress activates a hormone called cortisol which triggers the nervous system and stimulates our flight or fight response. When our body gets into flight or fight mode its core focus is survival, so of course the parts of our body such as skin (that aren’t of the utmost importance to get us out of a sticky situation) receive fewer nutrients as there are a lot more important things going on than clear skin - when your body is trying to save your life!!

Your skin is the body's largest organ, so any changes that are occurring inside the body (whether that be stress, hormone changes, or changes with your gut health) will be reflected on the outside and usually smack bang where we don’t want it - our faces.

What does stress do to the skin?

Stress impairs the skin's barrier

The skin’s barrier (often referred to as the acid mantle) is a mixture of oil and sweat on the surface of the skin that helps to protect from environmental damage, bacteria, pollutants, and moisture loss. Stress can disrupt the skin’s barrier, leaving it more susceptible to moisture loss and bacteria creating the perfect environment for breakouts, dry flaky and dull skin.

Stress causes acne and breakouts

Stress increases the hormone cortisol in your body which in turn boosts the production of androgens (male hormones), causing your skin to create more oil. Excess oil can form blocked pores and infections (because the skin’s ability to protect itself from bacteria is lessened when we are stressed) leading to sore breakouts popping up on your skin. Plus, when we squeeze and pick pimples on our skin, this can spread the bacteria around and create more inflammation.

Street inhibits wound healing

When you squeeze a pimple - (let’s be real we’ve all done it) a wound is created in the skin. A wound goes through three stages of healing but the adrenaline created in our bodies when we’re stressed can affect the process of wound healing. Making the whole process longer and creating the perfect environment for bacterial infections to occur - because our bodies’ response to stress can weaken the skin’s protective barrier i.e. it’s immune system. The longer it takes for the pimple to heal + the more time we spend squeezing and poking at it until we do some damage and create scarring. I know how hard it is to not pick your face when you get breakouts and how satisfying it feels but ​keep your hands off your face!

Natural skincare for stressed skin

Using skincare that is gentle, soothing, and nourishing with simple ingredients is key when your skin feels out of control. Tailor has you covered with their natural skincare that focuses on highly active ingredients that are kind to the skin.

Tailor Polish: ​Exfoliating is a super important step of your skincare routine but a mistake people often make is over-exfoliating their skin - this creates even more damage and sensitivities making you even more prone to breakouts. Polish is a great gentle option for exfoliation and can be used in three different ways - more bang for your buck! Polish is made from NZ Bentonite Clay which helps to absorb excess oils and impurities in the skin while Coconut Glycerin hydrates to keep your skin from getting overly dry. Pumice + Natural Salicylic acid forms the exfoliation side of this multi-use product. Pumice gently buffs away at dead dry skin cells and leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth and Salicylic helps to exfoliate the inside of your pores by breaking down dead surface skin cells without harsh scrubbing. Use Polish three ways: 1) leave it on as a mask, 2) use it as an exfoliator once or twice a week, or 3) use it as an overnight spot treatment!

Tailor Renew: ​This serum is ​perfect ​for stressed out, angry skin. Containing a vegan probiotic to help stimulate cell renewal, it’ll help those blocked pores while strengthening the skin's barrier to stop any of that nasty bacteria from creating the perfect breeding ground for breakouts and help soothe any sensitivities you may have. Grape seed extract and Jojoba oil help bring life back into your skin. Jojoba oil has the most similar consistency to our skin's natural oils so it is a great option if your skin is producing way more oil than usual as it can signal to the skin that it already has enough. Plus their unique NZ grown Sav Blanc Grape Seed Extract is an amazing antioxidant - helping to protect your skin from UV and environmental damage while improving the elasticity of the skin giving it back its bounce and firmness.

At the end of the day, we can’t always control what causes us stress in our lives, but having some knowledge about why your skin might be acting up because of stress and how to deal with the potential skin concerns it brings is essential to stopping long term damage. 

Author - Hayley James
Qualified Beauty Therapist

Hayley is a full time qualified beauty therapist with a passion for all things skin health. She has a soft spot for beautiful writing, beautiful places and personal development, which she channels into her blog, Not Just a Pretty Face.


Choe, S.J., Kim, D., Kim, E.J. et al. Psychological Stress Deteriorates Skin Barrier Function by Activating 11β-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase 1 and the HPA Axis. Sci Rep 8, 6334 (2018). doi:10.1038/s41598-018-24653-z

Chen Y, Lyga J. Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014;13(3):177-190. doi:10.2174/1871528113666140522104422

Zari S, Alrahmani D. The association between stress and acne among female medical students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:503-506. Published 2017 Dec 5. doi:10.2147/CCID.S148499

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