How Does Stress Cause Wrinkles?

stress wrinkles

Acute, or short-term stress is a normal part of our lives. However, chronic stress that persists on a regular basis can have a profound effect on our health and skin, including accelerated aging. In addition, there are a number of environmental stressors that are known to contribute to signs of skin aging, such as lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. Learn how various types of stress affect your skin and what you can do to keep your complexion looking healthy and youthful.

Why Does Stress Make You Look Older?

Many studies have examined the effects of emotional stress on the skin. When you are under chronic stress, your brain sends signals throughout your body to “turn on” inflammation and other receptors that stimulate the release of hormones like cortisol and corticosterone, as well as excess oil production in the skin. This is also one reason why stress can also contribute to acne.

Although it is part of your body’s natural defense system, inflammation can wreak havoc on your body and skin if left unmanaged. Chronic inflammation is the root cause of a wide range of health and skin problems, including accelerated skin aging. You can read more about what causes inflammation and why it is so detrimental to your skin in this blog.

One way that inflammation affects your skin is by triggering the release of certain hormones that slow or stop cell regeneration. This not only causes accelerated skin aging, but can also result in a number of other health concerns.

Environmental Stressors That Cause Aging

In addition to psychological stress, environmental stressors are also key contributors to aging skin. Sun exposure, air pollution, and smoking are among the top environmental stress-related causes of skin aging. These stressors cause DNA damage, inflammation, and the formation of free radicals, resulting in lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and loose skin. Studies have even linked free radicals caused by exposure to traffic pollution to vitamin E depletion and the degradation of important lipids within the skin.

Recently, researchers have uncovered another potential contributor to skin aging. Telomeres are the protective “caps” at the ends of chromosomes. As we age, these telomeres become shorter and shorter, which contributes to cellular aging. Researchers now believe that chronic stress can cause telomeres to become prematurely shortened, which, in turn, accelerates the aging process.

How to Reverse the Effects of Stress on Aging Skin

While the aging process cannot be stopped altogether, there are plenty of things you can do to slow it down. Wear sunscreen, don’t smoke, and use antioxidant skin care products to protect against environmental stressors. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and argan oil are great topical antioxidants that can help to protect against free radical damage and premature aging.

It is also important to take steps to reduce psychological stress to prevent premature skin aging. Try using aromatherapy, meditation, getting enough sleep and exercise, and spending time outdoors to help reduce stress and its effects on your skin.

In Summary

Our bodies are exposed to internal and external sources of stress on a daily basis, which can take a toll on our health and skin. Take steps to reduce emotional stress and avoid environmental sources of stress whenever possible to help your skin look and feel healthy, bright, and youthful. Pair these healthy lifestyle habits with the proper anti-aging products for your skin type for even more comprehensive results.

For more skin care science, tips, and advice from Dr. Leslie Baumann, be sure to follow Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.


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February 12, 2019 Skin Aging