How Moods Mess with Your Skin


Out of all the emotions, stress is youth's biggest enemy. "Stress can age your face far more rapidly than the passage of time," says Amy Wechsler MD, an adjunct assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and dermatologist in New York City. That's because it's the biggest stimulator of that pesky hormone cortisol, which flows freely through your system in times of stress. "Cortisol taxes every organ, blood vessels become more fragile, new skin cells don't form as quickly, and cell turnover may eventually slow by half — it's skin aging in a nutshell," says Dr. Wechsler.

During those stressful times, that chocolate bar, bag of salty potato chips or tempting cocktail often look more tantalizing than ever. "When you're stressed, you may eat different foods than you usually do, and drink less water and more alcohol, which will can show in the dehydration," says Dr. Day. "You may also pay less attention to your skincare routine." While dehydration can make wrinkles and fine lines look more pronounced, the combination of a poor diet and spotty skincare can spell breakout trouble for the acne-prone.


Road rage or arguing with your mother can set the stage for more wrinkles. "Anger makes your facial muscles tense, which over time gives you lines," says Jessica Wu, MD, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California medical school and Daily Glow's dermatology expert.


Long-term depression has disastrous effects on skin, because the chemicals associated with the condition can prevent your body from repairing inflammation in cells. "These hormones affect sleep, which will show on our faces in the form of baggy, puffy eyes and a dull or lifeless complexion," says Dr. Wechsler.


"Embarrassment can move from your brain to your skin, when neuropeptide receptors in skin receive messages, causing you to blush," says Dr. Wechsler. The sensitivity of the sympathetic nervous system determines why how often and easily one blushes, as well as how hot your skin feels.

Blushing easily and frequently can be precursor to the chronic swollen blood vessel condition known as rosacea, according to the National Rosacea Society. However, blushing should not be confused with flushing, which shades a more intense red, spreads over the body and not just the face, and is usually caused by an external factor like temperature or spicy food.


When you feel threatened or in danger — whether the cause is real or imagined — "the brain's first reaction is to signal the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, better known as adrenaline," explains Dr. Wechsler. As a result, heart rate speed increases, rushing blood to the body's big power muscles, in case you need the burst of energy to run fast. Adrenaline also commandeers some of that blood from the skin and face, and constricts blood vessels in the skin to control and limit bleeding if wounded. Dr. Wechsler explains that the fear chemicals can cause you to look pale and dull, as if you'd just seen a ghost.

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