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How Stress Shows Up On Your Face

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July 27, 2020

Years ago a friend was going through a rough patch. When I saw her, I was quite surprised to see she looked ten years older. She had lost her glow, had dark under-eye circles, and her skin had clearly taken the toll of her emotional stress. As her life improved, so did her appearance. Of course, if the stress is sustained long enough, the damage doesn’t always bounce back. The effects can be permanent. 

So, how does stress show up on your face? In several ways: 


Stress can disrupt the balance of bacteria in our gut. It causes us to release more cortisol and sends hormones in a tizzy. Constant anxiety and worry can also exacerbate eczema and rosacea. 

Dark Circles & Puffy Eyes

As we all know, stressful times often mean less sleep and less quality sleep. This takes its toll by those dark circles and under-eye bags that suddenly appear. As we all know, tired eyes make us look older too. 

Fine Lines & Wrinkles

Stress raises blood sugar which causes a process called glycation, where the collagen and elastin that plump skin are damaged. Keeping stress at bay is even more important than the facial creams we use. A calm face is an attractive face.

That Pinched Look

Constant stress causes us to tense our face, making wrinkles exacerbated. The more often we tense those spots, the more the wrinkles will settle in permanently. Laugh lines are one thing, stress lines are another. 


Once again, that culprit cortisol is to blame. Chronic stress lowers the ability for skin to hold moisture and diminishes the look of plump smooth skin we all love. Therefore, lots of TLC and good moisturizers are needed to help here. 

And what can we do about it?

Obviously the first way is to lower our stress levels. Without going into a psychological analysis here, doing anything you can to lower your stress level works miracles at many levels: cellular, mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.


Yes, meditation is KEY to relaxing our mind and body. Meditation calms the excess adrenaline rush from chronic stress. Can’t meditate? Not true! Anyone can. With the choice of some helpful apps, you can start with guided meditations. Try Calm, Insight Timer, or Headspace for guided meditations and relaxing music.


Exercise releases those feel-good endorphins and gets the blood flowing. All this is not just good for stress, but good for skin too as it keeps inflammation in check.  Exercise is a great way to help you get your glow back. Be sure to get your heart pumping and try to get 30-60 minutes of exercise consistently 3-4 days a week at minimum. 

Get Better Sleep

We all need 7-8 hours or so of restful sleep. A cool room and a relaxing atmosphere can help your mind turn away from the worries of the day. Making sleep a priority can help in so many ways: from giving you more energy to making your skin look better to helping you think more clearly! Phones away, fans on, a comfy soft clean pillowcase and some lavender oil to smell as you drift off can make a world of difference!

Improve Your Skincare Routine

Your stress-free skincare plan starts with quality skincare. Choose natural and organic products that are free of fragrance, dyes, and chemicals like parabens. 

  • For puffy eyes, try chilled cucumber slices for 10 minutes, or a cold wet cloth that spent 10 minutes in a freezer. Consider buying eye gels that you can keep in the fridge to help with puffiness.
  • For lines and wrinkles, you’ll want a good serum with hyaluronic acid to help plump skin. It’s a moisture magnet!  Vitamin C serums and creams are helpful also. Rich creams can address fine lines and add moisture which helps smooth and hydrate dry skin. Even oily skin needs moisture, look for a good oil-free hydrating serum. Antioxidant creams with vitamins, peptides, and fruit oils, or honey are another superb way to add moisture. They can calm stress red skin, keep it supple, and protect against further moisture loss.
  • For acne, keep the skin clean and address the pimples with products that heal and prevent further breakouts. This can be salicylic acid to unclog pores or benzoyl peroxide which can tame inflammation. Retinol can increase cell turnover thus lessen breakouts. But don’t use all 3 at once! And if you’re using retinol, you should avoid the sun.

Relieve Facial Tension

Sometimes doing a little “face yoga” can help unlock those expressions we sit with all day. Scrunch your eyes, smile huge, open your mouth like a yawn, and puff up your cheeks to get your face feeling freer and less stressed. If you just did this, I bet you’re pleasantly surprised how good your face feels right now.

Eat Better

Often when we’re stressed, we reach for two of the worst foods for our skin: sugar and fast food. Instead, eat a diet that is vegetable- and fruit-heavy. Add in lean proteins and good fats like avocado and olives and stay away from processed food in general. 

Get a Massage

Massage is good for the soul and calming as well. It relaxes muscles, which in turn relaxes you and lowers cortisol levels, all of which will benefit your skin.

What are your secrets for keeping your skin stress-free?

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