You may have heard that stress affects your skin, but do you know how stress affects your skin?

It’s actually more insidious than you’d think! Before you throw in the towel on having clear, youthful, radiant skin, let’s examine:

  • The role stress plays in skin health
  • How Facial Expressions Skin Therapy incorporates stress reductions and control into our skin programs
  • Our favourite pro tips for reducing stress from the comfort of your own home

Here’s how and why managing your stress will help you surpass your skin goals in 2022 and beyond.

The Impact of Psychological Stress and Environmental Stress on Skin 

How stress affects your skin boils down to two primary types of stresses: psychological and environmental.

In both forms, stress triggers the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis: a trio of glands that play key roles in how our bodies regulate and respond to stress. When these glands are activated, they release cortisol and other key hormones that make up the “fight or flight” stress response.

Cortisol and Psychological Stress

Cortisol is released by our brains when we become distressed. The reason why psychological stress impacts our skin is because our skin actually has receptors for this stress hormone.

When cortisol is activated, it’s common to see the following skin-related changes:


  • More sebum production, which leads to clogged pores and acne breakouts
  • An increased likelihood of rashes, hives, redness, and/or cold sores (due to stress heightening inflammation within the body, which in turn heightens skin reactivity, causing these common skin woes)
  • Impaired resistance to infection, which is why chronic stress and invasive procedures are often a bad mix
  • Reduced wound healing, which often comes in the form of blemishes being slow to fade

Additional studies are even finding that psychological stress negatively impacts the skin’s barrier function, and suggest that stress reduces your skin’s ability to retain water… which can then lead to further problems with dryness, flaking, and/or itchiness.

Cortisol and Environmental Stress

Environmental stressors like UV light, extreme temperatures, and pollution also contribute to how stress affects your skin.

The clinical and biological impact of chronic environmental stressors has been extensively researched; however, the jury is still out on the depth of impact short-term exposure has. It is generally agreed-upon that “acute environmental stress”, which is defined as lasting minutes to hours (and no longer than a week), can produce a visible short-term result on your skin… and even negatively impact your skin barrier’s functionality long-term!

Examples of acute environmental stress’s impact on one’s skin include:


  • Skin showing redness or looking “raw” with inflammation after cold-weather sports like skiing, during which your skin is typically directly exposed to harsh wind or snow for hours
  • Skin appearing inflamed during seasonal transitions (like winter to springtime) with those who have seasonal allergies and whose bodies are becoming accustomed to the influx of pollen and other allergens that usually come with this time of year

In short, it is vital to balance both external and internal stressors in your day-to-day life in order to keep your skin looking (and functioning) at its best.

How (and Why) Facial Expressions Focuses on Anti-Stress Skin Care

Other ways both internal and external stressors can impact the skin include:

  • Gut imbalances, which often result in inflammatory conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea due to stress negatively impacting the balance of essential bacteria in our gut
  • Stress cycles, in which people get stressed about getting stressed… which perpetuates the problem!
  • Nervous habits, like picking and scratching at active acne breakouts.

Here at Facial Expressions, we incorporate a focus on anti-stress skin care in order to help control (and, in most cases, eliminate) these negative side-effects.

We start with our 360° skin analysis, which is the first step for any and all Facial Expressions clients: underlying skin types are identified and genetics, lifestyle choices, diets, and skin care concerns are cross-examined to identify the root cause of your stress-induced skin concerns… as well as the best way to resolve them.

From there, we use a holistic blend of nutritional supplements, strategic home care, a variety skin of tools and tech, and in-person treatments to support the body’s natural healing process from the inside-out.

Pro Tips for Managing Stress at Home

We all live with some degree of stress in our lives, and this level of stress will fluctuate depending on your circumstances.

While you can’t avoid stress, you can learn to manage and minimize it.

Here at Facial Expressions, we strongly recommend the following to reduce stress long-term:

  • A solid, regular skin care routine that is esthetician-approved
  • Exercising regularly (even if that just means getting a certain amount of steps in per day)
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is low in inflammation-causing processed foods
  • Sleeping a minimum of seven hours per night, every night
  • Taking periodic time for yourself to relax and unwind
  • Seeking support when you feel that your stress is becoming unmanageable alone

Pro Tip: When we take time for ourselves, we absolutely love creating a daily de-stressing ritual of preparing and sipping a comforting beverage made of Ashwagandha, an ancient Ayuverdic herb that is gaining traction for its purported ability to control stress and anxiety levels.

Ashwaghandha is a key ingredient (along with other gut and immune-supporting nutrients!) in our new beverage mix, the Reishi Chaga Chai Latte Mix. Perfect either hot or cold, any season!

Ready to Stop Letting Stress Control Your Skin?

Come visit us here in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia to learn first-hand how our blend of science-backed treatments, cutting-edge skin assessment tools, and expert holistic skin coaching work to get your stress under control… and your skin better than ever!

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