Stress has been universally ranked as a key negative influence on our wellbeing. Even before our lives changed forever in practically a heartbeat, locking us inside and forcing us to take a much-needed break, our days were filled with stress-related disturbances. If you’ve ever suspected that your skin tends to take a hit during stressful and anxious times, prepare to feel at least a little validated.
The idea that stress has a direct impact on your skin is no myth. Even if your lifestyle is normally chaotic you may have noticed that your skin starts acting up during periods of high stress. Skin is the largest organ in your body and it’s only natural to assume that growing pressures of our lives will manifest on our skin in some way.
Experts have long recognized that there is a close relationship between the skin and the mind. “Stress can increase cortisol levels which in turn increases inflammation,” says New York City plastic surgeon Lara Devgan, M.D. In turn, inflammation can exacerbate whatever your underlying skin conditions may be. Stress hormones such as cortisol, while an essential survival tool, can be detrimental to our overall health and wellbeing, and that includes our complexion. The more stress we are trying to cope with, the more it shows on our skin, and it’s harder for our skin to bounce back.
Besides the obvious immediate signs, research shows that people dealing with chronic stress and anxiety experience changes in their DNA that result in premature cell aging, consequently making them look significantly older than their years.
But even during these unprecedented times when you feel like you don’t have it all together, there are simple and subtle ways to look — and feel — otherwise. Just reach in your beauty cabinet.
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Suggesting that a condition such as anxiety can be diminished with a sheet mask and few drops of aromatic face oil is frivolous, but in times when we feel powerless, lonely and even outright scared, coping with it might become a lot easier by having a regular simple skincare or beauty routine to follow. Essentially it helps to bring about the feeling of calmness, as well as keep both us and our minds busy. Stress often has an indirect effect on our skin, thanks to the self-destructive vices we often lean on to mitigate it, and even something small but ritualistic like cleansing your face every morning can help your mind feel like you’re in control.
The beauty industry would’ve never grown to be such a behemoth if it wasn’t adapting to ever-changing consumer demands. With a growing list of outside stressors, as well as our always-on mentality, a promise of a moisturizer which will make your skin look fresh and well-rested sounds very enticing. Hence, a huge spike in products aimed to relieve stress and anxiety.
As a general rule, during times of extreme stress, going back to basics is the way to go. Sometimes even your favorite products can all of a sudden begin to irritate your skin and eliminating any products with fragrance, color or dye is the first step towards giving your skin a much-needed time-out.
Mintel’s 2025 Trend Power Play outlines that younger consumers, in particular, are trying to de-stress and recharge their skin from the daily assault they receive from both internal and external factors. It’s recognized that natural active ingredients can reduce the impact of key stress hormones that cause your skin to flare up, and it’s only safe to assume that more anti-stress ingredients will appear in the market.
While CBD is relatively new on the scene, aromatherapy is an older concept. Founder of Disciple Skincare and psychotherapist, Charlotte Ferguson explains that essential oils are an incredible solution. Incorporating products rich in essential oils into your regime is enough to make a huge difference, just through smell alone or combine it with an easy facial massage for extra benefits. Nataliya Robinson, facial therapist and founder of Quantum Botanika, says: “When relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over and allows the body to function in a “rest and digest” state. There are a lot of nerves within the skin and tissue. Touch is highly important to the body’s mind.”
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While habits and routines help us stay busy and clear our minds, creative tasks force us to stay present. Taking the time to apply lipstick or try a new blending technique stimulates your brain in positive ways, encouraging mindfulness.
As the line between beauty and wellbeing is becoming increasingly blurred, there’s no doubt we can expect a myriad of new beauty products guaranteeing to swipe our anxiety away. According to Statistica, the UK wellness market was valued at nearly £20 billion last year, having grown by nearly £3 billion since 2015.
Many have claimed that just the act of applying the products alone can help curb stress, and before you dismiss it as a gimmick, give it a go, but don’t go too hard on yourself. Take a deep breath and do what you can, when you can.