“In fact, skin is one of the biggest indicators of our state of mind,” says Merrady Wickes, the head of content and education at the Detox Market. Happy and calm? Your skin tends to maintain its clarity and even adopt an allover radiance and a healthy flush. But when you’re angry, stressed, or anxious, so is your skin; it can turn red, break out in pimples, or flare up with rosacea or psoriasis.
Here’s the empowering news: There are things you can do to stop negative emotions from affecting your face. Read on.
Why Your Skin Gets Moody
It goes back to the fight-or-flight response, that super-adaptive instinct that enables us to kick into action.
“When you face something stressful, your adrenal glands secrete hormones, including cortisol, epinephrine (commonly known as adrenaline), and small amounts of testosterone, which trigger a cascade of reactions that can lead to excess oil production, decreased immunity (which can spur cold sores and psoriasis), and increased blood in your vessels (which can cause undereye circles and puffiness),” says New York City dermatologist Neal Schultz, M.D., a Shape Brain Trust member. You may also get acne breakouts or rosacea.
Compounding the situation, “recent Olay research has shown that cortisol can lower the energy metabolism of your skin cells by up to 40 percent, and therefore reduce their ability to respond to stress and the resulting damage,” says Frauke Neuser, an associate director of science and innovation communications at Procter & Gamble.
Plus, our negative emotions-sadness from a breakup, deadline anxiety-can disrupt our positive lifestyle habits. “We tend to let our skincare routines fall by the wayside, failing to take off our makeup and clogging up our pores, or skipping moisturizer, which can leave us looking weathered. We might also lose sleep, which triggers the release of cortisol, or stress eat foods with refined sugar, which causes insulin to rise and then testosterone,” Dr. Schultz says.
At the same time, we’re finding that feeling joyful can manifest physically as well. “For cases in which something positive happens, you get the release of chemicals like endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, the so-called feel-good hormones,” says David E. Bank, M.D., a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, New York, and a Shape Brain Trust member. These have been less well studied in terms of what they do to our skin, “but it wouldn’t surprise me if these chemicals could have an effect on barrier function, helping our skin stay better hydrated and appear more radiant,” Dr. Bank says. “It’s even possible that the release of feel-good hormones causes the little muscles around the hair follicles all over your body to relax, leaving your skin feeling softer and smoother.” Dr. Bank stresses that while these are just hypotheses, “there is plenty of science to support them.”