How Stress Affects Your Appearance

Last updated on : May 22 2023

 unhappy woman suffering from stress at home

Article Summary

Stress is inevitable, and something that everyone feels at some point in their life. In many ways, stress can present itself through your appearance.

If you’ve noticed any of the following changes in the way you look and feel, it may be an indicator that your levels of stress are on the rise.

1. Hair Shedding or Loss

2. Gray Hair

3. Breakouts

4. Premature Aging

5. Under Eye Bags

6. Worsened Skin Conditions

7. Weight Change

8. Self-Image Changes

How Stress Affects Your Appearance

Stress is a common part of life, but its effects extend beyond our mental well-being.

It can take a toll on our physical appearance, impacting various aspects such as hair, skin, and body. From hair shedding and premature graying to breakouts and under-eye bags, stress can manifest in visible ways that affect our self-image.

Understanding these effects is crucial for developing strategies to mitigate them and maintain a healthy appearance.

In this article, we delve into the connection between stress and its impact on our appearance, as well as provide practical tips to counteract these effects.

1. Hair Shedding or Loss 

Excess stress can cause a few different hair loss conditions. It can trigger the development of alopecia areata, which causes patches of hair loss anywhere on the body. If you have this condition, you may notice clumps of hair falling out in the shower and overall thinning of the hair.

Another condition that can occur is trichotillomania. This condition causes an involuntary habit of pulling out the hair on your head, eyelashes, or arms. This hair will usually grow back; however, the loss of hair would have never occurred if not triggered by stress in the first place. 

What you can do: Luckily, you can reverse hair loss, and thinning in most stress-induced cases. You can try using hair loss solution products, such as a DHT shampoo, minoxidil, or biotin gummies.

These products help strengthen your hair follicles and lessen the chance of excess shedding. Since trichotillomania is the physical act of pulling your hair out, you may benefit from reaching out to a doctor or therapist to find effective stress-coping mechanisms.

Read more: How to Grow Your Hair Faster - Unlock the Secrets to Accelerated Hair Growth

2. Gray Hair

When your mother told you that you were giving her gray hair as a child, she wasn’t kidding.

Although stress doesn’t typically cause permanent hair loss, it can cause a lasting change in hair color. Feelings of extreme anxiety can hinder your hair follicles’ production of melanocytes. Fewer melanocytes result in your hair no longer producing pigment, leading to gray or white hair strands. White hair follicles indicate all pigment is lost.

What you can do: Start by talking to your doctor about taking biotin or B vitamin supplements, which help strengthen your hair. Additionally, you can help prevent your hair from premature aging by using hair masks with protein-rich ingredients to nourish and protect your hair.

3. Breakouts

Periods of stress can significantly alter your hormonal balance with an influx of cortisol hormones, compromising the stability of your complexion. This condition will often increase your skin’s oil production, leading to a higher chance of clogged pores and the presence of bacteria.

On the other hand, stress can cause you to waiver in your skin-care regimen altogether. You may notice yourself holding up your head with your hands at work or rubbing your eyes throughout the day. These actions transfer more bacteria and germs to the surface of your skin.

Additionally, stress can disrupt your focus on your health routine, causing you to forget to remove your makeup before bed or eat a nutritious diet. All of these factors play a huge part in stress breakouts. 

What you can do: First and foremost, do your best to not falter in your skin-care routine. Stay on top of removing your makeup before bed, cleansing your skin twice a day, and using a non-clogging moisturizer.

Additionally, it’s essential to reflect on your health habits, such as diet and sleep routine.

Lastly, you can treat your breakouts by using an acne spot treatment or visiting a dermatologist to find a regimen that will work best for your skin type.

4. Premature Aging 

Stress can disrupt your sleep and cause tension around your eyes. Every eyebrow furrow and each restless night’s sleep can accelerate signs of aging. Before you know it, stress will escalate your body’s natural aging process by a few years in advance.

Prolonged periods of stress is catastrophic for the body, especially your skin. Elevated cortisol levels can cause decreased production of collagen, which is an essential protein for skin’s elasticity and tissue repair. Collagen production naturally decreases with age; however, stress can minimize collagen production far earlier in life than you’d like.

What you can do: Premature aging is very preventable, and luckily, most signs are repairable too.

You can improve the elasticity and strength of your skin by taking a collagen supplement. These supplements will help kickstart the collagen levels in your body, leading to firmer and smoother skin.

Another helpful tip is to pay attention to when you’re tensing your forehead or eyebrows and to be mindful about relaxing these areas.

5. Under Eye Bags

The skin around your eyes is extremely delicate and much lighter than other areas of the body. As you age, the skin in this area becomes progressively thinner. Your under-eye area serves as an essential indicator of how much sleep you’ve gotten, and the level of sleep stress you’ve been experiencing.

Lack of sleep may lead to the area around your eyes to retain water (hello puffy bags) or darken the skin leaving dark circles.

The more cortisol your body produces, the less sleep you’re likely to get. Healthy cortisol levels will give you more energy in the morning and lessen towards the end of the day, so you’re ready to sleep. Disrupted levels put your body into fight or flight mode, therefore affecting your body’s ability to relax at the right times.

What you can do: It’s essential to start by creating a bedtime ritual so that your mind and body know when it’s time to hit the hay. This ritual can include turning off electronics an hour before bed, practicing your skin routine, and reading a book.

In the morning, you can use two cold spoons for puffy eyes by pressing them on your under-eye area and swiping outward. This routine will help drain any retained fluid.

If you have dark under-eye circles, you can also use a vitamin C eye serum to brighten the area over time with continued use.

6. Worsened Skin Conditions

Have you ever wondered why your skin is flaring up out of nowhere? If you haven’t changed anything in your routine or products you use, stress is probably the culprit. Skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, hives, atopic dermatitis, and rosacea can all worsen from stress.

Your skin serves as an external barometer of what’s happening on the inside. So be mindful of any visible changes. Keep close tabs on the state of your skin and don’t ignore the initial signs of a flare-up. 

What you can do: Pay close attention to the factors that may be causing your skin to flare-up. If you notice it typically happens during times of stress, it’s essential to address the stressors head-on.

You may find relief by practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, journaling, etc. Or, it may be more beneficial to set up an appointment with your dermatologist to determine what method of relief will work best for your specific condition.

7. Weight Change

Stressful experiences can lead to changes in daily habits, such as when and what you choose to eat. In some cases, stress may cause you to lose your appetite, leading to skipped meals. It may originate from a lack of motivation to make meals. Or, your mind might be too focused on the stress to worry about food. These conditions can lead to weight loss if the behaviors persist over an extended time.

For others, stress may cause your appetite to increase and your cravings to change. Stress can cause emotional eating, leading you to crave unhealthy foods as a way of finding comfort. You also may find yourself forgetting to drink enough water and consuming more caffeine if you’re combating lack of sleep. Exhaustion can also cause your body to store fat and lower your metabolism, making weight gain more likely. 

What you can do: If you’re someone who tends to lose your appetite in reaction to stress, make an effort to eat at least three nutritious meals a day. To keep yourself motivated, cook quick and easy healthy recipes. If each one of your meals is full of nutritious ingredients, your body will be able to get all the vitamins and nutrients it needs.

If you’re someone who tends to gain weight in reaction to stress, it’s also essential to change to eating more nutritious foods. Additionally, daily physical activity is vital in maintaining your weight and your sleep schedule. You don’t necessarily have to spend an hour at the gym every day. You can go for evening walks, practice an at-home workout video, play a game of basketball, or go for a swim to keep your body moving.

8. Self-Image Changes

During stressful times, you may begin shifting focus from what you’re wearing to what’s stressing you out. When stressed, it’s not uncommon to put less effort into what you wear and start wearing what’s familiar and comfortable. You may even stop shopping for new clothing altogether because you’ve gradually lost interest. 

On the other hand, your stress may trigger disorganization. Laundry can take the back-burner, especially if you’ve been extra busy, causing you to wear something you normally wouldn’t. However, what you wear and how you feel are substantially correlated.

What you can do: Make it a point to find clothing you like right now. What makes you look and feel your best? The better you feel about your appearance, the better you will feel inside as well. You can shop for a new dress or buy a jacket that makes you feel terrific. You’ll notice a shift in your self-image faster than you may think.

Calm by the lake


While stress is a natural part of life, its impact on appearance should not be underestimated.

By understanding the connection between stress and physical changes, we can proactively implement strategies to maintain our appearance and boost our self-esteem.

By prioritizing self-care, skincare routines, healthy habits, and stress management techniques, we can counteract the effects of stress and cultivate a positive self-image.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the questions most frequently asked by our readers.

1. Can stress really cause hair loss?

Yes, excess stress can trigger hair loss conditions such as alopecia areata and trichotillomania, leading to hair shedding or thinning. Managing stress and using appropriate hair loss solutions can help reverse these effects.

2. Does stress cause gray hair?

While stress doesn't directly cause gray hair, extreme anxiety and stress can disrupt the production of melanocytes, resulting in premature graying. Taking care of your hair and incorporating supplements like biotin or B vitamins can support hair health.

3. Can stress cause breakouts?

Yes, periods of stress can disrupt hormonal balance and increase oil production, leading to breakouts and acne. Consistent skincare routines, healthy habits, and stress management techniques can help prevent stress-related breakouts.

4. Does stress accelerate the aging process?

Prolonged stress can accelerate signs of aging by affecting collagen production and causing tension around the eyes. Taking collagen supplements, practicing relaxation techniques, and being mindful of facial tension can help minimize premature aging caused by stress.

5. How does stress contribute to under-eye bags?

Stress disrupts sleep patterns, which can cause the area around the eyes to retain water, resulting in under-eye bags. Establishing a bedtime ritual, using cold compresses, and using vitamin C eye serums can help reduce under-eye puffiness and dark circles.

6. Can stress worsen existing skin conditions?

Yes, stress can exacerbate conditions like eczema, psoriasis, hives, atopic dermatitis, and rosacea. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, seeking professional guidance, and addressing stress triggers can help alleviate flare-ups.

7. Can stress cause weight gain or weight loss?

Stress can lead to changes in eating habits, resulting in weight gain or loss. Emotional eating and decreased appetite are common responses to stress. Maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and engaging in regular physical activity can help manage weight changes caused by stress.

8. How does stress affect self-image?

Stress can impact self-image by affecting clothing choices and reducing motivation to maintain appearance. Prioritizing self-care, embracing personal style, and finding clothing that boosts confidence can help counteract negative self-image caused by stress.

9. Can stress-related appearance changes be reversed?

Yes, many stress-related appearance changes can be reversed or minimized with appropriate care and stress management techniques. You can restore and maintain a healthy appearance adopting healthy habits, using targeted skincare products, seeking professional guidance, and prioritizing self-care.

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