6 Things Stress & Poor Sleep Can Do To Your Skin, From A Top Derm
You probably know that hormones directly impact your skin, but what oftentimes gets overlooked is the relationship between stress, sleep, and your skin. Many studies have shown a relationship between lack of sleep and a spike in cortisol levels1, the body''s main stress hormone.
But how does this shift manifest on the outside? Luckily, board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., FAAD, recently put it all together in a TikTok video—here's the overview of how chronic stress and lack of sleep impact your skin:
Decrease production of collagen & hyaluronic acid.
Bowe says that chronic stress and poor sleep can lead to a decreased production of collagen and hyaluronic acid. "That can obviously lead to age-related changes in the skin over time," she notes.
While one stressful week at work or a night of restless sleep won't necessarily make your skin age overnight, it's essential to keep this connection in mind, as skin aging is directly related to a lack of collagen production, among other factors like UV exposure.
Hyaluronic acid is the key molecule responsible for keeping skin naturally hydrated2—so it only makes sense that a lack can lead to skin dryness.
In addition to getting enough sleep and managing stress, using targeting supplements can help enhance your levels from within—here's a curated list of the best collagen and hyaluronic acid supplements to check that box.
Decreases the skin's production of ceramides.
Lack of sleep and chronic stress can also lead to a decrease in ceramide production, Bowe says. "We know that ceramides are so important when it comes to a healthy skin barrier—trapping and holding that moisture in your skin," she continues.
"So if your skin is really dry and you're wondering why, and you're putting tons of moisturizer on and drinking all this water, then it might be the stress," Bowe explains.
Ceramides are lipids found naturally in the skin3 that help keep your skin hydrated and act as the "glue" that holds your skin together—which is why they're so essential. Your internal production of ceramides also decreases with age4, which can contribute to increased dryness.
Increases sebum production.
Due to a spike in cortisol, stress and lack of sleep can actually increase the sebum production in your skin5. "When this sticky, oily substance is overproduced, it can trigger breakouts in some people," Bowe says.
So if you only experience breakouts every once in a while, also referred to as, "occasional acne," then it may actually be linked to stress and lack of sleep.
It redirects blood cells into your skin.
"[Lack of sleep and stress] redirects your immune cells from your bloodstream into your skin," Bowe says. This can stimulate inflammation in the skin, which can lead to accelerated skin aging, as well as increased breakouts and even exacerbated skin conditions like eczema and rosacea.
Slows down wound healing.
When you're stressed or lacking sleep, that can actually slow down wound healing, Bowe says. "So if you have a cut or a scrape, it can actually take longer to heal after that happens," she continues. So if you've recently had any sort of procedure that requires some downtime (like professional microneedling, for example), try your best to prioritize sleep and minimize stress to ensure your skin heals ASAP.
Makes you itchy.
Stress and lack of sleep can stimulate a histamine release, Bowe explains. "So if you feel yourself getting itchy when you're stressed out or at night before you go to bed, it could be due to stress," she notes. All the more reason to keep your skin aptly hydrated, too.
As you can tell, stress and lack of sleep can impact your skin in many different ways. So now what? Well, do your best to prioritize a full night of sleep when you can and minimize stress in your daily life—though we know this is easier said than done. Here are our best expert-backed tips for getting high-quality sleep and coping with stress to get you started.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.