How to combat stress-induced aging

February 15, 2024

Not to stress you out, but stress is doing a number on your skin. You might not even know it’s happening, because stressed skin shows in different ways. Stress induced aging is real, a clinical study revealed that a high-stress lifestyle makes you look up to 3.5 years older.* Stress is such a serious problem that dermatologist, pharmacist and Murad Skincare founder Dr. Howard Murad built an entire skincare program around four guiding principles to help alleviate stress for healthier skin, mind and body. If you’re wondering how to reverse stress aging, or if you’re experiencing skin aging due to stress, you’ve come to the right dermatologist.

Why does stress affect my skin?

As your skin’s largest living organ, stress is bound to be reflected on your skin. “Our hyper-connected, fast-paced society triggers a constant flood of damaging stress hormones, like cortisol,” says Dr. Murad. “Cortisol and stress hormones fatigue our bodies and could show in our skin as dehydration, sallowness, roughness and deep expression lines.” In this sense, stress can speed up the aging process or even cause premature aging skin.

How to reverse stressed skin aging

Besides controlling stressors and stress hormones that can have this effect, skincare can be another beneficial step in combating this concern. “I prescribe a four-step wellness regimen to all my clients. Clinically proven topical skincare is only the beginning: If the skin is a reflection of how we’re feeling on the inside, then we need to treat our skin from the inside out.

Step 1: Be kind to your mind

Healthy skin and healthy aging start from within, including nourishing your mind. Just acknowledging you’re stressed can help diffuse it. If you’re feeling stressed, step away and do a quick meditation exercise using a meditation app, or if you don’t have a lot of time, simply remind yourself to take deeper breaths, roll your shoulders, or listen to a song you love to help shift your emotional state. Being mindful and interrupting the flow of stress will help calm your mind.

Step 2: Awaken your body

If you’re wondering how to reverse stress aging, you might be surprised that exercise and movement can be just as good for your skin as topical skincare. Lifestyle changes, such as incorporating an exercise routine and physical activity, can have overall positive benefits. Especially in today’s environment: Working from home may have increased our sedentary lifestyles. “Exercising helps promote circulation, and skin is the body’s largest organ. Increased blood flow helps carry oxygen to the cells and helps carry away waste such as harmful free radicals.” Exercise also releases dopamine and serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ chemicals that can also boost your mood and feelings of happiness (yet another way to be kind to your mind). And, stressing your body to gain muscle is an example of good stress that can help your body work more efficiently.

Step 3: Eat your water

We’ve all had a snack attack during stressful times. While it’s okay every once in a while, Dr. Murad recommends sticking to healthy foods 80% of the time, and indulging 20% of the time. “Stress is far more harmful to your cells than a few calories from a piece of chocolate!” So, allow yourself the indulgences, but set your body up for health by eating nutritious, vitamin-dense and water rich foods so it’s better equipped to handle stress and the body’s responses to it.

Step 4: Nourish your skin

If you’re curious about how to reverse stress aging because you’re seeing the signs of stress on the skin, Dr. Murad recommends a skincare regimen that’s loaded with stress-reducing and super-hydrating ingredients that renew the skin, like a retinol night cream. “Neuropeptides are unique peptides specifically designed to address visible skin wrinkling caused by repetitive facial expressions. Wild indigo is used in Ayurveda for skin benefits because it helps quickly calm the skin’s stress signals. And, because dehydration is an effect of increased stress, I always recommend hyaluronic acid. It provides lightweight, immediate and lasting hydration benefits as well as a smoother texture.”

About the Author

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Jacki Marzano is SoCal-based storyteller and head copywriter at Murad Skincare. She's shaped the voice of some of the most recognized beauty brands in the business, has a penchant for sharing homemade cookies, and believes SPF is the secret to getting carded well into your 40s.