Under A Lot of Stress? It Shows On Your Skin

Stress. There’s just no getting away from it. And all that stress shows—in fact, it’s written all over your face.

Problem: Chronic stress triggers a hormone called cortisol, which reduces the ability of the skin to retain water. The result: a dull, dry complexion.


  1. Although it seems counter-intuitive, reduce the amount or frequency of moisturizer. It causes your skin to stop collecting water from the food and water that you consume.
  2. Avoid the use of hot water and highly fragranced skincare products.
  3. Don’t use cleansers that strip your skin of its natural oils.

Problem: A furrowed brow, fine lines, and wrinkles around the eyes. All of this may be caused by a decrease in the amount of collagen and elastin fibers, as well as increased dryness (which exacerbates the appearance of wrinkles).


  1. Stimulate the production of collagen and elastin with active Vitamin A (as found in ZO Skin Health’s Radical Night Repair Plus) or Rx Retin-A.
  2. Drink more water.

Problem: Chronic stress causes or complicates other skin problems, including rosacea, acne, eczema, and psoriasis. There’s a new term for this—psychodermatology: skin disorders that are related to your thoughts or feelings.


  1. For acne, use products specifically for oily or acne-prone skin. Dr. Obagi’s favorite cleanser is ZO Skin Health’s Exfoliating Cleanser. Cleanse twice a day, but avoid the use of hot water. To slough off the surface skin cells that trap debris, try the ZO Skin Health Exfoliating Polish. Apply a product that has salicylic acid, like ZO Skin Health TE pads, which help to break down the sebum. Once a day is sufficient for maintenance—twice a day if you have active or persistent flare ups.
  2. For rosacea—or if your skin appears red in the nose, cheeks, and forehead—there are many over the counter products that claim to reduce redness, but not as many that really work. Dr. Obagi is a fan of Growth Factor Serum to reduce redness. If a prescription is required, he frequently recommends small doses of Accutane.

This is a stressful time. You can’t take care of all of the problems, but you can take care of yourself. For advanced medical conditions or persistent problems, see a dermatologist.