The busy trap is real. Whether you’re adjusting to life as a new mom, putting in extra hours to start a business, or just trying to keep up with the daily grind, life can be downright draining. Though you might be able to magically do it all without getting to the point of major burnout, we’ve learned that symptoms of stress can show up on the outside — and that it’s super important to take them seriously to stay (and look) healthy. Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a psychologist and professor at Columbia University, explains why managing the cause of your stress is the only way to save face, plus she shares five red flags you need to look out for if you want to keep your skin glowing.
Why the best skin products can’t help
According to Dr. Hafeez, stress can age us quickly. “When someone is under stress, they can appear up to five years older; more if they don’t manage the cause.” Yikes. She says that common stressors can be things like unhealthy relationships or fast-paced careers. Good news though: Once you see signs, making changes is a saving grace. “I’ve seen patients end relationships or get new jobs and look 10 years younger within days,” Dr. Hafeez shares. “People spend tons of money on creams and facials — but if the stress is still there, it’ll always show up on a person’s face.”
Dr. Hafeez offers more encouraging insights. “The positive thing is that we can manage our own stress once we know the root of it. So, when you notice changes in your facial appearance, think about your life and what could be stressing you.” She says that simple things like taking 10 minutes to focus on breathing or activities like writing, a walk, or baking can help you decompress. “If you find yourself reverting back to the stressful issue or keep seeing symptoms, consider therapy. There’s a definite connection between how we look and how we feel and think.”
5 red flags to look for
1. Dark Circles Under Your Eyes: Dealing with stress in a healthy way doesn’t just make you happier; it helps you maintain an even skin tone and glow too. “Unfortunately, stress can increase the blood flow to your organs, plus the capillaries under your eyes. These are fragile, so when they break, it’ll leave you looking extra tired with dark circles.”
2. New Wrinkles: Yes, wrinkles come with age, but Dr. Hafeez says that stress can actually impact our brain chemistry, which causes more wrinkles to show up faster. “When you’re sad or anxious, have been crying or aren’t sleeping well, you’re much more likely to see lines around your forehead and mouth or under your eyes.”
3. Skin Changes: Feeling itchy, flaky, or have unusual hives? Dr. Hafeez says stress can bring on inflammation that commonly causes rashes, rosacea, or eczema flare-ups. “It’s also typical to see changes in skin moisture,” she says. Adult acne is another way you might literally be showing stress on your face. “Acne isn’t just for hormonally crazed teenagers,” Dr. Hafeez explains. “Many adults can’t outgrow it because of stress hormones.” If you spot acne you haven’t had for years, do your best to avoid picking at it; doing so can trigger an inflammatory response and make it worse (which might bring on even more stress). Yikes!
4. Hair Loss: “Stress can cause sudden hair loss by literally flipping the switch on the hair follicle’s growth stage from an active to a resting phase,” Dr. Hafeez explains. “Once the follicle enters this resting phase prematurely, it stays there for about three months — after which time a large amount of hair will be shed.” She says this can be a key sign of stress. “If you experience this, try looking back a few months to find the actual trigger. Fortunately, with healthy decompression and stress management, your hair will grow back,” she tells us. Phew.
5. Tired Appearance: “When the Starbucks barista or person at the dry cleaners asks if you’re feeling okay, pay attention,” Dr. Hafeez warns. “These people may not know the details of your life, but their observation can be an important clue when it comes to how you’re outwardly wearing stress.”
Do you notice your stress on your face or bod? How do you deal? Tell us about it on Twitter @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)