• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Can Stress Affect My Physical Appearance?

When the body experiences stress, our body undergoes a lot of changes to either adapt to the situation or flee from the situation.

The body releases stress hormones that will increase blood pressure and heart rate in order to produce energy and strength for the person to deal with the situation.

However, there is a downside to this reaction as these hormones are capable of affecting other physiological functions like digestion, in an undesirable manner.

Lastly, reaction to stress is also capable of affecting your physical appearance. This usually happens in one of two ways:

  1. When you are stressed out, you tend to make facial expressions that can affect the way you look in the long run, especially with prolonged stress.

  2. Stress hormones affect other neurotransmitters and hormones that are directly linked to sleep patterns, skin, hair growth, etc – all of which contribute to your physical features.

Here are 4 ways stress can significantly affect your physical appearance:

1)  Skin

The constant release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline can cause negative effects on your skin over time.

When the levels of these hormones are disrupted, it leads to skin related problems like:

  1. Acne

  2. Dermatitis

  3. Psoriasis

  4. Eczema

  5. Rosacea

When levels of cortisol rise, the skin starts to undergo a catabolic activity where the rate of breakdown of tissues is far greater than it’s repair and as a result, the production of collagen and elastin is decreased.

Since change  hormones level affect other physiological processes like digestion, our body also stops absorbing essential nutrients required for the benefit of skin health

Moreover, in times of stress, all the vitamins and minerals that are essential for the maintenance of the skin are all prioritized in the metabolic production of stress hormones and thus the quality of your skin will suffer.

Stress hormones released will also prevent your body from getting enough sleep and as a result, one can expect fluid to build up around your lower eyelids area and make your eyes look puffy and baggy.

To make matters worse, people who are stressed out tend to subconsciously limit their water intake or drink coffee or soda, leading to dehydration. This eventually affects your skin as, without proper hydration, your skin appears to look dry and flaky. It could also cause redness due to shallow breaths in times of stress.

Constantly making facial expressions like arching your browns and lowering your mouth could lead to the formation of wrinkles over time.

acne skin pores

acne and, Image Credit: pixabayeczema


2)  Hair

The growth of your hair can be classified into a cycle:

  1. Growth phase (development and growth of your hair)

  2. Resting phase (developed hair stops growing)

  3. Falling out phase (excess hair starts falling)

Prolonged experience of stress can cause complications to disrupt this hair cycle  As a result, your undeveloped hair could be forced into its resting stage and then finally into the falling out stage.

This is when you will find bundles of hair strands left behind in your hairbrush by just a few strokes.

The reason for the disruption of the cycle is because your immune system starts attacking your hair follicles in times of stress.

In addition, stress also causes a reduction in the production of melanin and as a result, your hair starts to turn grey and become thinner.

The adrenaline released can also get converted to testosterone which accelerates the hair cycle to enter the falling out phase.

Lastly, although your hair has a high tendency to absorb nutrients, its follicle tissues are a very low priority to the body. Thus, in times of stress and abnormal situations, the body will utilize these nutrients in more vital functions. This again shortens the growth phase.

hair loss on a comb

Stress causes your hair to fall, Image Credit: public domain pictures


3)  Fingernails

An increase in cortisol levels in times of stress has been linked to a decrease in the production of biotin in the body.

Biotins is a complex vitamin that is responsible for cell growth and produces protein-building amino acids which are in turn responsible for nail growth. As a result, a lack of biotin could make your nails soft and brittle.

Moreover, stress drains out all the nutrients that the nails need to absorb to remain healthy. They include:

  1. Vitamins

  2. Proteins

  3. Zinc

  4. Iron

  5. Magnesium

  6. Silica

Lack of these nutrients causes grooves to form on the nail along with pitting and shredding. The physical response to stress can also damage your nail beds  They include rubbing, biting, or chewing of nails. The formation of vertical lines is also common.

Although these side effects are harmless to the health of your body, it’s your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong and can cause other severe problems to other important functions later.

fingernails

Lines on fingernails, Image Credit: Wikimedia commons


4)  Teeth and Gums

Stress can often cause us to form physical reactions in your mouth. They include clenching, grinding, and excessive movement of our teeth.

When these movements occur frequently or are prolonged, it eventually results in the damage or fatigue in the joints and muscles, causing pain.

As a result, it causes aches in your teeth, neck, and back which could progress to u attractive looking teeth or bad posture.

At first, these side effects seem harmless to your general health but it could cause complications like closing off the body’s airway and the overall deterioration of your mouth and jaw. They can often also lead to sleep disorders.

Stress also decreases the production of saliva, a natural antibacterial to the mouth and thus you affect your gums, oral health and even cause infections.

Stress Affect - a man holding his face

clenched jaw and grinding teeth, Image Credit: pickpik


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