Stress and the Skin Connection

As your body’s largest organ, your skin plays a vital role in your health including the regulation of body temperature, it enables the sensation of touch, protects you from infection and more! It really is amazing,

However, did you know that this incredible organ can be impacted by stress?

Think back to the last time your complexion looked dull, you had a breakout of spots, or an existing skin condition you may have such as rosacea, flared up and became more visible – were you going through a period of stress at this time?

As a reflexologist who is trained in facial reflexology, I notice small changes in my clients complexion and it can be a visual clue that they may be experiencing higher stress levels. These observations allow me to tailor the treatments to their unique needs, and provide a soothing treatment to help them unwind.

So, what is stress and how does it impact your skin?

Can it really affect how you look?

Read below to discover more and the ways you can help maintain the complexion you desire.

Reflection of lady looking into the mirror touching a peach

What is Stress?

Stress is something most of us experience each day. It can impact us all – from short bursts of stress when we are stuck in a traffic jam, to longer-term stress due to life events, such as a divorce, work challenges, or a bereavement.

Whether you have short-term stress or you are dealing with something more long-term, the stress hormone cortisol plays a huge part. Short bursts are crucial to help you cope and act, but prolonged higher levels can impact your health and well-being.

During this period of long-term stress the body enters a state of ‘fight, flight, and freeze’, with cortisol affecting every cell and system in the body, (including your skin).

Stress can cause increased inflammation, slow down wound healing, and negatively impact skin conditions.” (American Academy of Dermatology Association).

Unfortunately, when a client is stressed and their skin conditions worsen, this can also increase a clients’ stress, so a stress management plan is crucial to help break the cycle.

Signs of Stress

Stress affects us all differently, but the common signs include:

  • Brain fog;
  • Poor concentration;
  • Self-doubt;
  • Indecision;
  • Anxiety;
  • Low mood;
  • Feeling overwhelmed;
  • Rapid heartbeat;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Aches and pains, as the muscles tighten;
  • Frequent colds;
  • Sleeping too much or too little;
  • Skin complaints – spots, dull skin, inflammation of existing conditions, or signs of ageing;
  • Changes to the quantity and integrity of collagen.

How Does Stress Impact the Skin?

Stress can cause increased inflammation both inside the body and on the skin, it can therefore slow down wound healing, predisposing the skin to bacterial infections and negatively impact existing skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or rosacea – causing them to flare-up.

Your glands produce more oil when under stress, which may cause acne to worsen in people who are prone to outbreaks. 

Unfortunately, “stress may also impact how our skin ages, as the stress hormones break down the collagen and elastin in skin and interfere with rejuvenation, which can speed up the aging process causing more fine lines and wrinkles.” (American Academy of Dermatology Association).

Tips to Help Reduce Your Stress and Boost Your Complexion

  • Sleep. Develop a good sleeping pattern to allow your body to relax and release stress from the day. If you are currently experiencing difficulties sleeping, you may enjoy my sleep tips;
  • Meditate. Mediation is a practice that may allow you to release stress, clear your mind and recharge. If you are looking for some guided meditations explore the InsightTimer app, my personal favourite;
  • Breathwork. This activity focusses on breathing exercises to help the body release stress and tension. This article by Forbes explains more about this technique;
  • Walking. This a fabulous way to release stress, boost your vitamin D levels and release endorphins (feel good hormones). Think how great you feel, even after a short walk!;
  • Laughter. Phone a friend or a loved one, book a date to meet for coffee and have a good old laugh, it will do wonders to boost your well-being;
  • Spend Time in Nature. Enjoying time outdoors even for just a few minutes each day may help to lower stress hormones and boost your mood. If you are not able to spend time outside, you may benefit from creating a window box or adding some greenery to your home with some house plants to help create a calming space;
  • Book a Reflexology Treatment. Since establishing my business in 2008 many of my clients have received reflexology during periods of high stress to help them to relax and unwind, or as a stress management tool to support a busy lifestyle. You could choose from traditional foot reflexology or facial reflexology, whichever one you prefer to relax the body and mind;
  • Keep Skincare Simple. If your complexion is suffering due to a period of stress, try to keep your skincare routine simple. Too many different products may overwhelm your complexion during this time, so less is more! My clients’s personal favourite products if their skin is sensitive is the Sensitive Skin Collection from Neal’s Yard Remedies.


Stress affects us all differently, so it is important to carry out stress-relieving activities that work for you.

Do what makes you smile and add those little things to your self-care routine each day to help reduce your stress levels, boost your well-being and your complexion too!

I would love to read what ways help you to de-stress and also if you have noticed your complexion changing during periods of stress, please share your comments below.

Kelly x

Reflexology is a wonderful complementary treatment and is not a substitute for medical care. If you are concerned about your health, please always consult your GP in the first instance.

Article References

American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Interesting Reading

Science Direct: Stress, immunity and skin collagen integrity: Evidence from animal models and clinical conditions.

National Library of Medicine: Stress and Skin: An Overview of Mind Body Therapies as a Treatment Strategy in Dermatology.

National Library of Medicine: Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging.

Product Recommendations

The Sensitive Skincare Collection by Neal’s Yard Remedies.

Cortigenix Cortisol Over Time (COT) Test – The Cortigenix Cortisol Over Time (COT) Test assesses your main ‘lifestyle hormone’ cortisol over several months. Giving you a clear picture of how your lifestyle may be affecting your long term inner health. To read more about the test and to order your kit visit the Cortigenix website and enter KellyH10 to receive a discount. 

Product Links

Neal’s Yard Remedies Consultant

As a consultant for Neal’s Yard Remedies, if you click on the link (shown above) and purchase a product as a result, I will be rewarded with a small commission of the sale. Please note, no extra costs would be added to the products for this to happen.

I am a Neal’s Yard Remedies Consultant as their ethics and values, match that of my clients and I truly love their products. 


If you place an order on the Cortigenix website and use the discount code stated above, I will be rewarded with a small commission of the sale. Please note, no extra costs would be added to the products for this to happen.

I have partnered with Cortigenix as I am passionate about helping my clients to reduce and manage their stress levels to support their health and well-being.

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