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Here’s Exactly What Happens to Your Face When You’re Stressed

Unless you were born yesterday, you—and your skin—have probably seen some better days. But unlike the immediate consequences that, say, a Saturday night out can have on your face by morning, the effects of prolonged stress can often be sneaky, slowly messing with your skin barrier until it’s angry, irritated and leaving you to deal with one of these four issues:


It’s not necessarily the copious amounts of pasta, wine, and baked goods we tend to consume when we’re emotional (all of which, sorry, can trigger pore-clogging inflammation in your system), but also a very real systemic effect: “When your emotions are high, your cortisol levels spike and trigger your oil glands to produce more oil,” says Mona Gohara, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. “That oil then feeds acne-causing bacteria in your skin, leading to, yes, acne.”

Though you can’t magically change the way your system operates, you can help decrease your cortisol levels with a quick meditation or workout session. And if you know you’re heading into a few days of stress, try pre-loading your skincare routine with gentle actives, like adding in a sulfur-based face mask or switching to a salicylic acid-spiked cleanser that’ll help keep your pores clear while your sebum cranks up.

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