Is Your Skin Stressed Out? Here Are 5 Ways To Find Out

Illustrated by Michelle Lin
We all know what stress feels like — even if you're the most zen person in existence — simply by virtue of being alive. Maybe it's the result of work deadlines, a never-ending to-do list, bills to pay, familial (or romantic or friendship) obligations, the societal pressures to behave or look a certain way, or the demands of social media. Or, you know, all of the above.
It's these bouts of extreme stress (or a continuous stream of it) that manifest in grooved furrowed brows, painful breakouts, or dark circles that still peep through heavy-coverage concealer. But why are stress and skin so inextricably linked?
New York-based dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross saw this firsthand after so many of his patients lamented over their breakouts or dark circles in relation to what was going on in their lives. Stressed-out skin, he observed, was becoming an increasingly prevalent issue — and he wanted to develop products to help alleviate those symptoms. We're hot-wired to either fight or flight under duress, and while encountering a saber-toothed tiber is something that no longer happens regularly (thank god), the same fight-or-flight response still occurs when we're faced with a stressful situation, triggering a series of internal reactions. "What happens in your body is that your blood pumps through your vital organs — lungs, heart, brain — to help you make that decision," says Renee Bolen, medical aesthetician at Dr. Dennis Gross. "It's not going to your skin because it's not a vital organ."
This decrease in circulation, coupled with stress-induced adrenaline and cortisol spikes (read: irregular hormonal changes), not only affects our immune system, but it also wreaks havoc on our skin by slowing down the production of collagen, antioxidants, and natural moisturizers.
And to effectively fight and prevent signs of stressed-out skin, Dr. Gross concocted a potent blend of adaptogens (ingredients like ashwagandha, rhodiola, and shatavari, which help calm, rebalance, and restore a compromised complexion), antioxidant-rich superfoods (avocado, kakadu plum, cacao, and more to prevent inflammation and boost collagen production), and niacinamide (a B3 vitamin that's known to reduce redness and inflammation, improve the lipid barrier, and retain moisture) — all encapsulated in a complex bilayer lipid-water system to penetrate the skin and into the cell. Ahead, Dr. Gross breaks down each sign of stress, what it looks like, and what you can do to treat the effects. So even though you may be stressed, at least you won't look it.