How Holiday Stress Affects Your Skin

woman wearing white hat and gloves with clear skin

14 Dec How Holiday Stress Affects Your Skin

The holidays are a busy time — not only are you buying gifts, but you’re also working more, decorating the house, cooking for large groups and attending party after party to celebrate the season and ring in the New Year. All these responsibilities and plans often become stressors, which can affect both your health and your skin.

The American Psychological Association stated in a survey that over 60 percent of people reported feeling some amount of stress during the holidays; 38 percent reported feeling that their overall stress levels increase around the season. Around the holidays, people feel most stressed about a lack of money and time, the commercialism of the season, pressures of gift-giving and staying on a diet, among other things.

When a person experiences stress, the entire body reacts. A singular stressful moment causes a person’s muscles to simultaneously tense, while chronic stress — or stress that lasts for a long time, such as holiday stress — causes the muscles to remain tensed, which in turn triggers headaches and migraines.

Every part of the body, including the respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular systems and more, suffers adverse effects from stress: hyperventilation, nausea and a rapid heartbeat are all symptoms.

Signs of Stressed Out Skin

When someone experiences acute stress, i.e. stress that lasts only for a moment, skin reacts immediately. Blood flows towards muscle tissue and the heart to result in sweaty, cool and clammy skin. Additionally, hair appears to stand straight up thanks to the scalp tightening in response to stress.

Because chronic stress can cause so much damage throughout the body, the body’s largest organ — the skin — is sometimes forgotten. However, chronic stress affects the skin in some obvious and not so obvious ways.

  1. Weakened ability to heal.

Research has shown that some types of stress may affect the immune system, resulting in skin that is less able to heal. One study, cited by Harvard Women’s Health Watch, found that patients who reported less stress in the month prior to surgery showed shorter recovery times, less pain and higher levels of a specific immune system chemical that promotes healing.

  1. Itchy skin.

Stress can really get under your skin. Though itchiness is usually caused by some outside factors, stress can cause itchiness for no other reason than itself.

  1. Aggravated skin conditions.

People with existing skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne and rosacea may see that these conditions worsen with prolonged stress. Eczema also tends to appear when someone is under stress, such as the holiday season — a time of dry skin, too, which only exacerbates the condition.

  1. Aging skin.

Recent studies have shown that chronic stress can contribute to premature aging of the skin, including the formation of wrinkles, elasticity loss and overall dullness.

  1. Increased risk of infection.

Chronic stress can also interfere with the skin’s permeability barrier, according to research cited by Harvard Women’s Health Watch. This reduces the skin’s ability to block the passage of damaging substances and retain fluids, which can contribute to some skin diseases.

Stress around the holidays can last for weeks, if not months — this can be termed chronic stress, which contributes to a number of skin conditions in addition to overall health problems. A stray pimple can certainly pop up during the holidays, but prolonged stress in the season can cause more damage than meets the eye.

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