In the beauty industry, the last place you want stress to show is on your face. Not to stress you out more, but that’s exactly where it’s probably showing, according to Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist, professor at Columbia University and founder of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services in New York City. We all age, but if you feel that you’re looking older than your years, you may be right.
“People under stress can appear up to 10 years older if they don’t manage the stress or make changes to their lives,” Hafeez says. “Stressful relationships and careers age people.” She cautions not to shrug it off when clients or coworkers ask whether you’re feeling okay. They see your face all the time and may notice eight stress “tells” that Hafeez identifies:
- Under-eye bags and circles. Capillaries under the eyes are fragile and break under stress, leaving your face looking sallow and tired with dark circles. When stress causes fluid to pool below the eyes, you can wake up to a puffy mess in the morning. Gravity makes this even worse for stomach sleepers.
- Menopause mimic. The constant flow of cortisol triggered by chronic stress may cause a dip in estrogen to create a mini-menopause. Less estrogen means less collagen and less moisture, giving skin a dull, dry appearance.
- Wrinkles. When we feel sad or anxious, or if we’re crying more than we’re sleeping, the lines between the eyes, under the eyes, on the forehead and around the mouth can become more pronounced.
- Itching, flaking or hives. Inflammation from stress can lead to rashes, rosacea, eczema flare ups and changes in skin moisture.
- Heavy jaw. Grinding teeth and clenching of the jaw, common symptoms of stress, can make jaw muscles work overtime. This may not only damage teeth but also build jaw muscles, which are not the muscles you want looking heavier!
- Hair Loss. The same advice you give to clients applies to you: stress can thin out the hair.
- Adult Acne. If you can’t seem to outgrow acne, stress hormones could be the culprit.
- Mood Swings. Your face reflects how you’re feeling about life in general, and Hafeez says that when stress sits at the top of a cascade of events, it can lead to hormonal changes that can cause everything from insomnia and insatiable hunger to collagen breakdown.
“The good news is that we can get to the root cause of our stress and manage it,” Hafeez says. “When you notice changes in your facial appearance, take inventory of what is going on in your life and what may be stressing you out. Take your focus off stress by trying simple things like writing in a journal, exercising or taking a walk outside, reading, baking, painting, listening to music or sitting quietly for 10 minutes and focusing on breathing. If you find yourself reverting back to the stressful issue, consider therapy. Clearly there is a connection between how we look and how we feel and think.”
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