Mental Health

How Stress Can Cause Premature Aging

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Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Guestgpost by Marné Amoguis

premature aging stress

Marné Amoguis holds a B.A. in International Business from UC San Diego. She is a contributing writer at where she loves sharing her passion for digital marketing. Outside of writing, she loves traveling, playing music, and hiking.

How Stress Causes Premature Aging

premature aging stress

When you are under stress, your body releases hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which are associated with a fight-or-flight response. While your entire body perceives stress and can react to stress, your skin perceives stress immediately and can become a target. As you already know, your skin is your body’s largest organ and is essential for immune functions.


Chronic stress leads to premature wrinkles no matter how old you are. Being stressed can impact your anti-aging skincare routine because cortisol, the stress hormone, breaks down the collagen in the skin. Collagen keeps skin healthy and strong while preventing wrinkles. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol your body produces, which can negatively impact your skin cells. Under prolonged periods of stress, your skin cells can’t replenish collagen and elastin quickly enough, which results in wrinkles.


Telomeres are small compounds of DN, which protect the ends of chromosomes. When your cells divide, telomeres are responsible for keeping the integrity of your DNA, but they shorten. After many cell divisions, cells shrink to a critical length before dying. The death of cells is a normal, natural process in your body that allows it to replace cells that are old or damaged. However, it can accelerate aging if it happens too quickly.

Stress causes telomere shortening to happen quicker, and many experts believe these shortened telomeres cause a thinning of your skin, resulting in a loss of collagen and elastin.

Skin Barrier

Stress also impacts your skin barrier, the outermost layer of the surface of the skin. The skin barrier’s job is to protect your skin from allergies, toxins, and water loss. Stress can interfere with the skin barrier and cause dryer skin. Dry skin develops wrinkles quicker, so it’s important to stay hydrated and have a good skincare routine to replenish your skin’s moisture.

Oxidative Stress

Free radicals are produced by your body as a result of metabolism. When free radicals outnumber antioxidants within your body, it creates oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to many health issues, including skin sagging and skin pigmentation. Eating foods high in antioxidants may offset skin damage caused by free radicals. However, exposure to toxins and UV radiation can contribute to oxidative stress. Emotional stress can also cause oxidative stress.


Glycation is the result of a sugar molecule in blood bonding to a protein molecule like collagen. Glycation is associated with aging skin because the process of a sugar molecule bonding with a protein molecule slowly rearranges skin structure, which can cause loss of elasticity. Therefore, you should limit how much sugar you consume. Not only that, but stress can trigger glycation. When you’re stressed, your body requires more energy and releases cortisol. Cortisol inhibits insulin, releasing sugar and fat into your blood for energy. Sugar that’s released from your body’s natural storage sites is then vulnerable to glycation.

Lack of Sleep

When you’re stressed, you might sleep less because you feel like you need to get more done. However, lack of sleep can contribute to premature aging. As you know, sleep is vital for the health of your entire body, especially your skin. If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body can’t properly function, which means that your skin might be missing out on essential nutrients.

Unhealthy Eating

Many people stress-eat as a way to deal with emotional health problems. However, unhealthy eating habits are linked to premature aging. When you’re eating unhealthy junk food and forgoing healthy fruits and vegetables, your skin will start to look dull, and you may even develop wrinkles over time. Not only that, but you may also be prone to eat sweets like chocolate during times of stress. As we’ve already mentioned, sugar consumption results in glycation that can cause premature skin sagging and aging.

Lack of Exercise

When you’re feeling stressed, you might not feel like exercising like you normally would. Instead, you may choose to stay in bed for a few extra minutes or wake up early to get more work done before a big deadline. Exercise is important for your skin because it helps carry oxygen throughout your body. Not only that, but sweat helps your body release toxins that might be impacting the health of your skin, resulting in premature aging.

How to Control Stress-Relating Premature Aging

premature aging stress

If you want to prevent premature aging due to stress, then you’ll need to find a way to manage your stress. Here’s how to start.

Treat Medical Conditions

Stress can make some medical conditions worse. For example, individuals who suffer from essential tremor can expect their tremors to get worse during periods of stress, which can cause more stress. Instead of letting your medical condition stress you out more, appropriately treat it. Working with your doctor or a specialist can help you manage your medical condition so you can focus on the things you enjoy, allowing you to release stress for better-looking skin.

Eat Healthily

Living a healthy lifestyle can help you reduce stress while improving skin health. While you may be prone to junk foods during periods of stress, you must stay on track with a healthy diet. Eating fruits and vegetables is a great way to get your fill of sugar without compromising your diet. Eating fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants can help your body fight premature aging.

Get More Sleep

If you’ve been losing sleep because of stress, try to find a way to get an adequate amount of sleep so your entire body, including your skin, can heal itself. Instead of forgoing your exercise routine in favor of getting more work done during the day, get back into the habit of working out to expend energy that might be keeping you up at night. When you’ve tired your body and mind, you can fall asleep easier, even during periods of extreme stress.

Find a Hobby

Getting a hobby is a great way to help you manage your stress and give you something to do after work instead of worrying about work. Instead, you’ll come home and do something you enjoy for a few minutes to a few hours before hitting the sheets so you can wake up fully refreshed the next day. Your hobby can be anything you enjoy doing, including podcasting, writing, knitting, or even listening to music.

Is Stress Aging You?

If you’re going through a stressful period, look in the mirror. If your skin seems dull or saggy, and you’re noticing new wrinkles, then your stress may be to blame. While it’s easy to let your appearance cause you even more stress, instead of stressing about your stress, consider finding a way to reduce stress in your life.

Of course, stress isn’t the only thing in your life that might be causing wrinkles. If you’ve managed your stress and don’t see any change in your skin, consider consulting a dermatologist that can help you find the right skincare solution.

U.S. National Institute of Health: The Link between Chronic Stress and Accelerated Aging

Insider: Does stress cause wrinkles? Yes, it can speed up skin aging

Riopelle: Does Stress Cause Premature Aging

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