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What Are Stress Wrinkles and How Do You Prevent Them

June 06, 2020

Don’t Stress About Stress Wrinkles!

Stress—it’s a problem. Not only for your immune system, vital organs, blood pressure, brainpower, motivation, self-confidence, self-image, and daily sleep routine—but also for your precious skin. 


Stress is part of our daily lives, and it definitely won’t be going away anytime soon. Our bodies (and skin) are meant to function at a high level, both physically and mentally. That being said, our bodies are meant to rest easy and enjoy life, to smile, to breathe easy and experience love and a bit of pampering. 


So What Exactly Does Stress Do To Your Skin?

When we “stress out” regularly, as many of us do today, our brain sends signals to receptors to stimulate the release of hormones that can have adverse affects on our skin, including cortisol. Cortisol is an inflammatory hormone responsible for the destruction of both collagen and elastin. And when collagen and elastin break down in our skin, fine lines and wrinkles are produced. But that’s not all.  Stress can also trigger premature aging on a cellular level by shortening telomeres—which are caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, much like the foil on the neck of a bottle of a righteous California Cab. Why should a shortened telomere matter? Because shortened telomeres are associated with shorter lifespans as well as reduced skin elasticity, leading to biological turmoil, unhealthy skin, and the dreaded subject of this blog—“stress wrinkles.” 


Great. Now you’re stressed about how stress stresses your skin, right? But don’t worry. There are ways to prevent stress from ruining your skin and causing you to look tired, worn, aged, and generally unwell. Here’s a few: 



First, it’s important to understand that our bodies can’t tell the difference between a relatively minor life occurrence, like an annoying day at work, and a monumentally horrifying life occurrence, like being chased by a tornado. In both instances, our adrenal glands react the same way. Over time, this recurring biological reaction to both minor and major life events can negatively affect our organs, our brains, our moods, and our skin. But relaxing isn’t all that easy, right? Wrong! That’s your stressed-out brain talking. Now is the time to take the first step towards taking control of stress. Start by taking 15 minutes to meditate. Don’t know how? That’s no excuse. Hop on an app like Headspace or Calm and let the professionals guide you into stress free living. 


Don’t feel like meditating? No problem. Schedule an acupuncture appointment and get yourself spiritually and physically aligned. Don’t like needles? Grab a low impact massage. Don’t like other people’s hands touching you? Then take a few minutes to breathe deeply, right now.  Wherever you are...


No matter which of these activities you choose to do, you’re doing yourself a favor. All of these actions release endorphins, creating a euphoric feeling and decreasing stress naturally. So, next time you’re blood pressure reaches 190/120 because the pizza guy forgot the garlic knots, or your loaf pan from Amazon arrived in a thousand crushed ceramic pieces, or the cyclist riding past your house wasn’t wearing a facemask, just grab your mala beads and remember, you are saving your skin and preventing wrinkles with each deep “Om.”



Regular exercise increases blood flow by carrying oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, helping to nourish skin cells—but that’s not all. Increased blood flow also carries away skin stressors and “wrinkle-makers” like free radicals (the bane of our skin existence) from our cells. And that’s not all. Exercise may also increase mitochondria in our muscle. Mitochondria are responsible for making a chemical known as ATP (adenosine 5’-triphosphate), which is vital to repairing skin damage and maintaining collagen and hyaluronic acid, both of which help keep skin looking youthful. Plus, regular exercise helps you sleep better. And more sleep, equals healthier skin. 


But you’re not a fan of exercise eh? You’d rather watch television or flip through IG? Good habits are just as easy to create as bad habits. You don’t have to hit the gym and clean and jerk 400 lbs a hundred times a day to whip your skin and mind into shape.   Instead, try low impact exercises like yoga, or taking an evening stroll for 30 minutes a day. The good news is, once you’re hooked on de-stressing, there’s no going back. So, dust off that old stationary bike and start pumping those pedals for healthy skin! 


Treat Yourself to Quality Skincare Products

You know that feeling when you buy yourself a new dress or treat yourself to a ridiculous sushi dinner, or buy a bottle of champs for no apparent reason? It’s the same with skincare products. While they aren’t bubbly, don’t taste great, and can’t be worn on a date, skincare products are something you should treat yourself to. There are a million products on the market that claim to work miracles when it comes to anti-aging. But, you probably know by now, most of that chatter is unfounded. Search for products with ingredients like Vitamins C, B, E, rose, and Retinol, all of which fight against free radicals, as well as stimulate collagen production, keeping your skin healthy and as stress-wrinkle-free as possible.


Finally, it’s also important to remember this—the more you stress, the more your physiognomy reacts to it. A lifetime of furrowed brows, frowns, no-sleep nights, and unwarranted tension will eventually add up, and the result will be stress wrinkles across your forehead, your mouth, your eyes, your jaw, and just about everywhere else that nasty cortisol is lashing out. 


Commit yourself to taking a stand against stress by implementing a daily routine of relaxation, exercise, and pampering your skin. Once you find a way to de-stress, you’ll find yourself on a path to de-wrinkling.

Savy Guthrie has been a PA working in dermatology for 17 years and has worked in medicine for 20 years overall.  She has treated tens of thousands of patients, helping them achieve healthy, beautiful skin. 

Savy Guthrie is a dermatology PA with 17 years of patient care experience and is the founder of Theoderma Skin Care.

Savy with her dog

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