The Link Between Stress & Collagen Levels + Derm Tips



When you feel stress, your body kicks up cortisol—this is generally a good thing, as cortisol plays a huge part in your body’s innate “fight or flight” response. Pretty helpful in case you need an upshot of adrenaline to run from a tiger, sure, but it also ramps up in response to modern, everyday stressors. That chronic cortisol production becomes a problem, as your body remains constantly in this “fight or flight” mode. 

So back to skin health: As board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., shares on the mindbodygreen podcast, too much cortisol can dial down your skin’s production of collagen, hyaluronic acid, and lipids to harbor energy for that fight-or-flight response. If your cortisol is constantly kicked up, that production only decreases further. Herein lies the issue: “When you’re not having enough collagen and hyaluronic acid, that’s going to make the skin less plump, less firm,” Bowe says. 

Overtime, this can even lead to thinning of the dermal layer of the skin. “The skin can actually get thinner,” says Bowe. “It impairs wound healing. So that has tremendous consequences on the health of the skin.” And that chronic stress we mentioned? That can actually lead to inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which can further deplete collagen levels and contribute to premature aging.

It’s overall not a fun situation—but here’s what you can do to help. 

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